Beware Of Heatstroke

Hot temperatures have come early to Canada and this signals me to put away the sled and get out the dog cart. It also reminds me that special care must be taken with respect to heatstroke.

Back in the 1980’s I almost killed my carting dog when I let her get heatstroke. We were at a July 1st parade in Toronto as part of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada contingent. Thanks to fellow club members and an emergency vet clinic my precious girl survived.

Ever since that day I have been an advocate on preventing heatstroke in pets in general and especially when dog carting.

Whenever dog carting you should watch for the early signs of heatstroke such as heavy panting, bright red gums/tongue, excess salivation, etc. At this point you can still treat your dog at the scene. By the time you encounter severe signs such as staggering, as I did at the Canada Day Parade, you must go straight to a vet clinic.

Some vital equipment to have when carting includes a spray bottle, not only for treating early symptoms of heatstroke but also to prevent the problem in the first place. Dogs don’t sweat like people and their cooling system is often inadequate on hot days especially in direct sunlight. By misting them lightly and continually all over their body, you give them the same cooling that we sweaty humans enjoy. Another important item to have with you is a digital rectal thermometer, preferably with a flexible probe, and the knowledge of what your particular dog’s normal temperature is. You determine this by taking temperatures when your dog is not in any sort of heat distress and at different times of the day to get a normal range.

Since we often travel with our carting dogs to events, a remote thermometer with a range of at least 100 meters should be kept in the vehicle. Then when you stop for any reason (restaurant meal, bathroom break, etc.) you put the remote probe near where the dog is in the vehicle and take the base unit with you so that you can monitor the actual temperature that your dog is in and the rate of change. If the temperature in the vehicle is approaching 30 C (about 85 F) then you will need to leave the air conditioning on (I always carry a spare key for this purpose).

On hot days, you should only work your carting dog for short periods, about 15 – 20 minutes at a time. When giving rides, drinking water should be available at the pick up point and during the breaks; the breaks of course should be in the shade. In parades, you can let your dog drink from the spray bottle or a portable water dish.

Peter Maniate is a Newfoundland dog breeder and a professional trainer specializing in dog carting. Since 1979 he has been writing a bi-monthly column in the Newf News entitled Carting Corner. The preceding column originally appeared in the March/April, 2012 issue. Permission is granted for re-publication of the preceding article or excerpts from it as long as the author is credited and the name of the original publication and date of first publication is included.