Ask Dr Jane

Q1

My overweight 10-year-old Pomeranian "Gail" finds Hong Kong’s hot and humid summers really unpleasant and often gets overheated, do you have any tips on how to help her?

 

Sadly, it’s not just "Gail" that finds the summers hard, due to Hong Kong’s hot and humid climate many our four legged friends can be affected adversely by the heat, sometimes with deadly consequences. Here’s information on the reason, risk factors and signs to look out for to avoid having a HOT DOG!

Q2

What is heat stress? Why does it happen?

 

Heat stress occurs when a dog’s ability to regulate its body temperature is overwhelmed, once over 41 degrees celsius the excess heat can cause irreversible cellular and eventually organ damage if left untreated. Dogs regulate their body temperature by panting, unlike humans they do not have sweat glands in the skin (except on the nose and foot pads) and rely on exchange of hot air from the lungs with cooler air outside to loose heat. Unfortunately this system is very limited when temperatures start to rise, for example if a dog is left in a car, confined within a dog carrier or exercised in the heat of the day.

Q3

What are the key risk factors?

 

Breed Predisposition:

certain breeds are more likely to succumb to heat stress than others.

 

Short Nosed (Brachycephalic) Breeds ─ are the highest risk group, including Pugs, Pekingese and all types of Bulldogs due to their restricted airways and reduced ability to eliminate heat compared to longer nosed breeds.

 

Tracheal Collapse Breeds ─ unfortunately "Gail" being a Pomeranian falls into this group together with Yorkshire Terriers due to their predisposition for narrow windpipes which are prone to collapse.

 

Thick and Long Coated Breeds ─ "Gail" with her long Pomeranian coat along with Huskies and other Artic breeds are at risk due to the excessive insulation their coats provide. Great for cold weather and snow but not for hot and humid climates!

 

Obesity:

you mentioned "Gail" is overweight, unfortunately this will also predispose her to overheating as fat provides an insulating layer keeping heat in, and also reduces the effectiveness of her respiratory system.

 

Heart & Lung Disease:

dogs with underlying cardio-pulmonary diseases are at a greater risk of developing heat stress due to their already compromised breathing.

 

Dehydration:

lack of access to fresh drinking water predisposes to heat stress.

 

Lack of Fitness/Over Exercise:

heat stress can be induced by excessive exercise especially in dogs who are not used to long walks.

 

Lack of Acclimatisation:

it takes at least 10 and up to 60 days for dogs to adjust to changes in temperature.

 

Muzzles, Carriers and Cars:

 

Muzzles ─ takes away a dog’s ability to pant easily.

 

Carriers ─ can act as ovens especially if not well ventilated.

 

Cars ─ the temperature inside a parked car can rise to over 50 degrees celsius on a hot day.

 

Outdoor Hounds/Living Conditions:

lack of shade on hot days can predispose to heat stress even in dogs used to living outdoors.

 

Q4

What to look out for?

 
  • Restlessness and agitation.
  • Excessive panting and/or difficulty in breathing.
  • Appearing tired and unwilling to move.
  • Excessive salivation, often very thick saliva.
  • Change in gum colour (dark red, purple or blue in colour).
  • Extreme cases – vomiting, diarrhoea, seizures and collapse.
Q5

What to do if you suspect heat stress?

 

It is vital to go to the nearest vet clinic as soon as possible, and while on the way try cooling the dogs down by placing wet clothes on their bodies, alternatively place them in any available cool water. Do not force water into the dogs’ mouths if they cannot drink, as if panting excessively they might inhale water making their breathing even more difficult.