Definition of Hyperthermia/Heat Stroke: An elevation is your dog’s body temperature, generally above 103° or higher. Normal body temperature for a dog generally ranges from approximately 100.4° and 102.5°. Heatstroke can occur when all the heat-dissipating mechanisms of the body cannot control the body’s temperature, which can result in multiple organ dysfunction and/or failure. Picture your dog’s body like an oven. Even if you get the external body cooled down, if they have been internally too hot for too long, the damage may have already been done to their vital organs. It is imperative that you prevent this if at all possible and, if it does occur, that you act quickly!
Dr. Foster and Smith explain it very simply: “Dogs do not perspire the way humans do; in fact, the only sweat glands that they have are on the pads of their feet. Dogs pant to cool themselves and also use a temperature exchange called convection to cool their skin. Both panting and convection cooling the body by exchanging the warm body temperatures for the cooler air outside. If the surrounding air is not considerably cooler than the animals’ body temperature – as in the case of a hot, stuffy automobile – the cooling system will not work, and heatstroke can occur.”
ALL dogs are at risk, but especially all brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds like Bulldogs (English, French and American), Pugs, Boston Terriers, Mastiffs, Boxers, Shih-Tzus, Lhasa Apso, Pekingese, Japanese Chin, Shar-Pei, some Pit Bulls, and St. Bernards! Also, be cautious with older dogs, dogs struggling with obesity, cardiac or respiratory problems as their tolerance is much lower to heat and humidity.
So what do you watch for?
*Temperature above 103 degrees
*Uncontrollable Panting/Loud Breathing
*Rapid Heart Rate
*Wobbled Walking/Tripping over Feet or Falling
*Foaming at the Mouth
*Bright red tongue/gums
*CRT is over 2 seconds
How do I prevent it?
*Ensure that your pet has full access to plenty of drinking water and shade, and if kept outdoors, provide them with a baby pool – PLEASE NOTE: We do not recommend ANY dog to stay outdoors in Texas weather, and even with enough water and shade, the heat can be brutal enough to cause a fatality still.
*If you hike or walk with your dogs, please do so early in the morning or the evening after the sun begins to set. Please bring water bottles and a portable water dish and give your dog shaded breaks so that they can cool themselves off a bit before you continue. Avoiding the heat of the day will also prevent burns on the pads of their feet from hot asphalt or concrete where heat is reflected! This also holds true for the beach areas, and you also lack proper shade.
*Watch your dog carefully for the above-mentioned signs. If your dog exhibits any of these signs, please rest in the shade, take immediately indoors (if possible) and stop for water. If symptoms do not subside or worsen, please start cooling them down slowly and seek veterinary attention. Wetting your dog down with cool water or allowing them to swim can help to maintain their body temperature.
*NEVER EVER leave your dog in a car unattended! Even in the shade and the windows “cracked,” the car’s internal temperature can reach fatal temperatures within minutes! Try turning your car off, cracking your windows, and just sitting there before you leave your dog. You will not be able to tolerate it within just a few minutes. Now imagine that you have a fur coat on! It is just not worth the risk, even if you really truly believe it will only be a few minutes. Please take your dog home or call the store to see if they mind if you bring them in for a few minutes. You’d be surprised how many times they tell you yes! If you want to spend money with them, they usually want you to come in! Just make sure you potty them before you bring them in to avoid upset and embarrassment! :o)
*Do NOT muzzle your dog in the heat. This takes away one of the body’s main cooling processes and increases their risk of heatstroke significantly.
What do I do if they are showing signs of Hyperthermia?
*Begin cooling your dog off with COOL water – If you use cold water and move too fast, you can throw their body into shock. I recommend starting at their feet and slowly work your way up the body. Be sure to cover the head and body with cool water or wet towels, or a sheet. When possible, submerge them in a bathtub with COOL water or a pool.
*Move your dog into air-conditioning immediately! If you are outside, move to a shaded or covered area or knock on a neighbor’s door if you are too far from home. If possible, try to locate a fan to help circulate the air-conditioned room directly on your dog.
*Place ice packs or ice (both must be wrapped in a towel) between their back legs along the inside of the legs. There are main arteries that run on the inside of the back legs, and if you can help cool the blood, it will carry through the body. If you use straight ice or packs on the skin, it can close skin pores and shrink surface vessels which can exacerbate the heatstroke and possibly lead to shock or hypothermia. I always carry multiple Instant Ice Packs in my Pet First Aid Kit and a small towel for these exact situations just in case I don’t have access to a frozen pack.
*Fan your dog (manually fanning the air or place a fan in front of them) and lift apart their hair. The fur can insulate the heat, so if they move the fur up and away from the skin, it can help to release the heat and allow cool air to reach the skin.
*Monitor your dog’s rectal temperature with a lubricated digital thermometer. Lubricate the end of the thermometer, have someone help you hold the front end of the dog, lift the tail and insert about 1.5 inches inside the rectum until it beeps. Once the temperature reaches below 103°, you may stop all cooling techniques. Monitor the dog’s temperature for the next 15 -30 minutes to ensure they do not revert to HYPOthermia which is when they become too cold.
*Even if the dog appears normal once their temperature is controlled,
please take them to your veterinarian to ensure there has not been any internal damage.
To learn more about Heat and Cold Injuries and many other Pet First Aid Emergencies, please register for our next Pet Saver Seminar!
For all the details of upcoming classes, visit us at www.DallasPetFirstAid.com!