The Dangers of Overheating

A recent trip to the NO dog park reminded me of the need to make all pet owners aware of the dangers of our pets overheating. As usual there were owners tossing balls for their dogs to retrieve and extensive chasing of both small and large breed dogs. It was in the late evening on a fairly moderate April day. Although I could not immediately identify the owner of a lab mix, it was obvious to me that this happy fellow was a step away from a life threatening condition related to high core body temperature called heat stroke. Frankly, it was the slight misstep and occasional incoordination that tipped me off. I was able to collar the lab and rinse him down with cool water until an individual took over to rest and monitor him.

In the advanced stages of heat stroke, dizziness and collapse occur. Less obvious signs are changes in gum color, salivation and panting because we see these all the time with active dogs at play. The problem is since we are used to seeing this, we may accept that this often occurs without incident. We have no way to accurately determine the limits of tolerance so we must think along the lines of prevention. Some tips you may have already heard of include keeping cool water available always, restrict activity to shady areas during the coolest times of the day, and not leaving pets in a car (even with the windows open). I would also make owners aware of limiting the time and intensity of activity during the day (like athletes do). Also, breeds with short faces and large breed dogs absolutely are more susceptible to heat stroke.

If you suspect heat stroke may be occurring, immediately halt activity and move to a cooler environment. Offer, but don’t force, cool water orally and apply cool wet towels to the face and feet. Always have your pet checked by a veterinarian immediately if any signs of heat stroke are noticed, as death frequently occurs without proper assessment and early intervention. This is an all to common condition in our area and demands prevention over treatment. Be smart while enjoying the outdoors with your pets and practice caution over cure!