Dogs can overheat relatively quickly regardless of the temperature in the duck blind. Factors such as age, fitness level, coat length and activity all play a part. And overheating in dogs can cause two similar and equally dangerous disorders: heat stroke and heat exhaustion.
With warm-weather training sessions and early waterfowl seasons just around the corner, dog owners need to be overly vigilant in order to avoid the dangers of overheating their dogs and exposing them to heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Several studies, including some by Iowa State University, have compared the two.
Heat stroke occurs when a dog's internal temperature rises above 103 degrees Fahrenheit. However, if a dog has been exercising in warmer temperatures — because it's been working hard chasing down cripples, for instance — heat exhaustion can occur. During heat exhaustion, a dog can't cool itself as quickly as it is heating up. It may begin panting harder and harder. This can lead to weakness, disorientation and vomiting. Past this point, heat exhaustion can turn into heat stroke.
Diarrhea may be one of the first indicators your dog is suffering from heat stroke, and pale gums and a bright red tongue are additional signs. Seizures or coma will follow. At this stage, pets often don't survive.
The best medicine is to not let your retriever get that far along. If you're hunting early season or heading out for a warm-weather shoot, keep a close eye on your dog. Here are critical signs to watch out for and what you need to do to keep your dog from succumbing to heat-related problems.
Be sure clean, cool water is nearby, and bring a dog blind for shade if it's a field hunt. However, if you miss the early warning signs and your dog begins to stumble or vomit, take action immediately.
- End any exercise and find a cool, shady spot.
- Offer cool (not cold) water to drink, and wait until the panting subsides. This can take a while, so don't rush it.
- If there is a pond or stream nearby, let the dog go in to cool itself. Don't submerge it in too-cold water, however, as that can impede the cooling process.
- Finally, call your vet. They'll ask exactly what happened and instruct you to either come in for a checkup or watch for any signs that additional care may be needed.
If you're planning to take advantage of early-season hunts, just remember your dog may not know when to quit. As a responsible owner, know when to throw in the towel to assure your dog doesn't overheat.