As we enter the final leg of summer, temperatures across the country continue to soar. Many Americans will flock to the beach, others might host a picnic in their own backyard. However we spend our summer days, pets are often included in the trips and festivities. The American Red Cross is using the Dog Days of summer as an opportunity to promote pet safety, and encourage pet owners to learn how to prevent and treat heat stroke in dogs, especially during the hot summer months.
Heat stroke (hyperthermia) occurs when a dog severely overheats- most commonly in the spring and summer months- when the weather turns warm. The good news is if the heat stroke hasn’t advanced too far (with body temperature of more then 104◦F), you can help your dog recover.
It is important to know if your dog is predisposed to heat stroke which is true of dogs with short snouts such as bulldogs, pugs and many other breeds. Other common causes of heat stroke include: a previous episode of heat stroke, dog left in a parked car, excessive exercise in hot humid weather (this may be exercise that your dog can usually handle but not in warmer weather), lack of appropriate shelter for an animal outdoors, thick-coated dogs in warm climates and underlying disease such as upper airway, heart of lung disease.
Red Cross Pets During the month of August, take the necessary steps to protect your pets and save their lives in the event of emergency.
Never leave your pet in a parked car! Even with the windows cracked, your pet can quickly suffer heat stroke – and even die. Temperatures can exceed 120◦F in parked cars.
Unlike humans, dogs do not have sweat glands, so they can dispel heat only by panting and through the pads of their feet. Make sure your pet has plenty of cool water and shade during the hot weather.
Signs and symptoms of heat stroke include: collapse, body temperature 104◦F or above, bloody diarrhea or vomit, depression stupor, seizures or coma, excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increased heart rate, salivation.
If you suspect heat stroke:
- you should get your dog out of direct heat,
- check for shock,
- take your dog’s temperature,
- spray your dog with cool water then retake temperature
- place water –soaked towels on the dog’s head, neck feet, chest and abdomen, turn on a fan and point it in your dog’s direction, rub Isopropyl alcohol (70%) on the dog’s foot pads to help cool him but don’t use large quantities as it get be toxic if ingested
- take your dog to the nearest veterinary hospital.
During a heat crisis, the goal is always to decrease the dog’s body temperature to 103◦F in the first 10-15 minutes. Once 103◦F is reached, you must stop the cooling process because the body temperature will continue to decrease and can plummet dangerously low if you continue to cool the dog for too long.
Even if you successfully cool your pet down to 103◦F in the first 10-15 minutes, you must take the dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible because consequences of heat stroke will not show up for hours or even days. Potential problems include abnormal heart rhythms, kidney failure, neurological problems and respiratory arrest.
The American Red Cross offers Dog First Aid classes and materials for purchase. Visit www.RedCross.org to contact your local chapter.