This week in our pets and pet advice column from Springlands Veterinary Centre we learn about the dangers of your dog getting heat stroke.
We tend to think of the summer sun as being the dangerous sun, but the spring and autumn sun can be stronger than expected and catch pet owners unaware on occasion.
Dogs tend not to tolerate high environmental temperatures as well as people and so can be more susceptible to heat stroke.
Common situations that can set the stage for heat stroke include dogs being left in cars in hot weather, exercising strenuously in hot and humid weather and being a squashed nose (brachycephalic) breed such as a pug.
Heat stroke begins with heavy panting and problems breathing.
The tongue and gums can appear bright red and vomiting is common.
The dog becomes progressively unsteady and can pass bloody diarrhoea.
As shock sets in, the lips and gums turn grey, "blood blisters" and bruises can appear and the animal can collapse, suffer fits, coma and death rapidly follow.
In mid-autumn, Sarg, an American bulldog, was well along this route when he presented as an emergency at clinic.
He had been accidentally trapped in a car for several hours, on a sunny autumn afternoon.
By the time he was rushed into the clinic, he was semiconscious, unable to stand and had grey gums.
He was starting to have a seizure and was covered in big bruises.
The outlook for Sarg, at this point, was dire.
Intensive emergency treatment was started which involved placing two intravenous catheters and high volumes of intravenous fluids being given.
He was also given intravenous treatment to counteract shock and stop the seizures.
Throughout this, he was actively cooled down by placing cold wet towels on his now unconscious body and then using a fan to help evaporate the water and hence reduce his body temperature to a safe level. Sarg was obviously a fighter and within 24 hours he had regained full consciousness and continued to make a full and uneventful recovery.
Remarkably, he responded so well to the intensive treatment that he was left with no lasting ill effects. Indeed, he became a proud father not many months after his dice with death!
So, as an owner, what first aid measure should you take if your dog suffers from heat stroke for whatever reason? The first thing is to use cool water - not ice cold water which will cause the peripheral blood vessels to constrict and actually slow down heat loss.
For the same reason, steadily, rather than rapidly, cool the dog. Wet towels then an electric fan - as we did with Sarg - are an ideal option if available.
Dehydration is a common complication of heat stroke and severe cases like Sarg's require intravenous fluids. In milder cases, oral fluids can be safely given at home. Pedialyte (a rehydration solution commonly used for infants or children) or even a sports drink like Gatorade or Powerade are suitable short-term options if you don‘t have access to a veterinary balanced electrolyte solution.
After an episode of heat stroke get your pet checked by your vet as soon as possible in case further emergency treatment is required, or in case possible organ damage (especially kidneys) has occurred.
All being well, this advice is something most owners will never need.
But it is always useful to know what to do, just in case, and to be aware that heat stroke doesn‘t just occur in summer.
DID YOU KNOW:
A dog cannot sweat like humans and only has sweat glands between its paw pads.
Dogs rely primarily on panting to cool off.
The average body temperature for a dog is 38.4 degrees celsius – around one and-a-half degrees warmer than humans.
- The Marlborough Express