Hot Fun in the Summer

There is nothing better than spending time with my dogs outside after a long, cold winter. I love taking long walks, playing fetch with a ball or Frisbee, or watching them play with other friendly dogs.

Sometimes my enthusiasm gets the best of me and try to push a little too far too fast.  Luckily most people have the conscious ability to stop before they get into trouble.  On the other hand most dogs do not have the ability to know when enough is enough so we have great responsibility.

 Here is a great article from our insurance provider, Pet Sitters Associates:

Vets Corner- Hyperthermia (Heat Stroke)

 Dr Landorf- Oakwood Hills Animal Hospital

The most common danger that occurs when we fail to control our dog’s play is hyperthermia or heat stroke.

Hyperthermia is a potentially life-threatening disorder where a dog’s body temperature (normally 101-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit) increases to greater than 105 degrees.

Early symptoms of hyperthermia show as severe anxiousness, panting and restlessness.  If the temperature continues to increase they become glassy eyed, wobbly, and the mucus membranes (gums) may be brick red, purple or even blue as they become deprived of oxygen.  They also may produce saliva excessively from the mouth and nose.

The most common cause of hyperthermia is leaving a dog in a poorly ventilated car in warm or hot weather.  The Stanford University Medical Center did a study that found that even in 70 degree weather the interior of a car rises to 110 degrees in less than one hour.  Most often the pet owners that have had this happen plan on only being gone a few minutes, but get tied up or distracted and have no idea how long it has been.  As much as dogs love to ride in cars, we should always be aware of the weather and how long they may be unattended prior to travel.

Another common cause of heat stroke is play or exercise for too long in hot or humid weather.  The two most common situations I have observed are the game of fetch where the pet just won’t quit, or driving an ATV or bicycle with the dog running alongside.  In either case, the owner is expending very little energy compared to the dog and don’t feel the heat in the same way.  Take also into account a black lab, in the sun, and it is not hard at all to understand.

Certain types of dogs can also be more prone to heat stroke.  Brachycephalic(short nosed) dogs like Pugs, Bulldogs, Shih tzus, Lhasas, or Boston Terriers have very small windpipes compared to dogs of similar size.  A dog’s only effective method of cooling themselves is to expel hot air from their lungs by breathing faster-panting.  The short-nosed dogs have severely reduced air flow and overheat very quickly.  Obese dogs also overheat quickly as their body mass is larger compared to the size of the airway, and take longer to cool down.  On hot days they should take shorter walks in early morning or in the evening and have plenty of cool water.

If you observe signs of heat stroke do the following immediately:

  1. Remove the pet from the environment immediately and move to a shaded cool environment.
  2. If possible take the rectal temperature and record.  It is important to know how high the temperature is to assess treatment options as organs may be damaged as the temperature approaches 107 or over (kidneys, liver, brain).
  3. Cool the body with wet towels placing them on the neck, armpit and groin area.  If possible use a fan to increase evaporation and speed cooling.
  4. As soon as possible transport the pet to an emergency veterinary facility.

It is important to NOT use ice or very cold water.  This actually can reduce the blood flow on the body surface creating an insulated area trapping heat inside.

It is also very important to not over cool your pet (body temperature less than 101 degrees).

As always, it is much easier to prevent over heating than it is to treat.  Knowing symptoms of heat stress and telling your dog when enough is enough will make the hot weather months as safe as it is enjoyable.