Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Heat Stroke and Your Dog: What are the Signs

By Linda Cole

Heat stroke is a serious medical condition for man and beast. Dogs are just as susceptible to summer heat as we are. Cool spring breezes will usher in summer winds, and we are once again reminded how a hot summer sun affects us and our pets.

A black haired animal has a definite disadvantage under a sweltering summer sun. A darker coat will absorb more of the sun's rays. A white or lighter colored coat will repel those same rays. However, all dogs, regardless of what color their coat, should have a watchful eye kept on them during outside activities and throughout the sizzling days of summer.

Dogs regulate their body temperature by panting. It works by evaporating water in the mouth and on the tongue. Built up heat in their body is transformed into vapor and expelled through their mouth as they pant. The only area of your dog’s body that does sweat is their foot pads and nose.

Just like us, dogs and cats can suffer from heat stroke. Imagine wearing your winter coat in 80 or 90 degree weather. We can cool down with a cold glass of water or by sitting in front of an air conditioner or fan. Tail waggers that are kept outside don't have that luxury.

Dogs react to high humidity in the same way we do. So shade and a water bowl full of cool water may not be enough to keep them from overheating. If your pup spends a lot of time outside, try setting up a kiddie pool out of the sun for them to lounge in – with just enough water to cover the bottom of the pool. Keep the water in the pool clean and fresh. Standing water is a haven for mosquito larva, and you certainly don't want to provide a home for those little blood suckers in your backyard.

Knowing the signs of heat stroke in dogs could save your pet's life. It is a real emergency that is preventable. It's up to you as the care taker of your dog to pay close attention to your buddy during periods of excessive heat, especially if you live in an area of the country that also has high humidity. Don't assume that a full water bowl and a shady tree is enough to protect your dog. Dogs will dehydrate faster in the heat of the day than we will.

If you notice that your dog is wildly panting, has blood red gums, is vomiting, dizzy or staggering, appears to be confused, or has a thick saliva, they are showing signs of heatstroke. If you call them and they appear unable to stand or refuse to move at all, you need to move fast to get them cooled down asap. If they are unconscious, they need to be taken immediately to the vet.

Never use ice on any dog you suspect may be suffering from heat stroke. They need to cool down slowly to avoid constricting the blood vessels which will only make their temperature rise. Get them out of the sun and place cool wet wash rags around their head and on their foot pads. Call your vet for an exam to make sure there has been no internal damage.

The best course of action is to prevent heat stroke before it happens. Each summer, we witness some poor dog locked inside a car in a mall parking lot with a couple of windows cracked for air flow. How would you like to sit in an oven while those who claim they love you are shopping inside an air conditioned store and all you have are a few inches for fresh air to enter your confines? Leave your pooch at home. Even in lower temperatures, a car can heat up quickly for your pet.

Avoid engaging in strenuous outdoor activities during extreme temperatures. Make sure your dog always has plenty of fresh water, both at home and on the go. Know your pet. Some dogs have a harder time with heat than others. Certain breeds with short noses like the bulldog, and dogs who have been in the treat “cookie jar” too many times need to be closely watched for signs of heat stroke.

Common sense along with plenty of fresh water and quality shade can prevent heat stroke from happening. Each summer, hundreds of dogs succumb to overheating but it is so preventable. Keep your furry buddy in mind when you are sweating through the dog days of summer. If that air conditioner or fan feels good on you, just think how good it would feel on your pet.

1 comment:

  1. I definitely agree with this. Recently, I helped a friend bathe and groom her two big dogs who live in the backyard of her house. She lives with her stubborn grandparents who assume that dogs are unaffected by the weather and are "used" to it, as they express. What they fail to realize is that when you walk outside and your skin is sweaty and you feel like you're about to pass out from the heat -- think about your dog! They are probably having it twenty times worse wearing all of that fur on their bodies that they couldn't take off even if they wanted to.

    Luckily, there is a large patio that the dogs can lie on to avoid the summer sun. But it is filled with junk piled high and there is dirt, hair, dead leaves, and just plain filthy and cluttered. There's barely anywhere for them to rest. And they are fed from squashed tin bowls filled with dust and the water supply is always hot and stagnant. How can someone be so oblivious to these things? And to call themselves a responsible pet owner.

    But what really gets me is that these dogs have full-length coats and are allowed to run around unshaved and unkempt. I couldn't stand seeing it anymore and I told my friend that we were going to do something about this right then. So we attempted to shave them, but the shaver didn't work and were forced to use scissors on the entire dog's body. The poor thing -- it wasn't the best haircut job ever, but at least it was MUCH cooler. And then we bathed both of them thoroughly and allowed them to dry in a clean area. After that, I spent hours brushing all of the loose and dead hairs off the dogs and clipping their nails. Mind you, I'm not even their owners! That alone is an astounding factor.

    But yes, after they were clean and happy and considerably cooler, the dogs expressed huge amounts of love and gratitude toward me. I couldn't have been more proud and ecstatic about the who let thing. Hopefully this taught my friend some important lessons about taking care of your animals and not letting things get that bad. The next task will be to clean off her patio. Anyway, I just wanted to share my experiences here so that someone may learn by example so that things like this are prevented from happening. The goal here is to raise awareness, I imagine.

    Thank you for posting this article! I hope everyone out there reading this spreads the word to their neighbor so that no animals have to suffer in the horrible heat. (I live in TX - by the way.)


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