by Gigi McWhirter
As the “dog days of summer” make their appearance, it is especially important that you keep your pets safe from heatstroke.
Heatstroke can happen to any dog – from the very fit to the pampered lap dog. Here is a list of dogs that are at an even higher risk:
- ANY dog left outside in hot weather
- Geriatric dogs
- Dogs with existing health issues such as heart disease or other chronic illnesses
- Canines not used to warm weather
- Over exercising or over exerting in the heat
- Animals left alone in a vehicle
- Brachycephalic (short noses and flat faces) like Boston Terriers, Boxers, Bulldogs, Pekingese, Pugs and Shih Tzus and even mutts with faces like these breeds.
HELL ON WHEELS
It only takes 10 minutes on an 85-degree day for the interior temperature in a parked car to go up to 102 degrees. In half an hour, the temperature can easily exceed 120 degrees. Imagine yourself sitting in a vehicle with no air running and no means of opening a window or a door to allow air in. From the panic to the fear – the experience is horrific. You can go to YouTube and watch the video created by a veterinarian demonstrating what happens in a hot, parked car. A slightly opened window does not cool things down in the vehicle. If you notice an animal that has been left in a parked car, contact the manager or owner of the business or building immediately. If no response, call local animal control, police or fire department right away.
Humans have sweat glands to help keep us cool. A dog does not sweat. Their noses and paw pads are what cools them. A dog that is heating up can only pant to try and get their temperatures back to normal. This does not work in extreme conditions. In just a short time, critical damage to the brain, heart, liver and nervous system can occur. Symptoms of overheating include:
- Heavy panting
- Glazed eyes
- Extreme thirst
- Bloody diarrhea and vomiting
- Weakness and collapsing
- Body temperature of over 104 degrees
- Increased pulse rate and heartbeat
Once a dog’s temperature reaches 109 or higher, heatstroke occurs. Then seizures happen as a result of the brain swelling. Irreversible kidney damage is the result of dehydration. GI ulcers can occur due to a lack of blood supply. And then possible death. It only takes a few moments for all of these events to occur.
Because a dog normally pants a lot when it is hot, it may be difficult to recognize that overheating or heatstroke is happening. If you suspect your dog is overheating, move it to a cooler area and take its temperature. (Ask your veterinarian to show you how to correctly take a rectal temperature.) If the reading is below 104 you may start the cooling off process by offering small amounts of water. Too much water can lead to vomiting, which can cause dehydration. Next, call your veterinarian for further instructions. If the temperature is over 104 degrees, call the animal hospital immediately and tell them you are heading over with a dog suffering from heatstroke (this allows them to prep for your arrival). You can begin trying to cool the dog by soaking it with cool, but not cold, water. Water-soaked towels and a hose work nicely. Start the cooling process by running the water carefully over the head, neck and the areas below the front and back legs. If possible, carefully cool the tongue, but do not let the water run down the throat – you do not want water to enter the lungs. DO NOT put water in a dog’s mouth that cannot swallow on its own. If possible, put a fan on the dog. Recheck its temperature. If it is below 104 degrees, stop the cooling process. Too much cooling can lead to a too-low body temperature and possibly blood clotting. Even if the pet seems to be recovering, it is essential that you get to a veterinarian hospital or clinic right away.
To keep your dog safe from the heat, make sure to provide plenty of fresh, clean water all the time. If your dog has to be outside for any period of time, there should be lots of shade available. Only exercise your pet in the coolest part of the day and keep plenty of water on hand for both of you and cover your dog’s paws with protective paw coverings. If you cannot walk on the ground barefooted, NEITHER SHOULD THE DOG! Letting your dog run through the sprinklers or splash in the pool while supervised is another fun way for your dog to cool off when the outside temperature is over 90 degrees. And finally, NEVER LEAVE YOUR ANIMALS ALONE IN A PARKED CAR.
Always consult with a veterinarian on any and all animal health questions, not Dr. Google.
Happy tails to you!