Summer Hazards- Heat Stroke

Well, summer is finally upon us. As we move into late July and August, the temperatures and humidity are going to climb! This new environment presents a hazard to your little furry loved ones. Heat stroke can be a life threatening disease.

Heat stroke can be caused in several different ways. First, never leave your pet in a car while you go shopping. In temperatures as low as 70 degrees, the temperature in your car can climb to above 100 degrees. Secondly, avoid exercising your pet in the hottest times of the day. Short faced breeds such as English bulldogs, pugs, and boxers are predisposed to heat stroke and trouble breathing do to their narrow nostrils and long soft palates. Panting in these breeds, instead of cooling, can actually increase the body temperature. Lastly, never leave your pet outside during the day without supervision.

If you notice that your pet is overheated, there are several steps you can take. First get your pet out of the hot environment and into a cool area. You may aim a fan or two directly on your pet. If possible take a rectal temperature and monitor how it progresses. You may place cool, wet towels on the back of the neck, armpits, and groin area. Change these towels often. Wetting the paws can also be beneficial. Lastly, take your pet the veterinarian as soon as possible. Heat stroke can cause brain damage if the temperature becomes too high and predisposes your pet to several other life threatening conditions. Lowering the body temperature is often not enough to stop the other processes once they start.

There are several common mistakes that owners make in this situation. Never douse your pet in cold or ice water. This leads to a much too rapid drop of temperature. Do not attempt to force feed water to your pet. This can lead to aspiration. Instead leave a bowl of cool water where the pet can get to it. Do not leave your pet alone while he cools down. Hyperthermia can be life threatening and needs to be closely monitored.

Dr. McKenna


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