The weather here is as perfect as it gets for being outdoors at any time of day and any day of the year. So when warm weather comes the effects on our pets can come as a surprise especially on a midday hike in the hills or traveling to a warmer area. The effects of heat stroke can come quickly and mortality is 50%.
Heatstroke occurs when the body is generating more heat that it can get rid of. Short-nosed breeds of dogs, obese dogs, older dogs and those with upper airway or heart disease have more difficulty regulating body temperature. Nervous and excitable dogs along with those being excessively exercised are also at risk. Signs of heat stroke may begin with excessive panting and appearing distressed and becoming restless. Large amounts of saliva may come out of the mouth and/or nose. Weakness and difficulty in standing may then occur and you may notice gums looking bright red or purple/blue.
If you suspect heatstroke then move to a shaded/cool area and soak with cool water. Put ice packs under the neck and in groin if available. Do not use wet towels as that keeps heat in and alcohol on the pads is not effective alone.
Do not immerse in ice water or force your dog to drink. Allow to drink cool water if he or she wants to. Heat stroke is a disease that affects the entire body and simply lowering the body temperature may not address severe complications. A dog with heat stroke should be seen immediately by a veterinarian. Delayed admission to a veterinary hospital is a major risk factor for death.
To prevent heat stroke from happening do not keep dogs outside without shade. A wading pool can help. There is no answer to whether to clip or not to clip a long-haired dog. If you do clip, then no closer than 1-2 cm, as any shorter can lead to sunburn. Adding low sodium chicken broth to the water will increase intake. For those ball-playing dogs it is important not to let them keep the ball in their mouth after playing since it will prevent effective panting. Be careful with older dogs lying in a sunny window as they may not be able to realize they are becoming overheated. And of course careful with leaving your dog in a car even on cool days. A study by Stanford University Medical Center found that the temperature inside a vehicle increases on average 40 degrees Fahrenheit within 1 hour regardless of outside temperature.Again, it is important to realize that decreasing the body temperature alone may not prevent damage to the kidneys, intestines, liver, brain and blood clotting problems that can occur with heat stroke. Start cooling your dog immediately if the veterinarian is more than a few minutes away but don’t delay getting to a veterinary hospital.