Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Summer Safety--Heat Stroke and Dehydration in Dogs

 Heat Exhaustion/Heat Stroke
Heat exhaustion or heat stroke is a potentially life-threatening condition and a major emergency for our dogs and requires immediate treatment. A dog’s normal temperature ranges 100 to 102.5 degrees –and sudden exposure to increased heat will result in a quick rise in body temperature. Our dogs cannot tolerate hot/high environmental temperatures because they do not sweat (except to a minor degree through their foot pads). Dogs depend upon panting to exchange warm air for cool air. But when air temperature is close to body temperature, cooling by panting is not an efficient process.
Common causes of Heat Exhaustion or Heat Stroke in Dogs
As pet owners need to be aware of common situations that can set the stage for heat stroke in dogs which may include:
 Being left in a car in hot weather
 Exercising strenuously in hot, humid weather
 Being a brachycephalic breed, (“short shoved up noses”) especially a Mastiff, BullMastiff,
Bulldog,  Pug, or Pekingese. 
 Suffering from a heart or lung disease that interferes with efficient breathing
 Being muzzled while put under a hair dryer
 Suffering from a high fever or seizures.
 Being confined on concrete or asphalt surfaces
 Being confined without shade and fresh water in hot weather
 Having a history of heat stroke

Recognizing the Sign of Heat Exhaustion in your Dog-
Heat stroke symptoms begin with restlessness, increased salivation (drooling)’, heavy panting and increased deep breathing. The dog’s saliva becomes thick and tenacious, and the dog often vomits. or has diarrhea.   The symptoms will progress as the dog’s body temperature increasesà The rectal temperature rises to 104° to 110°F (40° to 43.3°C); and the signs became more seriousàweakness, inattention, staggering, gasping, the tongue and mucous membranes may initially appear bright brick red, then purple or blue (cyanosis).. As shock sets in, the lips and mucous membranes turn gray. Collapse, seizures, coma, and death rapidly ensue.

Emergency Treatment-
Emergency measures to cool the dog must begin at once. Move the dog out of the source of heat, preferably into an air-conditioned building. Take his rectal temperature every 10 minutes. Mild cases may be resolved by moving the dog into a cool environment.  If using a fan to help cool the dog, place it at a comfortable distance.  Dogs should never be positioned close to or directly in front of air conditioners running on high--. This may inversely cause them to cool too quickly.
Minutes make the difference and owners must cool dogs off prior to transporting them to a veterinarian. If the rectal temperature is above 104°F, begin rapid cooling by spraying the dog with a garden hose or immersing him in a tub of cool water (not ice water) for up to two minutes. . Alternatively, place the wet dog in front of an electric fan. . Monitor his rectal temperature and continue the cooling process until the rectal temperature falls below 103°F (39°C). At this point, stop the cooling process and dry the dog. Further cooling may induce hypothermia and shock.
NEVER immerse the dog in ice cold water or iceàif you cool the hypothermic dog too quickly the blood vessels will constrict impeding the dog’s ability to dissipate heat and cool off. Towels can be soaked in cool water and used to cover your dogàice packs, cooling pads can also be used and  placed under and behind the dog’s neck,  inside armpits, groin and flank areas.
Following an episode of heat stroke, take your dog immediately to a veterinarian. Even dogs that appear more comfortable should be taken to the veterinarian as soon as possible. Although the initial emergency may be passed, heat exhaustion can have lingering and detrimental long-term effects that only a veterinarian can test, monitor and treat 
One of the more common serious complications of heat stroke can be associated with laryngeal edema. This seriously worsens the breathing problem and may require an emergency tracheostomy. An injection of cortisone before the onset of respiratory distress may prevent this problem.  Other consequences of hyperthermia include kidney failure, spontaneous bleeding, irregular heartbeat, and seizures. These complications can occur hours or days later.
Dehydration occurs when a dog loses body fluids faster than he can replace them. Dehydration usually involves the loss of both water and electrolytes. In dogs, the most common causes of dehydration are severe vomiting and diarrhea. Dehydration can also be caused by inadequate fluid intake, often associated with fever and severe illness. A rapid loss of fluids also occurs with heat stroke.
Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration-
A prominent sign of dehydration is loss of skin elasticity. When the skin along the back is pulled up, it should spring back into place. In a dehydrated animal, the skin stays up in a ridge.
Another sign of dehydration is dryness of the mouth. The gums, which should be wet and glistening, become dry and tacky. The saliva is thick and tenacious. In an advanced case, the eyes are sunken and the dog exhibits signs of shock, including collapse.
 A dog who is visibly dehydrated should receive immediate veterinary attention, including intravenous fluids, to replace fluids and prevent further loss. Depending on the severity of the dog’s symptoms, the veterinarian may administer IV fluids and/or give oxygen supplementation.
For mild dehydration, if the dog is not vomiting you can give him an electrolyte solution by bottle or syringe into the cheek pouch. Balanced electrolyte solutions for treating dehydration in children, such as Ringer’s lactate with 5 percent dextrose in water or Pedialyte solution, are available at drugstores and are also suitable for dogs. Gatorade is another short-term substitute to help replace fluids. Administer the solution at a rate of 2 to 4 ml per pound (1 to 2 ml per kilo) of body weight per hour, depending on the severity of the dehydration (or as directed by your veterinarian). 
Every serious dog show exhibitor needs to have an emergency care kit which includes the supplies to treat heat exhaustion.  By administering oral fluids and a proper cool down, you could save your dog’s life.  Sadly, I have known of owners/handlers who lost dogs to heat exhaustion/heat stroke because they simply did not recognize the symptoms or knew how to treat it.

Preventing Heat Stroke/Heat Exhaustion/Dehydration-

In many cases, heat exhaustion is preventable.  Here are a few common sense approaches to help prevent a heat emergency with your dog..
• Never leave your dog untended in your car, even if the temperature is mild. In a locked car, the temperature can climb rapidly to a dangerous level. A cracked window will not prevent your dog from overheating and suffering heat stroke. Never assume your pet will be okay in the car for “just a minute” while you run into the store or attend another errand. An unexpected delay could endanger your dog’s life!

• Animals should have access to shade and fresh water while outdoors. If the temperature is very warm, outdoor access should be limited to short periods of time and the dog should be housed indoors.  As little as 20-30 minutes may be all it will take for your dog to die from heat stroke.  We like to use kiddie pools and the water sprinklers to help keep our guys cool.   All of our outside runs are covered with shades and have large fans to help keep the area cool.  A brief wetdown early each morning, mid-day, early afternoon helps to keep these areas 15-20 degrees cooler than the outside. We  also have large roomy crates set up inside an air conditioned room where they are kept if the outside temperature rise above 95 degrees. Exercise and play time can be done in early AM or evening times after the temperature has cooled. We also changed and provide cool water at least 2-3  times per day during hot weather.

• If your dog is working in warm weather, be prepared to offer him water at regular intervals and understand that he may drink more water than usual under these circumstances. 

 NEVER leave your dog without shade and water during hot weather.

• Use caution with dogs that are obese, have respiratory difficulties, are geriatric or are otherwise unhealthy.
These dogs may be more prone to heat exhaustion than other dogs. Also certain lines of dogs (especial Mastiffs) are know to be more susceptible to heat stroke--so take extra care if your dog has a near relative that suffered or died from heat stroke.

• Be aware, short-nosed (brachycephalic) breeds of dogs are at higher risk of heat exhaustion than other breeds.

By being aware of the circumstances in which heat exhaustion can occur, many if not most cases can be prevented.

Have fun in the outdoors with your pet, but use common sense and be observant.  Mastiffs love to be with their people. Outside summer activities and travel are great opportunities to spend some quality time with your pet.  Use care and let the good times roll!!

Any comments or questions may be directed to me at

Catie C. Arney
Kiokee Mastiffs

Hickory, North Carolina