Overheating is a real concern we as rabbit dog owners face. Though any canine can overheat when worked vigorously or subjected to hot temperatures, dogs that exert themselves in particular are at risk of doing so. In order to avoid this, dogs should be monitored for signs of heat stress and cooled down appropriately as needed as well as housed with access to ventilation, shade, and fresh water.
In order to keep your rabbit dogs from experience a dangerous episode of overheating, there are several steps you can take. First and foremost you want to ensure that the dogs you're running are in good health, which regular vet visits can convey. When you pop in for routine checkups, feel free to ask your vet for an explanation of any heat related issues about which you may be concerned. Your vet can also tell you about issues unique to your dog that may need addressing. For example, though the sliding scales for weight by breed are useful, sometimes these things are better looked at on a case by case basis and your vet is just the person to make that type of assessment.
When conditioning rabbit dogs for hunting season, it is important to be thorough so they will have plenty of stamina and endurance, but it is also important not to overdo it. When the temperature is soaring, keep sessions at reasonable lengths and conduct them early in the morning/late in the evening to lessen risk of dehydration and heatstroke for both you and your dogs. Take care not to push your dogs, or yourself, too hard and be sure to stay hydrated as well as giving frequent breaks. Keep in mind, too, that digestion generates heat, so plan workouts around mealtimes.
In addition to working dangers, it is important to be aware of other heat related dangers your rabbit dogs may face. Though a walk down the road may seem like a fine idea to you, paws coming into contact with hot pavement or asphalt can lead to burns so dogs should always have to the option to walk on cool surfaces. If you are transporting dogs for any reason, be sure never to leave them in the car or anywhere else that they can overheat. It should go without saying that it is unsafe to leave dogs in a hot car, but both dogs and children are dying in hot cars at an alarming rate. If there is any possibility you might forget your dog in the car, make it a habit to check not once but twice to ensure your canine cargo leaves the car with you.
Signs that a dog may be overheating include:
Little to no urine production
Keep in mind that the normal temperature range for dogs is between 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything higher than that can indicate manifestation of a heat related problem. Temps that reach 105 are a clear indication that heat exhaustion is setting in while temperatures nearing the 107 degree mark are a clear sign of danger and health that is in jeopardy. Temperatures are important to know to determine the point at which you feel vet intervention may be necessary to prevent irreversible damage and even death. If a thermometer is not part of your canine first aid kit, one should be added immediately to enable regular temperature monitoring.
Also vital is remembering it is not only during the warm months of training and conditioning that overheating dogs can be a problem. Dogs can become overheated in the cooler months of the year while hunting rabbit, especially if outfitted in protective vests. Think about your own level of physical activity and apply the same logic to your rabbit dogs. As you exert yourself, your body begins to warm up even if the weather is cold. We've all peeled off layers of clothing as we moved about in the field, even if there happened to be snow on the ground. Simply put, physical activity has a warming effect on all of us regardless of species or time of year so we need to maintain vigilance all year long.
What steps do you take to beat the heat with your rabbit dogs? Have you ever experienced a heat related illness in the field? Let us know in the comments.