Summer Heat Stroke... Is your dog at risk?
Everyone has heard the expression “sweating like a pig”- but that couldn’t be farther from the truth! Pigs don’t have sweat glands- that’s why they prefer the mud to help them stay cool. What about your cats and dogs? Their sweat glands are minimal- located in their paw pads and noses. How do they stay cool? Panting is helps them to evaporate moisture and cool down. Horses are king- they can produce twice as such sweat as you can per square inch of skin. Is heat stroke a real threat for our Texas pets? YES! The condition is called hyperthermia and can lead to organ failure and clotting disorders during or after their temperatures has been elevated for a period of time. Dogs and cats have a much higher core temperature than we do- 100.8 -102.2 degrees Fahrenheit. Dogs with short noses (brachycephalic) are higher risk for heat stroke as they can’t move air efficiently to use their respiratory tract to cool them. The more effort put into breathing and cooling the more energy exerted and thus their core body temperature rises and the cycle starts to repeat itself.
Sadly enough one contributing factor in Texas is when pets are accidently locked in cars, garages or other confined areas that heat up quickly.
We want our pets to be part of our summer fun so here are some tips for avoiding hyperthermia:
- Start slow
- If your pet spends more time on the couch then on walks don’t expect them to suddenly be fit and ready for a came of fetch or a day at the beach. Expose them to frequent but short exercise periods.
- Choose the coolest time of the day
- Mornings and evenings offer the most relief from our soaring temperatures and humidity.
- Plenty of fresh water! There are many portable, collapsible water bowls and containers you can take with you as you hike, bicycle or swim.
- Take cool down breaks
- If you’re working up a sweat just throwing a Frisbee imagine how hot your dog must be chasing it! Even on a leisurely walk your pet may go back and forth following his nose and walk 2-3 X the distance you do. Give your pet a cool down break allowing them to rest and drink and relax. Their excitement adds to the stress that increases body temperature.
How can I tell if my pet is heading into hyperthermia?
The most accurate assessment is to take a rectal temperature. It’s not as bad as it sounds. A plastic digital thermometer with a rubber tip from any pharmacy works well. Apply some lubricant in the form of oil, Vaseline petroleum jelly or even hand cream and insert it into the rectum. Press the on button and wait until it beeps. Temperatures above 104 degrees warrant a cooling activity for your pet. Take them indoors and place them in front of a fan. Apply alcohol to their paw pads and lay cool, wet towels on them. Rewet and replace the towels every 5 minutes and take temperatures every 15 minutes. The idea is to cool your pet slowly. When pets are immersed in cold water their temperature will drop rapidly and sometimes uncontrollably. The veins will constrict suddenly and lose precious clotting factors. Blood flow can be compromised to essential organs like the kidneys and liver and cause compromise to their function. Some of these adverse affects may not appear until 12-24 hours after the pet was submerged in cold water so remember to cool slowly.
Use this link to educate yourself on keeping your pets safe in the Texas heat. This makes the summer more enjoyable for everyone.
Article written by: Erin Balog, LVT