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Having pets is both a joy and a chore.

Today, more than other days, I am very aware of this. I woke up this morning to find the cat had decided not to go out in the rain last night and pooed on the bathroom mat, and the dog seemed to be running a temperature. Seriously, Silvio? You couldn’t have just held it until the rain stopped? And Jazzy? What’s wrong? Are you sick? Are you just really warm? What’s going on?

As you can probably imagine, I grumpily cleaned up the mess on the bathroom floor, then googled my dog is hot. God bless Google. Seriously. I remember a time before the internet (or before it became useful and accessible to everyone). Life was certainly simpler then, but that was before I had to be a responsible adult. I really don’t know how I would have survived as a grown-up before the World Wide Web made it possible for everyone and anyone to upload pictures of cats, porn, images of their meals, and information about every subject known to man (and some that are only known to women), and for me to be able to access it.

The my dog is hot search turned up some interesting and helpful information (none of it amateur dog-porn, thank God!):

  • The dry-nose = fever theory is not necessarily true
  • Dogs body’s run at a higher temperature than humans, so dogs may feel hot to the touch when they are in fact fine
  • Dog fever often goes unnoticed in dogs

Damn, what? Okay, let’s have a look at what dog fever is, and what it isn’t.

If a dog is running a temperature of over 103 degrees Fahrenheit, (or 39.44 degrees Celsius for those of us who consider anything over 100 degrees to be boiling) this is considered to be dog fever―although it may actually just be caused by exercise or hot/humid weather. Other symptoms include:

  • Coughing/vomiting
  • Lethargy/depression
  • Lack of appetite
  • Shivering
  • Runny nose.

Much to my relief, my dog was behaving normally and not exhibiting any of the above signs. She did cough a bit after breakfast, but I figured that was a dry biscuit stuck in her throat or something. At any rate, she stopped. I don’t have a thermometer at home, so there was no way of knowing for sure just how hot she was, but I felt confident that I didn’t need to take her to the vet.

 

Hot weather can raise a dog’s temperature without there actually being anything wrong

 

 

Just to be on the safe side, I wanted to see if I could help her cool down a bit. I know that dogs don’t swear to cool down like we do, and that if they are under anaesthesia they can die if they get to hot because they can’t cool down the natural way―panting. Jazzy wasn’t panting, nor would she drink water (I have a hard time getting this dog to drink, so I usually make sure she has plenty of sloppy gross liquid in her bowl at meal times), so she obviously wasn’t doing anything to cool down herself. So here’s what I did:

  • Told her she was silly for not drinking water
  • Made her come inside because the sun was threatening to shine
  • Used a damp cloth to cool the inside of her ears and her paws
  • She has big floppy ears so I folded them back to help facilitate cooling
  • She won’t drink from her bowl, but she loves licking wet cloths (weirdo) so I lick-fed her water from the cloth―it kinda worked, I think she got some fluid in
  • And then, the stroke of genius! I gave her a frozen, cooked mutton chop, which she gobbled down in about 10 seconds.

These were just the things I did. Other things that help to cool dogs down in hot weather or when they are feverish include:

  • Fans―making sure they have plenty of air-flow
  • Get them wet (especially fun in hot weather, less fun if your dog is hot because it is actually sick) and then use a fan. This is not recommended if your dog’s temperature is over 105 F (40.55 C), as lowering the temperature too fast can be harmful
  • Cold compress on the stomach (what is a compress? I always thought it was some sort of herbal application… obviously not)
  • Wrap them in a cool towel (aww! I’m just picturing that)
  • Whatever you do, DON’T give them human medicine―it can cause things like kidney and liver failure, which is a damn sight worse than a bit of a temperature.

Not long after I gave Jazzy her mutton popsicle, her temperature seemed to normalise―her ears weren’t really hot anymore, and her body seemed regular temperature again. Her behaviour never changed, and that would have been the telling thing for me… if, for example, she stopped harassing the cat, I would have called the vet straight away!

Fever in anyone is usually a sign that the immune system is fighting a bug. For this reason it is really important to monitor symptoms, and having a thermometer to hand is really, really useful. It would have certainly put my mind at ease to have been able to read Jazzy’s temperature―although, after cleaning up the cat’s poo first thing in the morning, I’m not sure I would have really wanted to be measuring Jazzy’s rectal temperature. Ugh!

Like I said, have pets is both a joy and a chore. Today, it’s been hard work, so tomorrow better be easier!

Words and images: Sharnon Mentor-King

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About the author

Sharnon Mentor-King

Sharnon Mentor-King

Sharnon Mentor-King is a freelance writer and editor from New Zealand, currently living and writing in Dharamsala in northern India. When she is not cleaning up cat poo and worrying about how hot her dog is, she writes bad poetry and excellent young adult fantasy. She has been working on her first novel, A Way to Return, for nearly half her life, and if she ever finishes it, it will be a miracle. Let us pray.

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