With the arrival of hot weather, take precautions with your pets!

Even though everyone knows that keeping your dog in a car on a hot day is dangerous, we still see cases of heatstroke.  In the past week we’ve treated several, costing owners plenty and endangering the life of their dogs.

 

Dogs have several things working against them in hot weather:

1. Dogs don’t sweat. There is a small amount of evaporation and heat loss, which occurs through panting, but this is far less efficient than sweating.

 

2. Many dogs have been bred with less than ideal characteristics for heat loss. Short-nosed breeds (bracheocephalic dogs) have compromised airways that don’t move air quickly enough to pant effectively. Thick-coated arctic breeds bred for cold climates don’t tolerate 95-degree heat. Even dark-haired dogs absorb much more heat than white dogs.

 

3. Dogs are people-pleasers! If their owner is going running, they want to go too, and they don’t care if it’s hot out. They could be nearly dying, and they will continue to run until they collapse.

 

Heatstroke causes airway swelling and difficulty breathing. Prolonged elevation in body temperature lowers blood pressure, damages internal organs, and can lead to life-threatening blood clotting issues. Some dogs who appear to be recovering from heatstroke can still develop severe organ dysfunction and blood clotting issues hours or even days later. We consider each case of heat stroke a medical emergency.

 

Signs of heatstroke include collapse, weakness, bloody diarrhea, and excessive panting. Some cases are subtle, so even if you suspect your dog is suffering from heatstroke, seek veterinary care immediately.

 

We treat heatstroke in dogs by immediately cooling the patient but closely monitor body temperature to prevent hypothermia, which is an uncontrolled drop in core temperature. We perform bloodwork to evaluate organ function and clotting function, and hospitalize cases to provide supportive care including intravenous fluids, antibiotics, drugs to protect the stomach lining (gastrointestinal protectants), and sometimes plasma administration.

 

So remember, heatstroke is preventable. Don’t leave your dog alone in a car with or without the windows open, even on days that seem mild. Be aware that dogs spending time outdoors should be checked frequently to ensure they are not overheating, and make sure your pets always have access to fresh water and shade. Wetting your dog gently with a garden hose is a great method for cooling your dog on hot summer days. And, if you suspect your dog is suffering from heatstroke, call us!