Summer is upon us and I have already had my first case of heat stroke. Rusty was left in his owner’s car by accident this morning. Dogs cannot sweat like people do. They can only regulate their body heat by panting. The temperature of a car can quickly reach 10 to 20 degrees hotter than the outside air temperature. This results in hyperthermia or heat stroke. Rusty was rushed to the clinic and his internal temperature was 107 degrees. Death and internal organ failure is imminent when the internal temperature reaches 109 degrees. We acted quickly with cool water baths and ice packs. An intravenous catheter was started to flush more fluids into Rusty. Rusty is feeling much better right now, but we will not know for a while if he has any permanent damage to his kidneys, or other organs.
Here are some other warm weather tips you must follow to get your dog through summer safely:
- Have adequate shade-dogs in direct sunlight can also get sunburned or develop hyperthermia leading to heat stroke.
- Have adequate cool water available for your dog outside. Water directly in the sun can also heat up to hot for your dog to drink.
- Do not leave your dog in the car, even if the windows are cracked.
- Be careful when walking your dog on hot asphalt or concrete. Your dog can burn the bottom of his feet.Sometimes, even the seats of the car or a bed of a truck can get hot enough to burn the pads of your dog’s foot.
- Limit walking your dog in the heat. Remember, they cannot sweat and even a little exertion can increase their body temperature to a dangerous level.
- Do not apply insect repellent or sunscreen to your pet that is not labeled for use in animals. Pets may lick the products that can cause drooling, diarrhea or other toxic or neurological problems.
- Give your dog heartworm preventative and de-worm regularly for internal parasites. Mosquitoes carry the heartworms and dogs can pick up hookworms through the pads of their feet.
- Use flea control on a regular basis. The house is a perfect laboratory for incubating fleas in the summer. One flea can turn into thousands quickly and they can lay dormant in your carpet for years waiting for the perfect opportunity to hatch out and feed on the first warm-blooded creature that comes in their path. Lucky for us humans, they prefer the warmer body temperature of our pets than us.
- In areas that have problems with all the above parasites, I recommend using the Advantage-Multi or Revolution on a monthly basis to control the parasites.
Stay alert for signs of overheating in pets, which include excessive panting, drooling, weakness, staggering or even seizures. The can even feel hot to the touch. The brachycephalic breeds (flat noses like Shi Tzus, Lhasa Apso, Pugs, Boxers, Boston Terriers and Bulldogs) are at a much greater risk for heat stroke. Also overweight dogs, or a dog with a thick or matted coat or more prone to developing hyperthermia.
If you suspect your dog has hyperthermia or heat stroke, contact your veterinarian immediately. Safe reduction of your pet’s temperature with cool water and ice packs will help to reduce his temperature. IV fluids are given to help with kidney function and to help with cooling of internal organs. Damage to the heart, kidney and other organs may not show up for weeks. Keep your pet safe this summer.
Debra Garrison, DVM