Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Did you know?
Our cool weather for the month of June has given us quite a reprieve from the heat this spring, but as the temperature climbs with the official start of summer remember that you aren't the only one who needs to find ways to keep cool. Overheating in animals is a serious problem and can happen much sooner for dogs and cats than in people. Unlike humans, dogs and cats don't sweat beads of perspiration. Our furry friends use panting to cool off. Cats may also lick their fur for the evaporative effect to try to cool down. If they can't cool down their temperature will start to climb and can lead to hyperthermia or heat stroke. Heat stroke can happen in a short amount of time and can cause dire consequences.

Let me tell you why!!
A long run, being outside in direct sun without water, or being confined in a hot unventilated area can drastically increase an animal's body temperature. Be especially cautious about leaving your dog, or cat, in the car while you run into a restaurant or store. Invariably that 1-2 minute errand turns into 10-20 minutes. According to The Weather Channel your car acts like an oven when the sun is shining on it. And keep this in mind: if the outside temperature on a warm, sunny day is 90 degrees the temperature inside a car left in the sun in 10 minutes will climb to 113 degrees, in 20 minutes it will be 120 degrees, and in 30 minutes will be 133 degrees! Normal body temperature for dogs and cats is between 99 and 102.5 degrees F. If their body temperature rises above 103 - 104 they start to get in trouble.

We tend to see dogs in the ER for overheating and heat stroke more so than cats because of the tendency to over exercise or confine dogs vs. cats. Animals more prone to heat stroke include those with a heart condition, animals that are overweight, dogs or cats that have a thick coat, or breeds with short faces, also known as brachycephalic (e.g. Pug, Pomeranian, Bulldog, Boston Terrier, Persian, Exotic shorthair, Himalayan) . These animals all have a particularly difficult time keeping cool and need some extra consideration. For all animals remember to provide shade, plenty of water, and an opening into the house or other cool shelter to get out of the heat.

Rethink taking your dog for a run when you are mountain biking even if the temperature is 70 degrees. The dog will try hard to stay with you and the first sign of trouble you may see is when the dog collapses.

Besides collapse, other signs of heat stroke include heavy panting, excessive drooling, bright red gums, pacing, staggering, and weakness. Immediate veterinary care is vital to provide a chance for recovery. On your way to the vet place cold wet towels on your pets belly and apply rubbing alcohol or cold compresses to the pads of their feet to help lower their temperature.

Treatment for heat stroke is intensive and the majority of cases we see the outcome is not good, mainly because of complicating factors or waiting too long before seeking medical attention. Time really is of the essence.

Moral of the story...when it comes to heat stroke, prevention is worth a pound of cure.

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