While it would be nice to think that every pet owner knows better than to leave their animal in the car with the windows rolled up, regardless of temperature, the truth is that pet owners continue to make this and other mistakes that compromise the safety of their pet.
As the temperatures rise, there is always a danger of heat stroke, especially for dogs. According to the American Red Cross (http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/pet-safety/protecting-pets-from-heat), heat stroke or hyperthermia occurs when a dog overheats, meaning it’s body temperature is too high for him to be able to maintain through normal mechanisms such as panting. Dogs are more likely to get heat stroke during the warmer months and owners need to know how to prevent, recognize, and treat this serious health condition.
There are three things every dog owner needs to do when it comes to heat stroke.
The best way to protect your dog is to avoid circumstances that raise the risk of overheating and hyperthermia. According to Dr. Paul Sedlacek of Animal Clinic of Morris Plains, the following steps can be taken to help prevent heat stroke:
Never leave your dog in a car with the windows rolled up.
Don’t exercise your dog excessively during warm weather.
Make sure your dog always has an adequate supply of cool water.
Consider shaving shaggy dogs down, especially those with a history of or predisposition for heat stroke.
Dog owners should also know if their dog is predisposed to heat stroke or at a higher risk for developing it. Short snout breeds such as pugs and bulldogs are more likely to suffer from heat stroke. Furthermore, any dog with a previous history of the condition is at a higher risk for developing it again.
Additional measures owners can take to prevent heat stroke include providing an adequate outdoor shelter and ensuring the dog has access to plenty of shade.
Dog owners must also know how to identify heat stroke in their animal as quick identification and treatment may help to save the animal’s life. The following are common signs and symptoms of heat stroke in dogs:
A body temperature in excess of 104° F
If you believe your dog or any dog may be suffering from heat stroke, take action immediately.
As soon as you suspect that your dog may have heat stroke, get them out of the heat as quickly as possible. The first task is to take your dog’s temperature. If it is over 104° F, they need veterinary care immediately. Soak a towel in cool water, wrap it around their neck and get them to the vet.
If their temperature has not yet reached 104° F, check them for signs of shock, which can include pale skin, cold extremities, and lethargy. If you suspect your dog is in shock, he still needs immediate veterinary care even if his temperature is lower than 104° F because shock can cause the body temperature to drop and can be fatal if not treated immediately.
If no signs of shock are present, you can take the following steps to help cool them down while you call the vet to find out if the vet feels your pet needs to be seen.
Continue monitoring their temperature every 5 minutes or so
Spray the dog down with cool, not cold, water
Wrap the dog in towels soaked with cool water
Your primary goal is to get your dog’s temperature down to 103° F within the first 10-15 minutes. But once you get his temperature down, you need to stop cooling him to avoid causing his temperature to drop dangerously low.
Make sure you check in with your dog’s vet right away regardless of the outcome to ensure you get him the care he needs in the timeframe he needs to recover quickly and to limit the likelihood of long-term damage or health problems.
Dr. Paul has a strong interest in avian and exotic animal medicine and surgery, as well as small animal internal medicine and surgery.
He has provided services for numerous breeders, kennels, aviaries, and mini zoos.