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Pet Owner's Guide to Heat Stroke Prevention

When summer arrives we’re all thankful for the warmer temperatures! As the most intense days of summer arrive, however, we need to be aware of the risks that hot days pose for our pets.

Did you know that a car can heat up to 150 degrees Farenheit in just a few minutes when it’s very hot outside? Imagine if your dog is in that car, panting and excited. With all that exertion plus the hot temperature, it won’t take very long before your dog may succumb to heat exhaustion or its more severe form, heat stroke.

Exercising in the middle of the day when it is hot outside will also trigger heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Even if your dog is used to a mid-day run, let her stay home when the temperatures hit the 80s and 90s!

Even leaving pets outdoors with shade and water bowls on very hot days can be a problem. As the sun moves, the shade may provide too little protection and expose the pet to extreme high temperature. Also, confining your pet in a garage or outside shed can be risky in very hot weather.

What is heat exhaustion (heat stroke)

When the body temperature rises too high, the internal mechanisms for regulating body temperature stop working. The usual temperature for dogs is 100.5 - 102.5, but it isn’t unusual for a dog’s temperature to reach 108 degrees F or higher when suffering from heat stroke.

These dogs may pant and drool excessively, and the gums may look bright red. If the dog is severely affected it may not be able to pant, may be too dehydrated to drool, and be almost unconscious. The gums may look very pale at his stage and there may be diarrhea. Heat stroke involves the core organs of the animal (or person). The extremely high temperatures that the internal organs experience cause severe damage. The most serious damage is often to the brain and kidneys. Swelling of the brain may lead to seizures (paddling, tremors, convulsions) or coma. Some heat stroke patients survive the initial episode only to die of kidney failure within a few days to weeks

What to do if you suspect heat stroke

If you think your pet is having problems due to overheating, please get it to a veterinarian immediately so emergency therapy can be initiated. For first aid as you prepare to get your pet to the veterinary office, submerge your pet in cool water or hose it down.

The best treatment for heat stroke is prevention!

Please avoid bringing your dog with you when you are running errands on hot days. Opening the windows a couple of inches may help, but is not a sure way to avoid overheated cars. The delight your dog shows when you offer a ride is not compensation for a life threatening episode of heat stroke.

Don’t forget that cats and other types of pets are also susceptible to the dangers of hot weather.

Keep your pets indoors when it is very hot outside, using fans or air conditioning to keep the indoor temperatures reasonable. Avoid shipping your pets by air in hot weather, or take small pets in the cabin with you. This will avoid the possibility of the pet getting waiting on the tarmac and getting overheated. 

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