Protect Your Pets from the Deadly Heat

The owner was frantic. Just an hour before, his Boxer, Rocky, was playing in the yard. Now he was in our treatment area listless, unable to walk, and his temperature was over 110-degrees — he was suffering from heat stroke. Moments later, another man arrived with his neighbor’s Golden Retriever whom he found dead in the back yard. On this sad day, the Texas heat claimed the lives of both of these beloved pets.

Every summer, many dogs find their way to Metro West Emergency Veterinary Center after spending just a few hours in the hot sun.

It’s important to remember dogs don’t sweat like we do. Cooling themselves by panting, dogs use the moisture evaporating off their tongue as a means to lower their body’s temperature. Anything overwhelming this natural cooling system leads to heat stroke.

Normally, a dog’s temperature ranges from 100 to 102.5-degrees. In cases of heat stroke, temperatures over 106-degrees are considered to be an emergency situation – temperatures over 110-degrees can be fatal in a matter of minutes.

This level of hyperthermia can affect every major body system, so it’s imperative you bring your pet in right away if you suspect overheating.

Dogs who succumb to heat stroke often show the following symptoms:
• Vigorous panting
• Inability to stand, or weakness while standing
• Thick, ropy saliva, literally foaming at the mouth
• Bright red mucous membranes, although some dogs may show pale or even muddy gums.

Heat stroke can affect any dog, although dogs with short faces, such as Boston Terriers, Pugs, and Bulldogs may be at higher risk due their inability to effectively pant and cool themselves.

Many people believe that their pet will be fine outdoors. However, inadequate shade and/or water can affect even the most seasoned outdoor dog. And when it’s as hot as it is today, just a few minutes outdoors can be too much.

Interestingly, heat stroke in cats is very rare. Most animal experts believe that cats are extremely good at finding the coolest spots to lay and also avoid the excessive, excitatory exertions that many dogs seem to thrive on.

If you find your dog vigorously panting, immediately move the pet out of the environment and into a cooler place. Getting the pet into a shady area with a fan running on him can be very helpful. Using cool — not cold — tap water on the extremities and trunk can also help to effectively lower the body temperature, as well as rubbing alcohol placed on the skin of the stomach. Do not use ice or extremely cold water. Although it seems logical, extreme cold will cause surface blood vessels to contract, forming an insulating area that traps heat in the body, delaying the cooling of the vital organs. If your dog doesn’t recover quickly, get him here as soon as possible.

Without these life saving steps, many dogs might lose their lives to the “dog-days” of summer. But quick-thinking owners and a skilled veterinary team like ours can help get them back on their feet in no time.

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