While both dogs and humans enjoy spending time outdoors during the summer months, owners should take care: heatstroke will kill your puppy without prompt first aid. If the body can’t keep the temperature within a safe range, the heatstroke can kill the pets in just 15 minutes.
The puppies can’t sweat to cool down. Panting allows a quick circulation of cool outside air, and evaporation from the tongue maintains the dog’s temperature normal. Puppies with white or thin fur may also suffer from sunburn. But when the outside air is the same or higher than the pet temperature (101 to 102.5 F), heatstroke develops.
Cars and Heatstroke
Cars become death traps at even relatively mild temperatures. A shaded car reaches temperatures of 90 F on a 78-degree day. If it’s parked in the sun, it’s going to reach 160 F in minutes.
Leaving the car and running the air conditioning is no guarantee of safety. Extra protection can fail, too. On July 16, 2003, a newspaper in Kansas City announced that K-9 officer “Hondo,” a German shepherd dog, had died of heatstroke after being left in the still-running air-conditioned police cruiser. The’ Hotdog System,’ a safety system designed to protect K-9 officers, failed to turn the sirens on, open the windows, and turn the fan on when temperatures inside the cruiser reached dangerous levels.
Today, one of the most modern systems available for police dog protection is the computerized Hot-N-Pop system, which can be detected when the interior of the car has become too hot for the K9 officer. When this occurs, the machine rolls down the rear windows automatically (windows with metal screens to prevent the dog from jumping out) and enables large window fans that bring fresh air to keep the dog cool. The Hot-N-Pop also triggers the car’s emergency lights and horns and sends a signal to the pager worn by the canine handler.
Symptoms of moderate heat stroke include:
- Body temperatures of 104 to 106 F
- Bright red tongue and lips
- Thick oily saliva
- Excessive panting
If body temperatures increase above 106 F, the pet’s gums become red, dizzy, bleed out of the nose, or have bloody vomiting and diarrhea, and finally become comatose. These pets may develop disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) where the red blood cells blow up and can’t carry oxygen.
Getting the temperature down to or below 104 F is more important than rushing the pet to the emergency clinic— but serious cases do require veterinary care once you get the first aid. Rectal thermometers usually only register as high as 108 F and pets with severe heatstroke may have body temperatures that run out of the end and reach 110 F or higher.
For a moderate heat stroke, carry your dog into an air-conditioned space and turn the fan on, so that the ambient temperature is cooler than the body temperature and the panting will function. Offer ice cubes to eat or cold Gatorade or Pedialyte or water to drink and wrap them in cool, wet towels.
In case of severe heat stroke, soak the dog in cold water from the hose or in the bathtub or sink. Place ice packs (frozen peas bags work well) in the armpit and groin area where major blood vessels are present. The cold chills the blood and, as it circulates, it cools the whole body from the inside.
Pets with temperatures above or below 107 F need a cold water enema for even faster cooling. If you do not have an enema bag, use a turkey baster or a contact lens solution bottle filled with ice water. Grease the tip with petroleum jelly, K-Y or vegetable oil and put the tip in the rectum and press gently to fill the cavity with water. Once the temperature drops to 104 F, wrap it in a towel and get him to the emergency room.
Prevention Is Key
It’s even better to prevent heatstroke in animals by having shade and plenty of cool water, or simply keeping pets indoors. Don’t ever leave animals unattended in cars — it’s just asking for disaster.