Prevention of Heat Stroke
Our dog Mollie is only eight months old, so this is her first experience with hot, humid summer weather. She’s a mixed breed, mostly Retriever, so she has a fairly warm coat. How can we keep her healthy and comfortable this summer? Also, do dogs and cats get heat stroke? (We also have a cat.)
Yes indeed, our pets can suffer from heat stress and owners need to follow a few simple preventative steps to keep their pets safe during the summer.
Most victims are dogs. Though cats are vulnerable to the heat, they can somehow draw coolness from the ground and other shaded spots.
To keep Mollie cool, first check her environment. Most heat stress results from confinement in an overheated enclosed space. Automobiles are the most dangerous.
A dog chained all day to a stake in the yard also is at a great risk unless it has access to shade and water -- not just in the morning when you leave for work, but all day. If Mollie is a barker and a pacer, she will need more water than a quiet, sedentary dog. Puppies, incidentally, are particularly vulnerable to the heat.
If Mollie jogs or walks with you, keep an eye on her breathing which will indicate overheating problems. Continuous panting signals the onset of heat stress. The panting will stop as soon as the dog’s temperature is reduced. When caught at this early stage, the pulse will be strong but not rapid and mucous membranes (in the mouth) will be bright red.
Long exposure to heat causes cellular damage which may not appear for hours or days. The dog will be weak and have warm, dry skin and pale mucous membranes. Damage results very quickly once the body temperature reaches 107 degrees.
First aid procedures are aimed at quickly reducing body temperature by immersing the dog in cold water or turning the hose on her, especially her head. After she is cooled, take her to your veterinarian. She will be in shock and should be treated with intravenous fluids to re-establish blood flow to organs and tissues. The dog may need to be monitored for a few days and/or treated with antibiotics.
Plenty of water and shade and excellent ventilation are the best insurance against overheating (a car can provide shade from the sun but still trap heat). Most dogs can be more comfortable if hair is cut or at least brushed regularly to remove dead and matted hair.