Saturday, June 23, 2012

Too Hot

Ebon during a water break
I took Ebon back to the state park today, taking my mother and significant other with me. I was hoping to go when it was fairly cool, but as it turned out we ended up at the park during the hottest part of the day. The high today was 89, but with 56% humidity and a UV index of 10 the heat index got up to 94. We took plenty of water, but the day had to be cut short with an expected five to eight mile walk shortened to just three. Why? Poor Ebon couldn't take it.

After he stopped
It's been cool lately and he hasn't carried a weighted pack in at least a month. I thought he would be fine carrying the eight or so pounds he had (~10% of his body weight) as long as we drank plenty of water. However, he didn't seem to want to drink much water when we stopped. So, we kept on. After we had gone about two miles, he did a little hitch in his step, then stopped and flopped down in the middle of a shaded part of the trail, panting heavily. I stripped his pack off and offered him more water. I would have taken off his collar too if it weren't for the park leash rules. We stayed there for some time while he drank and I splashed water on him to try and cool him down. It wouldn't have been so bad if we were at home, but we were in the middle of a forest. He spent a good twenty minutes alternating between laying down and drinking. By that time, he was acting more perky so we began taking the short way back, us carrying his pack. I took a little diversion along the way to let him splash in the shallows of the river that runs parallel to parts of the trail. On the way back, he even did his happy little prance-wag at the sight of a pair of Jack Russells what were coming down the trail.

Ebon now, contently sleeping with cats
At the car I put him in some shade and offered him more water. I also took an icepack (my mom happened to bring a cooler) and alternated applying it to under his front legs and under his ears, where he felt the warmest. When he was panting more gently, we hopped in the car to leave, AC on full. It wasn't until we were back at the condo and he had time to lay on a nice, cool floor that he finally stopped panting. He's been normal even since.

I've learned a valuable lesson about this. Usually, Ebon's up for just about anything, but there are a number of things that were likely contributes to his overheating. First, since he's black his coat absorbs heat like crazy. I know this and normally he's able to regulate his temperature just fine, but it was hot and the UV index probably made him heat up faster than normal. Second, the weight of the pack and it's addition of a layer of padding over his fur probably made things worse thanks to his exertions and the insulating and restrictive nature of the harness. It also didn't help that he wasn't wanting to drink the water I offered him. Next time, he won't be carrying weight if the index is over 90. We also won't we going such a long distance during the hottest part of the day.

I feel like an idiot for pushing to the point he got to today. My mother actually thought he might have been having a seizure when he hitched before he flopped, but it was clear that wasn't what was going on. For now, he hasn't had a seizure since October.


  1. My bigger dogs grew up in Phoenix AZ, so hot temperatures are nothing to them. I think they prefer the heat, actually. They go outside more often when it's warm than cool, which is the opposite of Conker.

    I'm really careful with Conker, since even in the summer, his coat is thicker than the Girls. Though he is smaller and not black like they are, he tends to overheat a lot quicker than them.
    I much prefer that he wear a harness, but if it's over 90 out or humid, I won't have him wear one except for in the car. (I don't usually run the AC, it uses up twice as much gas if I do. I normally have all the windows rolled down and that works good enough.) I also try to find places with a creek/pond to stop at when it's hot out, since all the dogs enjoy water so much and it's good to have them get wet and cool off before they get too hot.
    If there isn't water around, I've always got more than enough for all the dogs with me. I will wet a bandanna and put it around Conker's neck and moisten his legs, around the ears, neck, and shoulders, and stop frequently for water breaks even if he doesn't show any interest.

    I won't have the dogs carry weight when it's over 90 either. I carry everything for them.

    1. I think one of my biggest mistakes was looking at the temperature but not the heat index.

      I did take the normal precautions of plenty of water, etc. I did check the temp, but I think I was on autopilot in some ways just going "got this, got that" and didn't think to check the index. Also, since I got into the habit of taking the pack every time we went to a park and it's been so cool lately it apparently just didn't click that it might be a bad idea. Luckily, considering, Ebon didn't get that bad and he was able to cool down fairly quickly.

      I'll be working on getting him used to the heat before taking him out on a long walk again (sans pack, of course) and will definitely be taking it easy the next few days because the index will be getting into the triple digits!

  2. When we lived in Florida and were still showing the dogs, I carried a good sized spray bottle around. Spray the underside of the dog, ear flaps, around the butt, anywhere the hair is thin, and most dogs will learn to drink from the bottle as well, to keep the tongue moist. It works very well to keep the dog from getting too hot by turning it's whole body into a kind of evaporative cooler when it moves around.

    1. That's a brilliant idea! I think I might just start carrying a spray bottle in the summer. I've splashed water on him many a time, but it doesn't work out that well when trying to get water on his belly. I can't believe I've never thought of that before, thanks Jess!

  3. I've heard you can cool a dog down by cooling its paw pads - is this a legit theory?

    1. They do sweat through their paws, so perhaps. I think it would be more efficient to try to cool down the whole dog rather than concentrating on paws, though. The more surface area, the faster the body should cool down. Especially spots where there's less hair because the blood vessels are closer to open air and the heat should be able to radiate out more quickly.

      I've considered getting Ebon a cooling coat or cooling collar, but they tend to be a bit pricy. If I can get access to a sewing machine again I might try to make one. I'd just need to find the right fabric.