Is your dog’s health at risk? Read my surprising NYT story

By Caitlin Kelly

Dogs! Let's keep them safe
Dogs! Let’s keep them safe

Sometimes, as a journalist, I get to write a story I know is going to help a lot of people.

This is one.

I discovered the story when I recently read a friend’s status update on Facebook; their beloved terrier had almost died of heatstroke. Not, as everyone knows now, locked inside a car.

Out walking, or hiking, or running.

The world is hotter than ever; temperatures today in California are up to 105 Fahrenheit.

And our dogs want to keep us happy — they won’t stop running, even panting so hard they might burst — until they’re in very rough condition. By then it can be too late, and they’re already in organ failure, sometimes soon to die.

Dogs are dying of heatstroke. The symptoms are easy to miss.

Please make time to read my story and tweet/reblog this one.

Here’s an excerpt from it:

While no statistics are available on the number of dogs that are injured or die from heatstroke, vets agree that paying careful attention to your dog’s behavior while exercising with them outdoors, especially in high heat and humidity, is essential.

Unlike humans, who sweat and cool down as the sweat evaporates, dogs shed excessive body heat primarily through their mouths.

“The main way that dogs lose heat is through evaporation through their tongues and their respiratory tract,” said Dr. Nicholas Dodman, director of the animal behavior clinic and a professor of veterinary medicine at Tufts University. “If it’s hot and humid outside, that really limits the dog’s ability to lose heat by its primary mechanism. Then if you add running in the heat and humidity on top of that, between the temperature gradient, humidity and the heat they’re generating as they run, they end up having more heat inside than they can lose.”

As a dog’s body temperature rises to dangerous levels, though, the signs can be easy to miss, he warned. Its temperature can “suddenly take off,” rising rapidly to 105, at which point multiple organs are rapidly failing.

Jose and I don’t have a dog at the moment, but if and when we do, we’ll be much wiser about worrisome signs of heatstroke.

Let’s save some dogs!

23 thoughts on “Is your dog’s health at risk? Read my surprising NYT story

  1. Thanks! A couple of months ago, our 15-year old Rudy was experiencing symptoms of heatstroke. We got him into an air conditioned vehicle as soon as possible and he recovered quickly. I didn’t know about the red tongue, though.

  2. Pingback: Is your dog’s health at risk? Read my surprising NYT story | In the Net! - Stories of Life and Narcissistic Survival

  3. Thank you for bringing this issue to the forefront. When my dear terrier-mix was alive but getting on in years, my fiancé walked him to meet me after my meditation class. The summer evening was warm and muggy. I was happy to see my “boys,” but as we were walking back home, I noticed that Scrappy was panting more than usual, his tail was down, his ears were back, and my fiancé (who had the leash) was constantly tugging on him to keep up with us.

    I told him we needed to slow down. He thought Scrappy just wanted to sniff and not be cooperative. I knew differently. He was in distress. I insisted that we slow way down. We stopped in the shade of a tree and let him sit. He was better after that as we slowly walked home. My fiancé agreed that we did the right thing.

    If we are feeling the heat and humidity, so are they!

    I think I’ve reblogged maybe two or three posts in my 4+ years of blogging. I’m reblogging this one, Caitlin!

  4. Reblogged this on Lorna's Voice and commented:
    Thank you, Caitlin, for bringing this issue to the forefront.

    When my dear terrier-mix was alive but getting on in years, my fiancé walked him to meet me after my meditation class. The summer evening was warm and muggy. I was happy to see my “boys,” but as we were walking back home, I noticed that Scrappy was panting more than usual, his tail was down, his ears were back, and my fiancé (who had the leash) was constantly tugging on him to keep up with us.

    I told him we needed to slow down. He thought Scrappy just wanted to sniff and not be cooperative. I knew differently. He was in distress. I insisted that we slow way down. We stopped in the shade of a tree and let him sit. He was better after that as we slowly walked home. My fiancé agreed that we did the right thing.

    If we are feeling the heat and humidity, so are they!

    I think I’ve reblogged maybe two or three posts in my 4+ years of blogging. I’m reblogging this one, Caitlin!

  5. Jane

    Thanks for that story. Where I live we have very hot summers & I won’t walk my two English Staffordshire Terriers if it’s above 28 degrees C due to risk of heat stroke (which they’re prone to get). I really feel for dogs when I see their masters walking them in 35 degree C heat.

    1. Thanks for commenting! Looks like you’re in Australia (?) and it sure does get hot! So glad you’re aware of that danger.

      If I saw someone walking a dog in that heat, I doubt I’d be able to avoid saying something…:-)

  6. In June 2014, we adopted a rescue puppy, 8 weeks old, and named him Duncan. He’d traveled north from Florida to the DC area in an air-conditioned van. We took him home, and the next day his temp spiked to 106. We rushed the poor little guy to the emergency vet, who stabilized him, gave him IV fluids, and literally put him on ice. Luckily, he recovered, and has been happy and healthy ever since.

    Just a few days ago, we drove to Maine from DC — and on the trip, Duncan had to nearly be forced to drink water. We are wondering if that wasn’t the source of his previous heat exhaustion — that during the long trip north in June 2014, he didn’t take enough water, and with the other dogs they were transporting, nobody noticed.

    Thanks for writing this piece, because it will save lives. Until this happened to Duncan, I really didn’t know this could happen (except for in a car).

    1. Thank you for sharing this story…

      Before writing this, I had NO idea and I imagine many readers did not either; dogs in hot cars is more obvious a source of distress but I had not read a piece like this, which is why I was thrilled to sell it to the NYT where I know it will be seen by a lot of people. I am also grateful to readers here reblogging and to my colleagues who retweeted it.

      One of the things I didn’t have room to include was whether or not dog-walkers would be vigilant if they had multiple dogs to care for, but the vet suggested they would because they would know the dogs’ behavior patterns so well.

  7. Reblogged this on Louisely's Blog and commented:
    And our dogs want to keep us happy — they won’t stop running, even panting so hard they might burst — until they’re in very rough condition. By then it can be too late, and they’re already in organ failure, sometimes soon to die.

  8. this is a great warning, i had no idea. while i’ve seen dogs look hot when out walking/running, with their owners,i have noticed them looking worn out on hot days. it makes perfect sense.

    1. Right? I suspect many people have no clue. I didn’t. Now I look at dogs on a hot day very differently.

      That’s the goal of my best writing — to raise awareness and help, when possible. 🙂

  9. Good awareness. … I learned several years ago to keep the dogs (collies) in the house on really hot days and take them out for really short walks only. If I feel wilted surely they would, too. 😉

  10. What a great article, Caitlin. As you mentioned, it’s so important to pay attention to our dogs. Often the signs are subtle until it’s too late.

    It can be difficult to gauge when it’s too hot for our dogs to be outside. Reggie’s vet once told me that a rule of thumb is to add 10 degrees to the heat index and that would be a good measure of what it feels like for a dog.

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