Yesterday afternoon here at the clinic we almost had a tragedy that certainly could have and should have been avoided. One of our canine patients spent too much time out on the first really hot day of the year and it was almost fatal. When the dog first came in to the clinic its temperature was 107.5 while a normal temp is 102. The important thing to remember here is that this dog was not locked in a car or left outside tied to a tree. This dog was exercising with its owner. Exercise is great but when it gets hot you need to keep your dog cool. And since the primary cooling method for dogs and cats is panting, this is even more important for dogs with flat faces like pugs and Boston terriers. They just can’t move enough air to cool them when they get overheated. Panting provides increased air flow over moist surfaces in the respiratory tract which cools the blood and hence, the animal. Dogs have sweat glands located in the pads of their feet and their ear canals, sweating plays a minimal role in cooling. Animals with medical conditions and elderly pets can also be predisposed to heat injury.
Here are a few suggestions to make the season safer for your pets:
Never leave your animal in a parked car! Not even for a few minutes! Heat inside a parked car can be 40 degrees above the outside. Leaving the windows cracked only helps if there’s a breeze and even then the temperature-lowering benefit is minimal
Many of us like to exercise with our pets; keep in mind that they are exercising while wearing a fur coat
For animals that live outside, especially large dogs, provide shade, ventilation, a wading pool, and cool drinking water. Also, make sure water containers are large enough to supply water at all times and secure enough so they cannot be turned over.
I am a firm believer in clipping heavy-coated dogs and cats in the summer. The animals are so much happier and comfortable. You should leave about one half inch for insulation and protection against sunburn.
If your pet does get overheated some symptoms to look for are disorientation; rapid, frantic panting; wide, unseeing eyes; staggering; thick, ropey saliva; a bright red tongue; vomiting and seizures. If you see any of these symptoms and are concerned that your animal may be suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke it is imperative that you cool them down as fast as possible. Put them in a tub and hose them down with COLD water. It’s okay to put ice in the water or to use a fan on the wet animal. Please take your pet to your veterinarian immediately. Your veterinarian will continue with the cooling process which may include administering cold water enemas, oxygen and IV fluids. Blood tests may be necessary to determine possible injury to the internal organs.
Once again, prevention is the key. Don’t put your animal in a situation where overheating can happen. Be smart when it’s hot and enjoy the Vermont summer!