Animal Advice – A Local Vet Helps Us Prevent Heat Stroke in Our Pets
I was recently talking to my dog's vet, Dr. Adam Christman of Brick Town Veterinary Hospital, and we thought it would be cool to team up to bring you some topics that are of interest to pet owners, answer some of your questions, etc.
We'll start this week with an important topic this time of year - preventing heat stroke in pets. I'll turn it over to Dr. Christman:
This time of year in New Jersey the heat can cause some very serious problems in our animals. Unfortunately, our hospital has lost several patients to heat stroke during the past heat wave that Ocean County experienced. Every year, many pets suffer heatstroke from being left in closed cars. Heat stroke is a very preventable condition in dogs and cats! Only 5 minutes in a closed car can cause heat stroke.
We also see many cases of older dogs who are used to being outside. As these dogs age, their sensitivity to heat, and for that matter cold, increases. Many older dogs have arthritis and have difficulty getting up. They also sleep very soundly. If these dogs sleep in an area of the yard without shade, or if they are unable to get up well enough to get out of the sun, heat stroke can develop quickly.
Dogs that have "pushed in faces" (such as bulldogs, boston terriers and pugs) are even more susceptible to heat stroke due to their respiratory physiology.
Normal body temperature for a dog and cat is usually between 100 degrees to 102.5 degrees. Anything greater than 103 is cause for alarm, and temperatures greater than 105 or 106 require immediate veterinary care!
Here are some useful tips for preventing heat stroke:
- No sweat
Dogs can only cool themselves down by sweating through their foot pads and panting. They cannot sweat like human beings. This, along with a fur coat, puts them at greater risk for overheating. Be sure to keep your pets in the shade or air conditioning whenever possible during summer months. Be especially sure to keep them in indoor A/C during a heat wave (at least 3 consecutive days greater than 90 degrees)!
- Give special attention to senior and sick pets
Older dogs, dogs with hypothyroidism, and dogs with laryngeal paralysis are at greater risk for developing heat stroke. Talk to your family veterinarian about how to protect your pet from heat stroke if they suffer from one of these conditions.
- Oven on wheels
The temperature in a car, despite the windows being cracked open, can rise to well above 100 degrees in a matter of minutes. Under no circumstances should an animal be left in a car on warm days. Some states even have fines and/or laws against leaving animals in cars.
- Exercise responsibly
Exercise your dog in the morning or evening when it is less hot. Strenuous or vigorous exercise should be completely avoided in extreme heat. Talk to your family veterinarian about an appropriate exercise regimen for your dog before you begin. Overweight dogs are much more susceptible to overheating and heat stroke!
- Know the signs
Heat stroke is a severe, life threatening problem that can develop in your pet in a matter of minutes. Early signs of heat exhaustion include panting and an unwillingness to move. Life threatening signs include increased body temperature, red or dark pink gums, inability to stand, and diarrhea or bloody diarrhea.
- Stay hydrated
In addition to keeping pets out of extreme heat by providing shade or bringing them indoors, make sure your pet also has unrestricted access to plenty of cool water throughout the day.
Adam Christman, DVM, MBA
Brick Town Veterinary Hospital, P.A.
My thanks to Dr. Christman for taking the time to pass on this potentially life saving advice for our pets! If you have any questions that you'd like Dr. Christman to answer in a future article, feel free to comment below or click here to email me and I'll pass your questions on to him!