What is Heat Stroke?
Heatstroke is when an animal loses their natural ability to regulate their body temperature. For our canine friends their body is regulated through respiration. We see them cool their bodies when they pant. Dogs have capillaries on their tongue, when they pant cool air moves across those capillaries. When the capillaries cool, it cools the blood, which cools their internal body temperature. If a dog cannot evacuate heat quickly enough, heat stroke occurs.
Hyperthermia is a term that describes an elevation in body temp. This increase in body temperature is a result or response to a trigger. Inflammation or a hot environment can trigger body temperatures to rise to dangerous levels.
An extreme case of hyperthermia, being severely over-heated, will cause heat stroke. If the body temperature reaches 106 degrees, the body’s cellular system and organs begin to breakdown. The damage is often irreversible and ultimately the animal will die.
How Do Our Pets Feel Heat?
Pets feel heat much faster than humans do. Animals are close to their natural environment and are sensitive to changes in the environment and feel Mother Nature in order to read her so they can prepare for what she brings. Because they instinctively feel these changes of climate in order to find shelter or provide a safe place for their young, they will feel the onset of a hot day before we read the weather reports!
Dogs feel the heat differently than we do. They also sweat much differently than we do. Canines sweat by panting and sweat is expelled through their paw pads. In order to cool down, a dog needs cool fresh air to replace the heated air that they are either feeling inside or are breathing in. If there isn’t enough cool air, they can suffer from getting over-heated and will eventually suffer heat stroke. We might want to consider the term; Suffering a stroke from heat.
What Are The Signs Of Heat Stroke?
For dogs heatstroke can look like:
- Increased rectal temperature (104° requires action, 106° + is a dire emergency)
- Vigorous panting
- Rapid breathing with an increased heart rate equals heat stroke.
- If the gums are discolored and dull gray
- Pink/Dark red gums are danger signs (Gums are normally red-pink in color)
- Tacky/dry mucus membranes (specifically the gums)
- Lying down & unwilling or unable to get up
- Collapse and/or loss of consciousness
- Thick saliva
- Dizziness or disorientation
- If your pet is unaware of their environment and they seem disorientated, then they might have heat stroke.
- If your pet is not able to obey commands, hear or see you, if they are not listening or seem lost or scared, they need help and might have heat stroke.
- If your pet has a wild or panicked expression - they are in trouble.
Animals that get heat stroke refuse water & food, are lethargic, breathe rapidly, can’t get up, are disorientated, vomit continually, have uncontrolled diarrhea and slowly die.
To Avoid Death By Heat Stroke:
Never, never leave your dog in the car unattended.
- If you leave the A/C running on a hot day, think again, the A/C stops cooling at optimal levels when your vehicle is idle.
- Newer model cars are computerized. When the engine gets too hot the air system's compressor kicks off.
- In 2003 a police dog in Texas died after the A/C in the patrol car shut down and began blowing hot air.
- In a matter of a few minutes the temperature in a closed automobile will rise very quickly.
- 19 degrees in 10 minutes
- 29 degrees in 20 minutes
- 34 degrees in 30 minutes
- 43 degrees in an hour
- The Animal Protection Institute (API) did a study and found:
- At 9AM with an outside temperature of 82 degrees, the automobile registered at 109 degrees inside.
- With 4 windows cracked, an 88 degree day turned the interior of the car into 103 degree hotbox.
- Don't leave your pet in the car on a hot day – period!
Limit Outdoor Activities
- Don't let your pet run or play hard on hot or humid days
- Keep your pet out of direct sunlight, dark colored animals will get hot faster, black fur absorbs heat, white fur repels it.
- Short-snouted or flat-faced breeds like pugs, bulldogs, mastiffs and shih tzu's over-heat faster and are more susceptible to heat stroke.
- Never tether a pet outside on a hot or humid day.
- Don't walk your pet outside on hot pavement, asphalt or concrete. Animals don't have shoes, their foot pads can easily burn, get infected and become very painful.
- Don't let your pet drink from stagnant water sources. Bacteria and mold can be in the water and will make your pet sick.
- Never leave your pet unattended around any size body of water. If your companion needs to cool off, ponds, pools, even streams and shallow baby pools are death traps for pets that are not being watched over. If an animal gets tired, scared or becomes incapacitated, they can drown just like humans can.
Be Heat Safe
- Always provide shade for your pet if outdoors.
- Have fresh clean COOL water available - animals like humans need hydration too. Use plastic dishes because metal bowls can get hot outside and will warm your pet's water. You can leave a garden hose slightly running into your pets bowl if outdoors to offer a constant stream of cool water to drink from.
- Take your pets outside early in the morning when it's cool or late at night when the sun has gone down.
- Always carry a water bottle full of clean and cool water for your pet in case they get thirsty. Did you know that you can train some pets to drink directly from a water bottle, it's true!
- Communicate With Your Guests/Friends
- Guests should never be allowed to offer a pet an ice cold drink – or any kind of ice for that matter – cool water is ideal, ice can shock the body and an alcoholic drink is poison to pets.
Know How To Save Your Petís Life
& Use Your Emergency Care Plan
To lower your pets body temperature as quickly as possible without causing shock.
- First be calm and talk softly
- Then place a cool wash cloth on their body
- Put cool water on their paw pads, under their belly and on their head, try to avoid getting water in their ears.
- Make sure you call your Vet or Emergency Animal Hospital to report that your pet has heat stroke and seek medical attention immediately. The sun is not your pet's best friend, you are – You can save your pet's life by being careful and by practicing safety first.
Here is What You Can Do To Help Others
We tend to forget that not everyone is as educated in responsible pet ownership as we might think. It's ultimately up to us to pull together a social change that helps, encourages and supports responsible pet ownership. Prevention is often thought to be the best way to avoid an emergency situation.
- Talk to your friends, family and folks you know at work. Share a story, an experience or even an article with them so they too can learn.
- Post a comment on your blog, facebook page or other social network site with a link to important info on heat stroke.
- Be aware that if you see friends practicing unsafe heat safety, help them learn to do more, work harder and be a better pet parent. Offer kind words or advice on how our pets feel heat and the dangers of heat.
- Save a life by speaking up and get help for a pet that you see in danger. Remember that by the time the ER staff arrives, it might be too late, make a good choice, thoughtful decision and base your actions on your personal life values.
- Offer to babysit a friends sick animal. Many of us have sick pets, elders or baby animals that need constant care. If you know someone that needs to go shopping, run errands or has to be at a family event... and you are willing, offer to babysit as a way to practice heat safety.
Donald and Sara Hassler are co-authors of the award-winning children’s book, Loving Marley, and reside in Connecticut with Marley and Belle the real-life inspiration for the PugTale Adventures storybooks www.lovingmarley.com. The Hasslers are active members of the press and write exclusive feature articles for several publications. Their columns are also published in Pug Talk Magazine. Donald and Sara and Marley and Belle, write, produce and host their own talk radio show called The Responsible Pet Owner aired live on Good Company 14/WILI in Connecticut. Visit them online at www.responsiblepetowner.com.