Thursday, June 10, 2010 11:03 AM
The East Bay Frenchie group just sent this out. I thought it wise to forward it along to all of our members!
With the significant risk of Frenchies overheating during hot weather I thought it would be a good idea to start thinking about and putting into effect some strategies for this while there's still time to. Usually the warnings come when the weather has already escalated and its too late to do anything about this..
Evaluating the risks/understanding your Frenchie
In general- young dogs and old dogs have poorer temperature regulating abilities than dogs in the prime of life and the peak of physical condition.There are some additional age specific issues for Frenchies here are some them:
Frenchie heads keep growing with males in particular so the breathing apparatus is under watch until full maturity- around 2 years. Until then the changes that come with maturity could make changes in the efficiency of their breathing apparatus- that you simply were not aware of or anticipating. Not to say that the risks of overheating don't affect all frenchies- just that they become increased if their breathing apparatus is compromised.
Be vigilant if you are entering your second summer- for reasons above- things may have changed. Be extra vigilant if you are entering your first summer and extra extra vigilant with your first frenchie since not only have you not dealt with this before and may not be as familiar with the early warning signs- you're also dealing with a breed that doesn't understand its limits especially the really young ones. Don't expect them to be regulating themselves. You're going to to have to be the one that interrupts playing to force them to rest, spritz them with water (don't leave the house without water) to cool them down, encourage them to drink, find shade to walk in or sit- more ideas below.
Be very concerned if you saw problems last summer. Things will get worse this summer if it is a physical /medical issue that hasn't yet been corrected. Be very very very concerned if your frenchie has suffered a heatstroke before- the chances of it happening again are very high.
Other factors- Black dogs are at greatly increased risk of overheating as are dogs that are ill or are on medication or have a history of seizures. But the one that most affects frenchies is the fact that they are bracycephalic. So get a sense of how this is affecting your frenchie -go to meetups, meet other frenchies to see how they deal with increasingly warm weather and exertion so you have a comparison. Look at some of the videos here. There are plenty of discussions here that describe some of the signs of stress- flat tongue, panting, unable to respond to direction, gum discoloration, hacking. Identify the weather conditions and situations that cause these kinds of signs.
Heatstroke isn't just about the outside temperature, its about the general state of overheating and that can occur in surprisingly lower temperatures than you would think. One example- frenchie dies from overheating from fence fighting when the temperature is in the 60's. It can be exacerbated by activity, panic response - anything that can drive up their internal body temperatures quickly So start conditioning your frenchie- cool spring weather is ideal for long, long walks that conditions them to deal with exertion better. This forces them to improve physically with climbing temperatures. Make sure you have good behavior management in place. Is your frenchie walking nicely and listening to your direction? How good is their recall? Your ability to manage this could make a huge difference in how quickly you can redirect a situation from becoming a dangerous one.
It's a new season
Rethink your timing for most physical activities during this season. Focus all exercise into the morning hours- and keep pushing that earlier and earlier as the sun gets stronger. You still need to exercise them or they will get bored and develop behavioral problems at home- but the mornings are going to be your primary window. Evenings are not as good if you live in an urban area as radiant heat- which you may not be as aware of since you are not as close to the ground and absorbing that heat from the pavements- can escalate the body temperature quite significantly. Also, make spring about being lots of exercise outside- remove indoor puzzles toys so that you can start to bring them out again as the hours inside increase in summer- it makes for more variety of activities.
Check your equipment or get it lined up. Air conditioners, spritzers/spray bottles. I also got a ice cube trays that make long cubes that I can put into the spritzer bottle. Frenchies are naturally intuitive- they will want to do things that help their own comfort- so they may not want snuggly/comfy spots- preferring cool floors, doors with drafts blowing under- make sure to take note and provide them with more access to the things that allow them to regulate themselves. Outside- get them used to being spritzed (Eti hated this) and wiped down with a wet cloth (especially on the belly)- too bad if they don't like it.
Tools for dealing with heat stroke.
Weather reports. Its not just the temperature that's importaant its a combination of temperature and humidity. What you need to refer to is the Heat Index. On top of this if there is zero air movement- the problem could be increased. The numbers in that chart may not be appropriate for a bracephyalic dog- they may need to be much lower.
Your phone. Heatstroke is a medical emergency. You need to have your vet or the closest emergency clinic ready to dial while you are in your car or a cab trying to get there as fast as you can. If you have an iphone there is an application that finds the closest called Pet services finder by Petmd. You need a medical professional to talk you through out the situation
Its a medical Emergency
I get a little concerned about the perspectives on this problem from discussions we've had before here and I want to make sure that there is a real understanding of what the problem actually is. So do take the time to read the articles listed here. I often also find the subject of breathing problems, airway distress, elongated palates and a bunch of related stuff all wrapped into this discussion- they are all relevant but heatstroke is one thing and one thing only- cells are dying. sometimes irrevocably. This is no longer a breathing problem. This is now a systemic problem as organs are shutting down. This could be in a space of time as short as 10 minutes. If you feel that you are starting to see some distress signals-excess panting, difficulty breathing, gum/tongue discoloration. Turn around, go home, stop activity. If you are seeing vomiting, altered mentation, loss of conscioussness - take your frenchie to emergency.
Because of this - I get very concerned about some of the recommendations I see here and on other forums regarding heatstroke, like having lemon juice - this is not a valid response for heat stroke. With heat stroke- Your dog needs to be cooled down rapidly and probably put on life support procedures to protect their organs. Although I have posted first aid procedures- I wouldn't even be attempting these quite frankly if this takes valuable time away from seeking professional medical attention. Do what you minimally can to cool your dog down, get others to help you and get on the phone- that's the most important thing you should be carrying and doing.
Heatstroke is an avoidable risk. Evaluate your Frenchie understand their limitations, consult the weather information and then make an informed decision if you can actually leave the house. There's nothing you can bring with you that can lower these risks if the conditions are just not good. Cooling coats fall under this category. Yes they can definitely cool your frenchie down and make them more comfortable in warm weather BUT - there are many other variables that the cooling coat does not cover- internally -like allergies/inflammation/medication/fever/activity- and externally-the cooling coat (generally) works on the principle of evaporation- they work better in some climates (drier) than others. I hear good reports about them working in California or Arizona - but here in New York if the humidity is very high- which it often is- theses coats may not work at all and may even trap heat and make the situation worse. These coats will also not be as efficient if there is no air movement. The only item that you are consistently advised to have in all the material about heatstroke- is a rectal thermometer, to monitor the cooldown.
The best thing you can do for overheating and heat stroke are:
prepare your frenchie to deal with it better -early,
prepare yourself by understanding how to evaluate the parameters and how they relate to your frenchie and making good decisions
manage it as an emergency situation if in the worst case scenario, you find yourself forced to deal with this