Heat Stroke Alert!

If you own a dog, please read carefully. We have had 5 heat stroke cases this past week at I-20 Animal Medical Center (3 pets were euthanized because of the severity of heatstroke). These are heartbreaking cases, because the owners of these pets had no idea that it could be so easy for their four-legged family member to get heat-stroke.

What You Should Know

Don’t think that just because your pet won’t be outside for long, that there isn’t a risk for heat stroke. There can be many reasons why a pet is more prone to heatstroke – and you can’t always predict who may be at risk. You can’t assume your pet won’t have a problem. If your pet goes outside in this extreme summer heat there is potential for heat stroke whether or not your yard is shaded, or your pet has water, or that your pet has never had a problem.

Factors that Make Your Pet At Risk For Heat Stroke:

Each pet owner has to understand that certain factors influence your dog’s susceptibility to heat stroke even if your pet is properly cared for. Your dog may be in an environment or situation you thought was safe, and yet suddenly, inexplicably, you have a pet stricken with heat stroke.

If your pet is a bracheocephalic breed (short muzzle and “smushed” in face typical of Boston Terriers, Bulldogs and other similar breeds) your dog is EXTREMELY at risk for heat prostration or heat stroke. Why? Well, dogs don’t sweat to cool themselves down, they pant. But, listen to how Bulldogs and other similar breeds breathe – very, very noisy- all due to restricted airways. Some dogs have a smaller than normal trachea (windpipe) – a condition they were born with, and a condition that will make a dog prone to heat stroke. Less air flows through a small trachea which leads to the inability to cool efficiently. To compensate they pant more to try to cool down, which is increased exertion and builds up heat. Now they have to pant more to cool down, but can’t, which leads to a very dangerous situation. It doesn’t take much, in this heat, to overexert these dogs and in a very short time have heat prostration and/or heat stroke.

What other dogs are at risk? Overweight dogs are at risk. Dogs with heavy hair coats are at risk. Dogs on tranquilizers are at risk. Older dogs are at risk. Dogs not used to outdoor heat are at risk if left outside unattended. Don’t assume that if they have shade and water your dog is not as risk.

You might think as veterinarians we are dramatizing the dangers, but we really can’t emphasize enough how easily heat stroke can occur. Owners of heatstroke patients we have treated have made comments such as “I let my dog go outside for only 10 minutes and he collapsed”, or “He was outside for no longer than 30 minutes”, or “We went for only a 10 minute walk and he collapsed” and “He was chasing a squirrel for only a few minutes” For at-risk pets it doesn’t take long to develop heat stroke.

Please, be extra careful with your pet this summer!

What To Do:

If you suspect heat stroke, try to verify by taking the temperature rectally. Normal temperature is between 101 and 102 degrees. Place cool (not ice) water on your pet, covering the entire body. Next, take your dog to the Animal ER IMMEDIATELY. Speed of treatment is critical in heat stroke victims. Any delay of treatment may lessen the chances of your pet surviving.

Tips for Avoiding Heatstroke:

  • Walk your dog early in the morning, evenings are too hot
  • Avoid walks and other outdoor activities for the overweight dog, older dog and bracheocephalic breeds
  • Don’t allow your dog to ride in the back of the pick up truck
  • Never tie your dog up in the yard
  • Make sure your yard has shade and adequate water
  • Supply large amounts of water
  • Never leave your dog in the car, even for a few minutes
  • Remember that strictly Indoor dogs may not be able to tolerate any extended time outside, keep them indoors
  • Monitor your pet outdoors if your pet is a at risk breed or has conditions that put it at risk
  • Consider a wading pool filled with water for the outdoor dog

I-20 Animal Medical Center is a 24-hour state-of-the-art hospital AAHA accredited practice. We are fully equipped with x-ray, laboratory capabilities, ultrasound, and surgical facilities (including laser surgery). Services include routine vaccinations, health checks, surgery and dentistry. As a 24-hour hospital, we have doctors and nurses on staff around the clock to provide emergency and critical care. For more information about our hospital or our doctors, call 817-478-9238 or metro 972-263-2525.