heatstroke and dogs

panting dog by Les ChatfieldHeatstroke occurs when normal body mechanisms cannot keep the body’s temperature in a safe range. Dogs do not have efficient cooling systems, cannot sweat and get overheated easily. Normal body temperature is ~39°C. A dog with moderate heatstroke (body temperature from 40-41°C) can recover within an hour if given prompt first aid and veterinary care. Severe heatstroke (body temperature over 43º) can be deadly and immediate veterinary assistance is needed.

Signs

  • A dog suffering from heatstroke will display several signs:
  • Rapid panting
  • Bright red tongue
  • Red or pale gums
  • Thick, sticky saliva
  • Depression
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting – sometimes with blood
  • Diarrhea
  • Shock
  • Coma

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO

Cool your dog immediately. Lower his temperature by wetting him thoroughly with cool water then increase air movement around him with a fan. Call the clinic on 2813 2030. Even if the dog appears to be recovering, take him to your veterinary surgeon as soon as possible. He should still be examined since he may be dehydrated or have other complications.

Allow free access to water or a children’s rehydrating solution if the dog can drink on his own. Do not try to force-feed cold water; the dog may inhale it or choke.

 What your vet will do

Your vet will lower your dog’s body temperature to a safe range (if you have not already) and continually monitor his temperature. Your dog will be given fluids, and possibly oxygen. He will be monitored for shock, respiratory distress, kidney failure, heart abnormalities, and other complications, and treated accordingly. Blood samples may be taken before and during the treatment. The clotting time of the blood will be monitored, since clotting problems are a common complication.

 Aftercare

Dogs with moderate heatstroke often recover without complicating health problems. Severe heatstroke can cause organ damage that might need ongoing care such as a special diet prescribed by your veterinarian. Dogs who suffer from heatstroke once increase their risk for getting it again and steps must be taken to prevent it on hot, humid days.

 Prevention

Any pet that cannot cool himself off is at risk for heatstroke. Following these guidelines can help prevent serious problems.

  • Keep pets with predisposing conditions like heart disease, obesity, older age, or breathing problems cool and in the shade. Even normal activity for these pets can be harmful on hot days.
  • Be aware that short nosed breeds like Pugs, Bulldogs and Pekingese can have very narrow airways making it very difficult to lose heat.
  • Provide access to water at all times.
  • Do not leave your pet in a hot parked car even if you’re in the shade or will only be gone a short time. The temperature inside a parked car can quickly reach up to 50°C.
  • Make sure outside dogs have access to shade.
  • On a hot day, restrict exercise and don’t take your dog jogging with you. Too much exercise when the weather is very hot can be dangerous.
  • Do not muzzle your dog.
  • Avoid places like the beach and especially concrete or asphalt areas where heat is reflected and there is no access to shade.
  • Wetting down your dog with cool water or allowing him to swim can help maintain a normal body temperature.

Move your dog to a cool area of the house. Air conditioning is one of the best ways to keep a dog cool, but is not always dependable. To provide a cooler environment, freeze water in soda bottles, or place ice and a small amount of water in several resealable food storage bags, then wrap them in a towel or tube sock. Place them on the floor for the dog to lie on.

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