The American Red Cross encourages pet owners to learn how to prevent and treat heat stroke in dogs, especially during the warmer months.
Heat stroke (hyperthermia) occurs when a dog severely overheats – most commonly 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, leaving a dog 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 outdoors, thicker-coated dogs in warm weather and underlying disease such as upper airway, heart of lung disease.
Never Leave Your Pet in the Car
In nice weather you may be tempted to take your pet with you in the car while you travel or do errands. But during warm weather, the inside of your car can reach 120 degrees in a matter of minutes, even if you're parked in the shade. This can mean real trouble for your companion animals left in the car.
If you do happen to see a pet alone in a car during hot weather, alert the management of the store where the car is parked. If the owner does not return promptly, call local animal control or the police department immediately.
Don't Put Your Pet in the Back of a Truck
It is very dangerous, and in some states illegal, to drive with a dog in the back of a pick-up truck. Not only can flying debris cause serious injury, but a dog may be unintentionally thrown into traffic if the driver suddenly hits the brakes, swerves or is hit by another car. Dogs should ride either in the cab (in a crate or wearing a seat belt harness designed for dogs) or in a secured crate in the bed of the truck.
Watch Out For Fertilizers and Deadly Plants
Plant food, fertilizer and insecticides can be fatal if your pet ingests them. In addition, more than 700 plants can produce physiologically active or toxic substances in sufficient amounts to cause harmful effects in animals.
With people and dogs spending more time outside, dog bites are likely to increase in the warmer months. Spaying or neutering your dog reduces the likelihood that he will bite and provides many other health benefits.
Pet Care 101
Make sure your pet is always wearing a collar and identification tag. If you are separated from your pet, an ID tag may very well be his or her ticket home.
Check with your veterinarian to see if your pets should be taking heartworm prevention medication. Heartworm disease, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, can be fatal in both dogs and cats. Another warm weather threat is fleas and ticks. Use only flea and tick treatments recommended by your veterinarian. Some over-the-counter flea and tick products can be toxic, even when used according to instructions.
Recognizing the Signs of a Heat Stroke
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:
- 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 can 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.