Every year we hear of dogs that collapse and die from the heat – our summers seem to be getting hotter and more and more owners are taking their dogs abroad into temperatures to which they are not habituated.
Our dogs do not know that heat can kill them or at the very least make them ill – so it is up to us to protect them and educate everyone who walks them or exercises them.
Heatstroke is caused by too much exposure to high temperatures and inappropriate amounts of exercise for the weather conditions
All dogs are at risk – whatever their colour, whatever their coat length, but short-nosed breeds are particularly susceptible.
HEATSTROKE – an explanation:
1) Dogs primarily regulate their body temperature by panting.
They do not sweat all over like humans – only through their paw pads.
If the dog cannot evacuate enough heat through its respiratory tract – heatstroke can occur.
2) Heatstroke is very dangerous – potentially life-threatening.
A dog’s normal temperature is 100.5F to 102.5F. Once its temperature rises above 105F physiological changes start to occur and over 106F irreversible damage starts to take place to the internal organs, heart and brain.
3) Signs to look for include excessive panting, increased salivation, tacky irregular pulse, collapse, weakness, vomiting, confusion, inattention and diarrhea. Finally seizures and coma can occur.
WHAT TO DO:
1) Pay attention to your dog – recognizing the symptoms of heatstroke and taking action quickly are critical for the best outcome.
2) Get your dog into the shade. Apply cool water to the inner thighs and belly (large, fairly superficial blood vessels).
Apply cool water to paw pads too.
3) Use running water if you can, to wet dogs body but never submerge the dog in a pool or bath as this can cause too rapid cooling leading to further complications, including cardiac arrest and bloating.
4) Use cool NOT cold water or ice which is counter-productive as it causes blood vessels to constrict and slow the blood flow which slows the cooling process.
5) Don’t cover an over-heated dog in wet towels – you get a sauna effect which inhibits evaporation and therefore slows down cooling.
6) Any airflow is helpful – air con in car, fans etc but not too cold. Too rapid cooling can lead to hyperthermia.
7) Try to get dog to stand or walk slowly to stop blood pooling (when lying down) and encourage circulation.
8) Encourage dog to drink small amounts of cool NOT cold or iced water. Do not allow it to gulp – could cause vomiting or bloat.
*Cooling is the 1st priority, hydration the 2nd*
9) Once cooling has started the dog’s temperature can be slowly allowed to return to normal
10) YOU MUST TAKE DOG TO YOUR VET ASAP – it is urgent for the vet to assess if there is any damage to the dog’s kidneys or liver.
The effects of heatstroke can continue for 48 to 72 hours longer – even if the dog appears normal to you.
11) The most common cause of death as a result of heatstroke is Disseminated Intravascular Coagulopathy (DIC) – blood coagulating throughout the body which can occur hours or days after the heatstroke episode.
For this reason FOLLOW UP VETERINARY CARE IS ESSENTIAL AFTER A HEATSTROKE EPISODE
What to do to avoid Heatstroke:
PREVENTION IS THE BEST MEDICINE
1) Never leave your dog in a car or van
– a car parked even in the shade with the windows open can reach fatally high temperatures in minutes.
2) Avoid unnecessary car journeys and limit their length – when in car make sure dogs are out of the sun and not crowded together
3) Always carry water when in car or on foot. Offer him frequent small drinks and cool his paw pads. Encourage him to paddle where appropriate or damp his feet at a water fountain or tap.
4) Change your exercise regime – avoid middle part of day – early morning, late evening are best.
5) Do not allow your dog to run around too much with his friends in the heat – he doesn’t know it’s bad for him – he will run until he collapses.
Don’t keep playing energetic ball/frisbee games. You can exercise his mind with games/tricks at home – that will tire him out if needed.
6) Walk in the shade – dogs can overheat even walking on pavements. Walk as little as possible on hot surfaces.
7) When leaving your dog at home – create a cool, shady, well ventilated environment. Close curtains/blinds to avoid dog lying in sunlight through glass. Leave plenty of fresh water.
8) Don’t allow him to sunbathe outside for too long in fierce sun – some dogs love it but they may overheat.
9) Remember some dogs (especially those with smooth coats and pale colouring or white muzzles) have virtually hairless pink patches on their noses and pink edges/tips to their ears – they need sunblock or they will burn
10) Consider using a soaked bandana round his neck – the evaporation will help – but keep re-wetting it. Or you can buy a special water retaining cooling bandana from various internet companies
11/Don’t think that having your dog’s coat clipped short once the sun comes out is a good idea – you may well be exposing him to the harmful rays of the sun causing him to burn. He needs some protection so try to be sensible when you time that hair cut.
12/Ensure that your dog has access to cool clean water at all times.
Take care of your precious pooches and make sure everyone who takes them out takes the same care that you do and knows what to do if your dog does get heatstroke.
Hopefully this information will help avoid any episodes of heatstroke but now you know action to take if it happens – and it can with even the best care.