Heat Stroke in Dogs – Do You Know What to Do?
First, Know the Signs of Heat Stroke
The signs depend upon the extent of heat stroke. In the early stages, your pet will pant rapidly, have thick, ropey saliva, and have bright red gums. His body temperature will be between 104-106°F.
As the body temperature climbs above 106°F, your pet will go into shock with subsequent organ shutdown.
He will have pale gums, be weak and dizzy, with vomiting and diarrhea. The brain becomes affected and he may seizure or fall into a coma. In this case, he requires immediate, life-saving veterinary intervention.
The normal body temperature of a dog or cat ranges between 38 – 39°C or 103°F. Our pets maintain this temperature through panting, however sometimes they are unable to lose enough heat. Dogs and cats probably do suffer from heat cramps and heat exhaustion like us humans but the symptoms are mild and we don’t recognize them. The condition that we see is heatstroke, and it may cause the death of a pet.
Most Common Causes of Heat Stroke
Being in a Hot Car – Never leave your pet in a parked car in sunlight. The car heats up to be like a sauna even on mild days.
Excessive Exercise on a Hot Day – Minimize exercise in the heat of the day. Avoid exercising your dog in unusually hot or humid conditions especially at the start of summer. Most heatstroke cases are seen at the start of summer.
Not Enough Shade or Cool Water – Make sure your pet has plenty of shade to escape to during the day. Make sure your pet has plenty of fresh cool water (the water should be placed in the shade) available at all times.
What Do You Do?
Out of the Heat – Remove your pet from the hot environment. Get him out of the car and away from the sun.
To the Vet – If you suspect severe heatstroke and your pet has collapsed, get your pet immediate veterinary care. In this case, the organs may be shutting down and he needs specialized care to survive. While in transit it is important to continue to apply cool wet towels to the back of the neck and groin area.
What Is the Dog’s Temp? – Use a rectal thermometer and find your pet’s exact temperature: if it is 104°F or higher, he has heatstroke, and you need to take action.
Cool Down – Run cold water over the back of your pet’s head. Place cold packs wrapped in towels between the back legs, on the belly and in the armpits. Wet towels can be used instead. You can use a garden hose to run the water over the back of his head.
Alcohol – Rubbing alcohol will also speed up heat loss; it can be applied to the belly and groin, cooling as it evaporates. Liberally spread it on the skin; the most important thing is reducing the temperature in a controlled way.
DO NOT Immerse in Cold Water – This treatment does bring your pet’s temperature down, but tends to overcorrect it and then your pet may be seriously unwell, cold and wet.
Re-hydrate – Let your pet drink as much cold water as he can. If you have an electrolyte replacement, such as Gatorade, then add this to his water. If your pet drinks lots of water at once it is very likely to vomit. Once your pet is refusing water you can leave the bowl of water with it.
Shock – Pets with severe heatstroke are at risk for shock. In this case you don’t want to wrap him in a blanket, but you can at least provide sugar. Rub corn syrup or honey on his gums while you are in transit to your vet.
DO NOT Over Cool – When your pet stops panting, they are likely at a normal temperature. You can check this by taking their temperature again. If it’s 103°F or 38 °C then stop the cooling.
Special Cases – Certain breeds are at a high risk for heatstroke, namely the brachycephalics (dogs with pushed-in faces). These include Pugs and Bulldogs; they snore and snort and have difficulty breathing at the best of time. In spite of them being a veterinarian’s best friend, you should avoid exercising them on hot days, and always be on the lookout for early signs of heatstroke.
Dr. Andrew Jones tackles heat stroke and many other pet emergencies in his Pet First Aid Secrets. I have it always at hand and it is an indispensable resource. Pet First Aid Secrets and Veterinary Secrets Revealed are my two home health resources for my dogs, cats too. With these at hand, you will have answers to just about any health question or problem. You will know what to do and when to do it. If you care about the health of your companion, this is an investment can can’t afford not to have.
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