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Scott Rall: Always be the smart one regarding the care of dogs

I was riding my motorcycle last week in the bright sun in 90 degrees and was thinking about just how bad it would be for my black Labradors if they were out in the same heat.

I was riding my motorcycle last week in the bright sun in 90 degrees and was thinking about just how bad it would be for my black Labradors if they were out in the same heat.

During this time of year, a dog owner must be so very careful with their dogs of all kinds.  This includes lap dogs all the way to high-energy hunting dogs.

In my opinion, the average dog owner has absolutely no idea just how dangerous a situation these temperatures can be on a dog.

I was at a family get-together about 15 years ago in Walnut Grove. It was about 85 degrees.  There were the usual bunch of folks ranging in age from 90 down to about 4, maybe 30 people in all.

We were at a little picnic area that had a small stream running through.  There was an adult gentleman, about 30 years old, throwing a tennis ball to his dog. He was on about the tenth throw that I had seen, when I decided I would wander over there to assess the situation with this chocolate Labrador.

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When I got there, just as he tossed the ball one more time, I saw the dog coming back with a severe waggle in its hind legs.

I asked the guy if he saw this, as well. He said yes, the dog had done it for the last three or four throws. I identified this as the number one symptom of dog distress from overheating.  Dogs begin to lose muscle control and then collapse.

I grabbed the dog and headed for the water. The owner was a little stunned, to say the least.  Here is a stranger gathering up his dog and heading to the water.

I was dressed in normal summer clothes and waded directly into the water that was about 12 inches deep. I laid the dog in the water and he just acted like he had just died. He was almost motionless. As the water rushed over him for about three minutes, he slowly seemed to regain his consciousness.

The dog was, in my opinion, just about to die and the owner had no clue. I think that if only a few more minutes had passed the dog could have cashed in his chips on that very spot.

I explained who I was and why I was there and that I saw his dog in deep trouble and wanted to help. After a few more minutes the dog was then able to get up and walk around. I can say that I have never saved a human life, but I did save the life of a dog that day.

Labradors are so intense when it comes to retrieving that they will literally run themselves to death before they would quit. My dogs went outside today just to go the bathroom and when they came in their black coats could almost have fried an egg. An exaggeration I’m sure, but it took only minutes to start the overheating process in my dogs.

When temperatures get up to 65 degrees is when you start paying attention. When temperatures get to 80 or above, strict attention to the dogs’ condition is required. When hunting on days in excess of 75 degrees, my dogs can only hunt for about 30 minutes before they need to stop and cool off.

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So what can be done with a dog that needs exercise? A short swim in the lake is a good alternative.

But even that needs to be monitored. A wet dog cannot cool itself. If you take a dog for a swim and then put that wet dog in the back of a truck with a topper, even with the windows open, they can die of heat exhaustions. When a professional gun dog trainer is doing water work they always stake the dog out on a lead in the shade until the dog is almost completely dry before they can go back in the training trailer.

You need to allow the excess moisture to evaporate off your dog before you put the dog back in an enclosure.

Now, if you are taking the dog back into the air-conditioned house in your air-conditioned car, this does not pose a threat. Well, maybe from the wife if you put a wet dog in the car that then sheds about 10 pounds of wet hair on the seat. Remember also that swimming your dog in water covered in certain algae can also kill that dog. Swim the dog on the side of the lake that does not have these accumulations.

Other symptoms that your dog is overheating or is on the verge of doing so are excessive salivating, general loss of other muscle control -- not just in the hind quarters -- and lethargy.

Pay extra attention to you dogs during these hot summer months. They are not as smart as you.  They will kill themselves if you let them. You are the human, the smart one. Monitor your dog for signs of heat stress and always stop before any of the signs show up.

One last thing: Once a dog has suffered an overheat event, even if they live, they will never again be able to maintain control of their body temperatures as well as before the episode. Now your job is even harder.

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