As we enter the hottest part of summer in the northern hemisphere, it’s important to keep an eye on your pets to make sure they are not overheating. Heatstroke is not a mere inconvenience. It can lead to damage to the brain, liver, heart, and nervous system. Conditions that increase the risk of heat stroke include leaving pets in a hot vehicle, humid conditions, lack of drinking water, obesity, and overexertion. Overexertion and heatstroke can occur while walking, jogging or running, or during rigorous play. Dogs with short muzzles, thick fur, and preexisting medical conditions, as well as the old and young are particularly vulnerable.
According to this article by Dr. Karen Becker, symptoms of overheating and heatstroke include –
- Heavy panting or rapid breathing
- Excessive thirst
- Glazed eyes
- Vomiting, bloody diarrhea
- Bright or dark red tongue or gums
- Staggering, stumbling
- Elevated body temperature
- Weakness, collapse
- Increased pulse and heartbeat
- Excessive drooling
Dogs suffering heatstroke should be removed immediately from the hot environment and taken to a veterinarian for care. If you must care for the dog yourself, do the following – Put your dog in a tub of cool (not cold) water or use a garden hose to cool him, but be sure to avoid getting water in the dog’s nose or mouth. Place a cold pack (such as a pack of frozen vegetables) on the dog’s head and massage his legs to reduce the risk of shock. Continue cooling until the dog’s rectal temperature drops below 103⁰ F. If the dog will drink on his own, let him drink water to which you’ve added a pinch of salt (preferably sea salt) to help replenish lost minerals. Remember, this is an emergency situation and veterinary care should be sought. For more information on treatment, you can read this article.