The summer is finally here, and looking after the health of your dog should be a top priority. Why? Because a rise in your pet’s body temperature due to the warmer weather can cause a potentially life threatening condition, heat stroke. This doesn’t mean that your dog can’t still enjoy the summer lounging by the pool with the family or sunning on the cottage deck. Prevention just requires a little bit of extra caution as temperatures begin to rise.
WHAT IS HEAT STROKE?
Heat Stroke is an illness which causes an increase in body temperature due to heat exposure. Normal dogs have a body temperature of 101.5’f or 38.6’c (+ or- a degree), it is considered an emergency once their temperature reaches 105’f or 40.5’c. Heat Stroke is different from a fever in which the body is the origin of the temperature increase. * Another term for heat stroke is ‘hyperthermia’.
CAUSES OF HEAT STROKE:
Heatstroke in dogs usually occurs when they are left in a vehicle during the summer months/hot weather, especially without proper air ventilation. A study conducted by Stanford University discovered that the temperature in a car can increase by an average of about 40’f (or almost 4.5’c) within an hour regardless of the outside temperature.
Heatstroke can also be a concern if a pet is left outdoors in hot temperatures without proper areas of shade or water available.
As well, exercising your dog in hot/humid weather can cause a dangerous increase in body temperature.
HIGH RISK DOGS:
Dogs who are especially young, old, overweight or animals with heart or respiratory diseases are at a higher risk of developing heat stroke.
SYMPTOMS OF HEAT STROKE:
Dogs initially appear distressed and will become restless, may pace and pant excessively. As the condition progresses, the dog may begin to drool from the mouth/nose and become uncoordinated, and may start vomiting or having seizures. At this point the gums may change colour to either bluish in colour or a bright red colour which indicates that they are not receiving the proper amount of oxygen required.
WHAT TO DO:
First and foremost, you need to remove the dog from the environment which is causing the hyperthermia (increase in temperature). You should bring him or her to a cooler area with adequate shade and then you can begin the cooling process. It is best to start by placing wet/cool towels over the pet, focussing on the back of neck, underarms and abdominal/groin area. If you have a fan available, it might also help cool the animal. You will then need to transport the animal to the closest veterinary clinic for professional care as quickly as possible. *Cooling down the body rapidly is important, but cooling doesn’t always prevent damage to internal organs. This is why it is so important to have the pet see a veterinarian as soon as possible.
CAUTIONS WHEN COOLING YOUR PET:
-Be careful not to overcool the pet
-Never use ice or cold water as a cooling agent. This will actually delay cooling, as the body will begin to form an insulating layer to hold in the heat
-Never leave your dog unattended at this time
-Never try forcing water into your dog’s mouth; they may not be alert enough. You can have water available for them if they decide to /or are able to drink on their own.
HEAT STROKE PREVENTION:
-Never leave your dog in a parked car; temperatures can rise rapidly even when temperatures appear to be relatively cool.
-Keep an eye on humidity levels- it is much more difficult for a dog to cool themselves through panting when humidity is high. This can cause a rapid increase in body temperature
– Limit your dog’s exercise on hot days. You can try walking them in the early morning or evening when temperatures are normally cooler. *Also be especially cautious with dogs who have short noses, such as pugs, who can have even more difficulty with breathing when over -heated.
-Always have water available for your dog, inside or outside
-Whenever your dog is outside, make sure that they have an area of shade to protect them from the sun.
In conclusion, it is very important to pay attention to weather, humidity and possible signs of heatstroke in your dog. Hot weather doesn’t mean that your dog can’t enjoy himself; it means that a little extra caution is necessary. So, continue enjoying summer outings, cottages and poolside’s responsibly with your pet. And if there is ever a concern that your pet may have developed heatstroke, please bring them in to us at the Lansdowne Animal Hospital or to the closest veterinary clinic as quickly as possible. Have a great summer!