How To Avoid And Treat Heat Stroke

by Nancy Boland

Unlike humans, dogs eliminate heat by panting. When panting isn’t enough, their body temperature begins to rise, and can become fatal if not averted quickly.

Signs To Look Out For

Excessive panting and signs of discomfort indicate overheating. However, it is important to be aware of the temperature in general and moderate appropriately.

Primary Cause

Any hot environment can cause heatstroke, but the most common cause is careless actions such as leaving a dog in a car on a hot day or forgetting to provide shade to a dog left inside.

Immediate Care

It is essential to remove the dog from the hot environment immediately and undertake the following guidelines:

  1. Put your dog in the bath tub.
  2. Run a cool shower over your dog, covering the whole body — especially the back of the head and neck.
  3. Allow the water to fill up the bath to a shallow amount as you shower the dog. Keep the head elevated at all times.
  4. If getting the dog into the tub is impractical, use a garden hose to cool the dog or place him in a pool of cool water.
  5. Apply a cold pack to the dog’s head to help lower his body temperature — a packet of frozen vegetables also works well here.
  6. Massage the legs. A vigorous rubbing helps the dog’s circulation and reduces the risks of shock.
  7. Let the dog drink as much cool or cold water as it wants. Adding a pinch of salt to the water bowl will help the dog replace the minerals lost through excessive panting.

The following steps should be taken, regardless of whether the dog is conscious, appears to recover well, or was only mildly affected:

  1. Check for signs of shock.
  2. Take the dog’s temperature every five minutes, continuing water-cooling until it drops below 39.4°C.
  3. Treat for shock if necessary.
  4. Get immediate veterinary attention. Heatstroke can cause unseen problems, such as swelling of the brain, kidney failure, and abnormal clotting of blood.

Veterinary Care

Treatment will consist mostly of replacing lost fluids and minerals. This may extend to secondary conditions, which your vet will be able to identify.

Other Causes

Dogs with thick fur, short noses, or those suffering from medical conditions such as laryngeal paralysis and obesity are predisposed to heatstroke. In addition, dogs that enjoy constant exercise and playtime — such as working dogs should be closely monitored for signs of overheating on hot days where they are very active.

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Heat stroke can be prevented by taking caution not to expose a dog to hot and humid conditions. This is especially applicable for dogs with airway diseases and breeds with shortened faces like pugs and bulldogs for example. Also, while travelling in cars, make sure that the dog is well ventilated by placing it in a wired cage or in an open basket, and never leave your dog in a car with the windows closed, even if the car is parked in the shade. When outdoors, always make sure your dog has plenty of access to water and shady areas.   Dog’s who love water will especially benefit from a paddling pool in the garden or even a sprinkler to cool down after a period of exertion or a very warm day.

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