Heatstroke – Know the Signs!

The Cause of Heatstroke

In this country we may not suffer with heat waves in the way that we would like, but the dangers of leaving a dog in a hot car have been outlined repeatedly by the RSPCA or some sad press coverage of late with dogs that have died in hot cars. Leaving the window open an inch is simply not enough to stop the build up of heat in a car.

The car has to be well ventilated, the airflow needs to be moving for a car to remain cool.

Simply sitting in the sun for too long, could still be enough for a dog to suffer from heatstroke if they have no means of sitting in the shade.

Long coated dogs are also susceptible to heatstroke.

Signs of Heatstroke

  • When a dog becomes over heated the obvious early signs are panting.
  • The panting will become heavier as the dog becomes distressed and restless.
  • Initially a sign of increased body temperature will be red gums but as time passes with this condition the gums will be bluey tinged.
  • The animal will find it hard to breathe as the oxygen will not be circulating around the body efficiently. (it will be cyanotic – blue gums)
  • The dog will become dehydrated, the gums will feel sticky and not moist. The coat will become greasy looking.
  • The dog will feel hot to touch.
  • You will feel the heat of the dog coming from its body before you touch the dog.
  • The dog will salivate.
  • As the condition worsens the dog will be unsteady on its feed.
  • The later signs of heatstroke are collapse, then becoming comatosed. The animal is likely to die.

How to Treat for Heatstroke

DO NOT cool the dog down too quickly. It is very important to reduce the temperature slowly. Otherwise your dog will go into shock. Shock can kill.

To reduce body temperature

Do this by placing a dampened towel on the dog. Then add a jug of cold water to the towel. This will provide a more even placement of the cold water without making the dog go into shock. Often water just slides off the coat so it is important to use a towel or any absorbent fabric – blanket

It is important to note that when the temperature of the towel is equal to the body temperature of a hot dog it will need more water adding to it otherwise it will not make any difference.

You can place cold water bottles or ice packs next to the dog.

You can put ice cubes in the dogs mouth.

Ultimately if your dog is suffering from heatstroke then it will require veterinary help so once you have taken some first aid measures (the wet towel being the most important, icepacks if you have them will also help whilst on route to the vets) get your dog to the vets ASAP.

A vet is likely to place your dog on a drip. This is the most effective and efficient way in reducing body temperature is through cooling the blood.

A vet will monitor the temperature every fifteen minutes so as to ensure the temperature is not reduced too dramatically. (which should hopefully prevent the body going into shock).

Once the correct body temperature has been reached then the rectal temperature still needs to be monitored to ensure it doesn’t start to rise again. At this point the dog needs to be dried thoroughly!

This advice is to be used alongside that of a vet – use the advice for first aid measures and please get your dog seen by a vet if you suspect your dog has heatstroke.

Prevention is better than cure – so if you know you are going to have a long day in the sun with your dog take plenty of water, you could use a cooling jacket (the jacket is drenched in water and rung out, it keeps the chest area cool or a cooling bandana made out of towelling, soaked in water, rung out, then tied around the neck).  Try and stay in the shade when you can.  DO NOT over exercise your dog in extreme heat.

You could buy a cool mat, this will help if your dog will lay on the mat as it will help keep the dog cooler.

NEVER leave your dog in the car with no ventilation.

Another issue associated with the hot sun is burnt paws from walking on hot pavements so please make sure you avoid walking on tarmac.  If it is hot for your hand then it is too hot for paws!

Also keep an eye out for sunburn too – lighter coated dogs are more likely to suffer from sunburn.  You can use suncream to protect your dog.  Ears and noses are the most vulnerable areas.  If you need to treat for sunburn you can use zinc cream (baby barrier cream).

ALL advice contained on this page is not in place of a vets.

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