Recognizing the signs of heat stroke and knowing how to treat it could save your dog’s life.
What is heat stroke?
Heat stroke occurs when your dog can no longer maintain his normal body temperature (around 101F) by panting. Humidity and heat combine to increase his temperature and at 106F his internal organs start to break down. At that point, you only have minutes to cool him or he could suffer permanent organ damage or even die.
Watch for Symptoms
Often people don’t recognize the symptoms of heat stroke and lose critical treatment time. Very humid days – even if it’s not all that hot – can also be problematic, so always watch your dog for these signs:
- Excessive panting
- Pale gums and a bright red tongue
- Anxious or staring expression
- Disorientation and confusion
- Increased heart rate and pulse
- Thick saliva
- Difficulty breathing
Treatment for Heat Stroke
Time is of the essence if your dog is experiencing heat stoke. Don’t panic and follow these steps:
- Move your dog into the shade and provide him with some water, but don’t allow him to drink to the point of vomiting.
- Put him in a bath, pour, or gently hose cool water on him. Ice packs shouldn’t be used because you can over-cool him.
- Massage him gently and flex his legs to encourage circulation.
- Move him to a place with air conditioning or put him in front of a fan. Air flow will help him to cool himself.
- Monitor his temperature with a rectal thermometer and contact the nearest emergency veterinarian.
- When your dog recovers from the heat stroke, schedule a thorough examination with your veterinarian to rule out organ damage.
Factors Increasing Chances of Heat Stroke
Something as unique as your dog’s temperament can elevate his body temperature. For example, a pet that is anxious, excited or frightened, or one that barks excessively, is more likely to get heat stroke than one that is calm or quiet. Also, dogs with short noses, like Pugs, Bulldogs, and Shar-Pei are more likely to have heat-related problems, because they have less tongue area to dissipate heat. Other factors that can play a part in heat stoke are:
- Direct sunshine
- High humidity
- Lack of a breeze
- Health and weight of the pet
- Thickness of the dog’s coat
- Availability of fresh water
- Recent feeding
Preventing Heat Stroke
Of course, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – so here are some ways to avoid heat stoke:
- Do not leave your pet alone in the car
- Minimize outdoor activities on hot and humid days
- Exercise in the early morning and late evening when the temperatures are cooler
- Keep your dog in a cool part of the house, like the basement or a room that is air conditioned
- Make sure your pets always have access to clean drinking water
- When your dog is outside be sure he has shade, gets a breeze, and consider a kiddie pool for him to cool off in
It’s disappointing to have our plans thwarted by the weather – but no activity is worth risking the boy’s health. We’ll see as much of Austin as we can in the mornings and evenings – afternoons will be spent in the air conditioning. We can catch up on work while the boys get their much-needed beauty rest.
Recognize the symptoms of heat stroke in a dog. React quickly if you notice that your dog is dehydrated or is suffering from some or all of the following heat stroke symptoms:
- Unusual breathing – rapid and loud
- High rectal temperature (see how to take this below)
- Extreme thirst
- Weakness and/or fatigue
- Frequent vomiting
- A bright red tongue and pale gums
- Skin around muzzle or neck doesn’t snap back when pinched
- Difficulty breathing
- Collapse or coma
- Thick saliva
- Increased heart rate.
In addition to the cool water and ice as already described, the veterinarian will place an intravenous (IV) line to run cool fluids directly into your cat. This will not only help to lower your cat’s temperature, it will help to counteract the effects of shock and minimize the risk of organ damage, which can be brought on by high body temperature.
Cats also can suffer despite being labeled as “desert animals”
Your cat’s temperature will be monitored frequently until the temperature begins to fall. Once it has fallen sufficiently, the cooling efforts will be gradually stopped to prevent excessive cooling (hypothermia). Prolonged high body temperature can lead to organ damage and failure, especially of the brain. Your veterinarian will want to keep your cat until his temperature is stable, and he can be evaluated for signs of organ damage.