By Dr. Andrew Jones
Summer has arrived with a vengeance- meaning you need to be aware of heatstroke in dogs, avoiding the MOST common reason it occurs- being left in a parked car.
Ernie Ward DVM has said many a not so nice things about yours truly, (his response to my appearance on 20/20), but his youtube video on just HOW hot it can get in a car in the sun is brilliant.
It gets the point across in a big way.
Signs of Heatstroke
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.
What to Do If It Happens
TO THE VET ASAP. 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.
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 SOLUTION. 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.
Heatstroke is an avoidable emergency. First be aware of the signs, taking rapid action if they appear.
Never leave your dog in a parked car, especially on sunny days.
Provide shade, and plenty of fresh drinking water.
Avoid exercising your dog during the peak of the hot days- make a point of exercise in the early morning or late evening.
Dr Andrew Jones, DVM
P.S. This is only ONE of the hundreds of emergencies your dog or cat may have.
A great way to do so is with my Manual of Pet First Aid
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