About the Author:
Dr. Kosich graduated from Texas A&M in 2018 and shortly after joined our hospital. He brings with him a progressive approach to small animal medicine and client education. To learn more about Dr. Kosich click here.
Heat stoke, also known as heat stress, is the elevation in core body temperature of a dog/cat that can lead to neurologic dysfunction and system-wide organ failure. In some cases it is fatal.
As we all know, we live in a very warm climate. During the summertime we are consistently in the 90°s and frequently get into the 100°s. Being downtown, there is a lot of concrete, which can make the temperature even warmer. And with the rise of dog friendly areas, including dog parks and dog friendly restaurants/bars, it has become more enticing to bring your favorite four-legged friend out with you to enjoy time in the summer weather.
It is important to understand that dogs can not regulate their body temperatures as well as we can. Dogs cool off by panting, which is not as effective as sweating. A thick fur coat does not help the situation. Additionally, certain breeds are more susceptible to heat stress. These breeds include brachycephalic, or short snouted, breeds such as English/French bulldogs, Boston terriers, pugs, and Pekingeses. Around the country, heat stroke typically occurs in dogs left in warm cars. The CDC reports that after 10 minutes, your car can heat up to 99F and that rolling down your windows has minimal impact on inside temperatures. Unfortunately, in Houston, the outside air gets hot and humid enough to recreate these conditions. A dog’s internal temperature can rise to dangerous levels when exposed to the warm summer climate, and this is made worse with exercise.
Signs of heat stroke include excessive panting, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness or unsteady footing, collapse, and blue/purple gums. If you suspect your dog is in heat stroke, the following steps should be taken…
1. Remove your pet from its current environment.
2. Move to a shaded/cool area.
3. Offer them water.
4. Begin to cool your pet with a wet towel, focusing on the back of their neck, armpits, and groin region. You can also wet their ears and paws with cool water.
5. You should have your pet seen by a veterinarian immediately.
6. You can take a rectal temperature to determine if your dog is hyperthermic, or has a high temperature. Anything above 102.5°F is considered abnormal for a dog. Over 105°F is the clinical definition of heat stroke and is an emergency.
7. In times of heat stress, avoid over-cooling your pet and do not try to force water into their mouth.
Ideally, it is best to take steps to prevent heat stroke from occurring in your pet. Avoid taking your pet out during peak sun hours and instead stick to sun rise and sun down. A little tip: if the pavement is too hot for the back of your hand, it is too hot for your dog’s paws. Absolutely do not leave your dog in an unattended vehicle, please leave them at home when running quick errands.
It is important to take heat stroke seriously. We started seeing cases of heat stroke early spring of this year. Unfortunately, several of these pets didn’t make it. Typically, by the time your pet is showing signs of heat stroke, it may already be too late. Please keep your animals safe, cool, and out of the sun this summer.