Pet Health

Heat Stroke in Dogs

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Summer is coming, and it will be time for outdoor activities with your pets. Maybe the day’s plan will include running, biking, or hiking with your dog. Before you venture outdoors on your expedition, consider if the conditions are safe for your pet. Along with summer come higher temperatures. We may not think of it as too warm; however, your friendly companion with the coat may think of it differently.

Heat Stroke in Dogs

Dogs cannot sweat like humans. They will release a small amount of heat through the pads in their feet, but most heat is dispersed through panting. Heatstroke will come about when the amount of heat created in the body exceeds its release. The heat builds up in their bodies, making their organs overheat. This can lead to many complications, which may lead to organ failure and death.

Many contributing factors can lead to hyperthermia and heatstroke. Excessive environmental heat such as a hot day, a hot car, or a grooming dryer cage can cause an internal body temperature too high. Some people assume that if the car windows are left down, the dog will be safe. If the temperature is 80° F outside, the temperature inside the car can reach well over 120° F. It will not matter if the windows are open. Dehydration can occur rapidly, especially if the dog does not have water. The dog can be in distress in 5 minutes. The same is true if the dog is at the groomer in a confined cage and the cage dryer is too high.

Upper airway disease exists in some dogs where the nose (nares), throat (pharynx), and windpipe (trachea) have restricted airflow through them. In these cases, exercise on warm days may stress the dog’s respiratory system since they cannot move enough oxygen to the tissues needed during exercise.

Dogs with underlying diseases of various organ systems can easily get stressed if their temperatures climb. An example of this disease would be laryngeal paralysis, where the vocal cords, either one or both, become paralyzed, making airflow extremely difficult.

Signs Of Heat Stroke

Other system diseases that may affect a dog’s propensity to heat stroke are heart or blood vessels, nervous system disorders, or muscular disease.

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Certain risk factors can lead to hyperthermia and heatstroke. They include:

  • Age – the very young and older dogs
  • Thick coats or long hair in a hot environment
  • Obesity
  • Poor heart and lung conditioning
  • Short nosed-flat faced (brachycephalic) breeds like Pug, Boston Terrier, Pekinese, English Bulldog, etc.
  • Insufficient water consumption or restricted access to water
  • Previous heatstroke victims are more prone to repeat events.

If your dog is exhibiting stress from the heat, it may be excessively drooling or panting with the tongue appearing very flat like a paddle.

The gums may be red, not pink. The dog may have a rapid heart rate or a seizure. The stool can be black and tarry, indicating bleeding somewhere high in the gastrointestinal tract, such as the stomach. This stomach bleeding may also be noticed in vomitus, where the blood will appear red. The dog may appear “drunk” or wobbly or exhibit muscle tremors.

How to Stop a Dog in Heat from Bleeding

Treatment will include cooling the pet on the way to the veterinarian. The idea is to cool your pet gradually with tepid to slightly cool water. Place a thermometer in the rectum to get an accurate reading initially. This should be taken every 10 minutes during the cooling process on the way to the vet if possible. Methods for cooling your pet are as follows:

  • Spray them down with tepid to mildly cool water.
  • Place cool, wet towels over them, refreshing them frequently.
  • Adding a fan to a wet dog will decrease the temperature.
  • Pour rubbing alcohol or place ice packs on the footpads, groin, and chest area.

It is important to stop cooling your pet when its temperature is 103°F. The temperature will continue to drop after you stop the cooling process. If the pet is cooled beyond, it will become too cold, and the animal may start shivering. This will constrict the blood vessels near the surface, not allowing any more heat to dissipate, thus building up again in the body.

It is a common thought that the dog or cat looks better not to take it to the veterinarian if the temperature is down. This is an incorrect assumption. When your pet is at the veterinary office, it will be checked for:

  • Hydration/ being overheated will decrease all fluids within the body.
  • Oxygen – During the hypermetabolic state of hyperthermia, the body requires three times the normal amount of oxygen to function normally, so it will need to be placed on oxygen for 12 – 24 hours.
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Kidney failure – They will perform a urinalysis and possibly take blood to check kidney values.
  • Cerebral edema – Fluid build-up in the brain
  • ECG – Electrocardiogram to look for heart abnormalities

There are ways to prevent heatstroke. Avoid leaving pets locked in a sunny room or a garage. If your dog is left out in the yard for periods, make sure there is a place that has a shade for the day. Leave large amounts of water, or on very hot days, an ice block for it to lick along with the water would be a nice treat.

Never leave a dog in the car, even if the windows are open. It can get hyperthermic, which will lead to heatstroke. It can occur in 5 minutes and when it is cool outside. If your dog has medical issues or is a flat-faced dog with a pushed-in nose, avoid taking them on long walks on warm days.

It knows what to look for in the signs of heatstroke and what to do if it could be the difference between the life and death of your pet. Now the summer can be enjoyed safely, and your pet will be happy and healthy.

Jeremy C. Harper

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