Keeping your hunting dog cool in summer is crucial to protecting their health and wellbeing. In the heat of the hunt it’s easy to overlook just how hot it is, as well as how hot your four-legged pal is. The early warning signs of dehydration and heat stress can be difficult to identify unless you are paying close attention to your dog. For instance, if you fail to notice your dog panting more than usual for too long, he or she could develop heat exhaustion or heat stroke with what seems like little to no warning.
Don’t let your next hot weather hunt turn disastrous, here are some important tips to keep your hunting dog cool in summer.
1. Know the Signs of Heat Stress, Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke in Dogs
There are three classifications of heat related illness that can impact both people and dogs. Starting with heat stress, and if not resolved, turning into heat exhaustion, and then heat stroke--the most serious and potentially deadly.
Heat stress: Increased body temperature causes your dog to perform at a lower level than usual. He or she may be slower to respond to commands, panting excessively or not wanting to get up.
Heat exhaustion: Exposure to heat and loss of fluids/dehydration causes your dog to become physically tapped out. Dogs may have a listless or anxious expression and be unresponsive to commands. At this point, the heartrate is elevated and dogs commonly collapse and stagger while attempting to walk.
Heat stroke: This is the most serious condition and can lead to impairment or death without immediate treatment. The symptoms of heat stroke are typically in line with heat exhaustion, just more severe. You need to get your dog to a vet as soon as possible.
Other signs of heat-related illness or dehydration include:
- Not urinating regularly, or only producing small amounts of urine
- Thickened saliva or drooling excessively
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
Even the slightest signs of heat stroke should be treated with extreme caution because without treatment it can lead to death. Get your dog to a shady and cool spot and try to get them to drink water. Don’t force it, but do try to get a little bit of water on their tongue if nothing else. Slowly apply small drops of water to their belly, ears, throat, back and groin area. If your dog is refusing to drink or showing signs of getting worse, take them to the vet right away.
2. To Keep Your Hunting Dog Cool in Summer, Bring Plenty of Water
Dehydration is usually the first step to overheating, hence why water is crucial to keep your hunting dog cool in summer. Don’t rely on water supplies out in the field, instead come prepared with fresh water from home. For one, hot weather causes many natural water sources to dry up. Plus, you never know if water is contaminated with runoff from nearby farm chemicals, poisonous algae, and so forth. Make sure your dog stops to drink regularly.
Additionally, you can wet your dog down throughout the day to help keep them cool. Whatever you do, don’t pour lots of cold water on a dog that’s already showing signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke or you could send their body into shock, leading to respiratory failure.
3. Avoid Hunting in Peak Temperatures
Check the weather before you go out and try to avoid hunting during peak temperatures. Hunting earlier in the day or later in the afternoon when it’s not as hot is less risky for your dog, and you.
4. Condition Your Dog Ahead of Time
September is the start of hunting season for many bird hunters but even at the tail end of summer it can still be incredibly hot. Many hunters and their four-legged companions lead rather sedentary lives during off-season. An overweight or out of shape dog is far more likely to experience some type of heat sickness. That’s why it’s so important to get dogs in good shape prior to hunting season. Conditioning workouts should be completed early in the day before it gets too hot or later in the afternoon after it cools off a bit. Start slow with retrieving drills, building up as your dog’s stamina increases.
5. Don’t Push Too Hard
Older, out of shape, pregnant, lactating, ill or young dogs are all at greater risk of overheating. Yet, even the fittest alpha dogs can overheat in the field. Never push your dog past his or her limits and remember it’s always better to be safe than sorry.