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Monday, March 28, 2016

Keeping Dogs Safe in the Philippine Summer Heat

My black lab, Honeybee, almost collapsed a few weeks ago. He was unsteady on his feet before his head dropped to the floor and it a few seconds before his body could follow. He blinked as if to say he didn't understand what was happening. The look on his eyes was heart-breaking. He looked scared. Then he whined, the not good kind. That's about the time my aunt screamed for me to help him.

I rushed down to find him laying on his side, panting really heavily. It was panting like I've never seen him do before and it look labored.  His saliva was coagulating. His ears were hot. His nose was dry. And his eyes had a tinge of red. Immediately I realized that this was most likely dehydration on the verge of a heat stroke.

I could see that my aunt had applied some water on his neck. Instinctively, I knew not to rush the cooling down process. I tried to wet his underbelly with a little water, patting it on with my hands. He had drank a little water at this point already too. I did a quick look on what to do and was glad to know that I was on the right track. I did switch to using a washcloth to cool him down as soon as I saw that suggestion. Thank goodness it was spelled out to "not directly wet or bathe the animal" too. At a certain point in the process of trying to cool him down, I might have been considered it, and it could have led to a worse situation. Instead, I patiently did as the suggestions said:

  • Use a washcloth to cool him down with cool water. 
  • If a situation happens between 10am-4pm, tap water in Cebu might be too hot. Especially now in the near 40C temps, make sure to cool the water first. Make sure it's not heavily iced  water also, as the sudden rise in temperature could shock the dog's system.
  • Concentrate the cooling pats on the dogs neck, ears, armpits and soles of the feet.
  • The soles of the feet are a place where heat evaporates on the dog, so it is important to not neglect this area.
  • Try to get the dog to drink water, again do not offer iced water or ice.
It took almost 3 hours to cool Honeybee down to a point where I felt comfortable to leave him to sleep. I just kept at the process to make sure it was slow but safe. The morning after the incident he was his old perky self again but he was easily tired. He mostly slept for almost two days after the incident. And needless to say, we were monitoring him the entire time, alert that we might need to bring him to the vet. 

I felt incredibly guilty about this happening to my dog and take full responsibility. Honeybee is an unleashed outdoor dog. In as much as I would like him to stay indoors during the hottest times of the day, he refuses to step on tiles since he feels they'e too slippery. The family tried putting a long rug near the door to tempt him in but we have yet to convince him to give the indoors a try. In lieu of getting him indoors in the days after, we opted for the following steps instead:

  •  Being extra conscientious about checking his "coolness" every 2-3 hours between 11am to 5pm (ears, armpits, nose, underbelly, skin under fur)
  • Cool water access at the front and back of the house - near wherever he is at various parts of the day
  • An electric fan on the hottest days
As dog owners, we can sometimes take it for granted that the summer is a very difficult time for dogs. Heavy coated dogs, such as Labradors, are especially vulnerable. We can never be too careful. Please regularly check your dogs throughout the day to make sure they're always hydrated and comfortable. Stay safe during this El Nino heat wave!