Heatstroke occurs when normal body mechanisms cannot keep the body’s temperature in a safe range. Animals do not have efficient cooling systems like humans who sweat and get overheated easily. A dog with moderate heatstroke can recover within an hour if given prompt first aid and veterinary care. Severe heatstroke can be deadly and immediate veterinary assistance is needed.
Signs and Symptoms of heat stroke in your dog:
- Rapid panting
- Bright red tongue
- Red or pale gums
- Thick, sticky saliva
- Vomiting – sometimes with blood
What to do if you notice one or more of these symptoms,
Remove the dog from the hot area immediately, on the way to your veterinarians you can pour cooled NOT COLD water on your pet to try and cool them down. Using very cold water can actually be counterproductive. Cooling too quickly and especially allowing your pets body temperature to become too low can cause other life-threatening medical conditions. Even if the dog appears to be recovering, take him to your veterinarian as soon as possible. He should still be examined since he may be dehydrated or have other complications.
Offer free choice water but do not force feed the water.
Dogs who suffer from heatstroke once increase their risk for getting it again and steps must be taken to prevent it on hot, humid days.
Steps to prevent heatstroke include:
- Keep pets with predisposing conditions like heart disease, obesity, older age, or breathing problems cool and in the shade. Even normal activity for these pets can be harmful.
- Provide access to water at all times.
- Make sure outside dogs have access to shade.
- On a hot day, restrict exercise and don’t take your dog jogging with you. Too much exercise when the weather is very hot can be dangerous.
- Do not muzzle your dog.
- Avoid places like the beach and especially concrete or asphalt areas where heat is reflected and there is no access to shade.
- Wetting down your dog with cool water or allowing him to swim can help maintain a normal body temperature.
- Move your dog to a cool area of the house. Air conditioning is one of the best ways to keep a dog cool, but is not always dependable. To provide a cooler environment, freeze water in soda bottles, or place ice and a small amount of water in several resealable food storage bags, then wrap them in a towel or tube sock. Place them on the floor for the dog to lay on.
But what should you do if you spot a dog locked in a hot car?
There are three steps:
1. Take information. Note the make and model of the car, the license number, exact location, and a description of the dog: breed, colour, size. etc. Remember that windows cracked open do not significantly reduce the internal temperature of a car.
2. Assess the situation. How long have you been present while the dog has been in the car? Is the dog in distress? Signs of heat distress include excessive panting with the tongue fully extended, stumbling, glazed eyes, disorientation, hiding in the footwell, and ultimately, coma and death.
3. Notify authorities. Contact nearby stores and businesses. Ask them to make an announcement for the owner to return to their car. If the dog is in distress, call the city RCMP. Stay on the scene to monitor the situation until the owner or help arrives.
Just remember that members of the public are not protected from law if damage is caused to the vehicle to rescue the pet.
And of course, don’t be a part of the problem. Don’t leave your pet in a hot car.
Melissa Topham RVT