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Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook

HEAT STROKE

Heat stroke is an emergency that requires immediate recognition and prompt treatment. Dogs do not tolerate high temperatures as well as humans. They depend upon rapid breathing to exchange warm air for cool air. Accordingly when air temperature is close to body temperature, cooling by rapid breathing is not and efficient process. Dogs with airway disease also have difficulty with excess heat.

Common situations that predispose to overheating or heat stroke in dogs are:

1. Being left in a car in hot weather.

2. Being confined on concrete runs; chained without shade in hot weather.

3. Being of a short-nosed breed, especially a Bulldog or Pug.

4. Being muzzled while put under a dryer (this can happen in a grooming parlor).

5. Suffering from airway disease or any condition that impairs breathing.

Heat stroke begins with rapid, frantic, noisy breathing. The tongue and mucus membranes are bright red, the saliva is thick and tenacious and the dog frequently vomits. Its rectal temperature is high, sometimes over 106 degrees F. The cause of the problem usually is evident by the typical appearance of the dog; it can be confirmed by taking its temperature.

If the condition is allowed to go unchecked, the dog becomes unsteady and staggers, has diarrhea that often is bloody and becomes progressively weaker. Coma and death ensue.

Treatment: Emergency measures must begin at once. Mild cases respond to moving the dog to a cooler surrounding, such as an air-conditioned building or car. If the dog's temperature is over 104 degrees F, or if unsteady on its feet, the dog should be cooled by immersion in a tub of cold water *(Readers have noted that cold water can be too shocking for a dog - please call your vet immediately in this situation). If this is impossible, hose your dog down with a garden hose. For a temperature over 106 degrees F, or if the dog is near collapse, give a cold water enema. A more rapid temperature drop is imperative. Cool to a rectal temperature of 103 degrees F.

Heat stroke can be associated with swelling of the throat. This aggravates the problem. A cortisone injection by your veterinarian may be required to treat this.

Prevention:

1. Do not expose dogs with airway disease or impaired breathing to prolonged heat.

2. Restrict exercise during the heat of the day in summer.

3. Breed dogs in air-conditioned quarters.

4. Crate a dog only in an open wire cage.

5. Provide shade and cool water to dogs living in outdoor runs.


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