Dogs suffering with Heat Stroke..
If you want to go outside wearing a jumper or a coat and run around in the sun that is your choice. If you start to get too hot you can stop, take a drink and take your coat or jumper off.
I hope you are all aware of the point I am making.
Heat stroke in dogs is real and it is something I feel so strongly about after seeing it year after year within my veterinary career.
Taking a dog for a walk in the heat can cause your dog to overheat....Playing ball in the park with your dog when its hot can cause heatstroke....Being left in a hot environment can cause heat stroke.
Just because you are enjoying the heat and the sun does not mean your dog can cope with it.
I would like to think it goes without saying that leaving a dog in the car would be like leaving it in a greenhouse. We all know how hot cars get when left in the sun and that it does not take long for it to a dangerous temperature.
I will write a post on the physical effects of what heat stroke can do and what to do should your dog overheat but trust me when I say....
PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE!!!!!!
What happens to a dog’s body when is suffers from heatstroke.
The normal body of a dog is between 37.8-39.2⁰C…… Direct hyperthermal injury to internal organs starts when the body temperature reaches 41⁰C, which is not that much higher than a normal reading. Once the body temperature reaches 42.8⁰C the cells begin to die.
There are two forms of heatstroke:
• Exertional: Dogs working in an environment it is not acclimatised to, this could occur when playing with your dog on a hot day. It is rarely seen in working dogs due to their acclimatisation and the owners are more aware of what environments to work in.
• Non-Exertional: Animals who have not got adequate shade and/or water or the environmental temperature and/or humidity is increased.
When the environmental temperature is too high for an animal to maintain a normal body temperature it will try to cool itself down in a number of ways.
• Panting: Cool air is breathed in rapidly and passes over tiny capillaries in the nasal area, this cools the blood in the capillaries which is then circulated around the body. Evaporation from the gums also occurs during panting which further aids cooling.
• Re-direction of blood flow: The blood vessels constrict and push the blood to the smaller vessels just below the animals’ skin, this allows the blood to cool and then be circulated around the body to continue to try to reduce body temperature. This will cause the gums to become a darker pink.
• Increased heart rate: The heart pumps at a faster rate in order to force more blood to the blood vessels closer to the skin.
The consequences on the body if the animals’ environment remains too hot will be:
• The amount of circulating blood is reduced due to dehydration.
• Blood thickens and microthrombi are formed (blood clots).
• Internal organs such as liver, kidneys, brain, lungs and heart are damaged.
• Cells start to die because they are not receiving enough oxygen.
• Toxins are released into the blood stream from damaged cells and organs.
• Internal organs will eventually stop working and the animal will die.
Animals at a higher risk:
Brachycephalic shaped skulls such as Persian cats, Bulldogs and Pugs. Their noses are small therefore the body’s first response of panting will not be very effective at all.
Older animals and those with heart problems will not cope with the increased heart rate for very long at all.
Obese animals can’t regulate temperature as effectively due to the extra fat layers.
One study has shown a dog will not survive more than 48 minutes in a car where the temperature is 29⁰C and humidity is 90%. In the dogs attempt to escape it suffers from exertional and non-exertional heatstroke.
These are the fact of what happens to animals during heatstroke, all animals can be affected but it is usually dogs that are presented to the veterinary surgery because they are taken for walks, left in cars and generally not allowed to roam freely like cats.
The next post will cover what to do if your dog starts to show signs of heatstroke.
What to do with an animal suffering from heatstroke.
• Remove the animal from the hot environment immediately.
• Place the animal in the shade and if possible on a cool surface like grass. Concrete and bitumen retain heat so will be warmer.
• Offer water to drink but do not force any water into its mouth.
• Shower/bathe with cool/tepid not cold water.
• If you wet towels with cool water and place on the animal do not leave on there for prolonged times as they will begin to get warm from the animals body heat. This method of cooling is not recommended but if you have no other forms of cooling be very careful as the risk of increasing body temperature is high.
• Place them in front of a fan if possible.
• If you have cool pack place them on the animal….If it is very cold or you are using something frozen you must wrap it in material before putting onto the skin to prevent ice burns. Never just use ice to cool an animal, the extreme temperature could cause the animal to go into shock.
• If you are putting them into a car for transport make sure the car is cool, turn on the air con, open windows to create a breeze.
• It is really important that the animal does not cool down too quickly or become too cold.
• Phone your vet and get them there, all animals who have overheated are at risk of internal organ damage.
Once at the veterinary clinic the treatment will most likely be:
• Continue cooling with close monitoring.
• Intravenous Fluid Therapy.
• Blood samples to check for organ damage, glucose and electrolyte levels.
• In later stage heatstroke it may be necessary to give blood products.
• If the animal has begun to have seizures these will be treated with anti-seizure medications.
• It is likely the animal will be hospitalised for a few days.
There is a poor prognosis for animals that show brain damage ie seizures and long term organ damage is a possibility in heatstroke cases.
Early cooling by owners prior to getting to the vet greatly improves the chance of a good outcome.
It has been suggested that if the temperature reaches 20⁰C it is not advisable to take dogs out walking. Walking dogs’ early morning and in the evening is highly recommended as it is cooler then.
Do not forget that road surfaces retain heat, if you can’t hold the back of your hand on it for more than 5 seconds your dogs feet are at risk of being burnt.
There are some really great products around to help keep your dog cool. Specially designed coats that you wet with cool water and put on your dog, the material is such that your dog does not get wet and your dog will not overheat. There are also cool mats for pets to lie on which will help prevent overheating. When using these products, it is vital to follow the manufactures instructions.
Never leave an animal in a car if it is hot outside….even if you think you will not be long….even if the windows are left open….It is not worth the risk.
If you come across an animal in a car on a hot day do not immediately break the window, you could end up being prosecuted. You must prove that it was a necessary act. Take a photo of the animal in the car and also a screen shot with the time and local temperature then phone 101 for advice. Be aware there are some vehicles that can have air con working whilst the car is parked and locked.
As previously stated…Prevention is better than cure.