Heatstroke Kills

Dogs don’t sweat it – the heat will kill them.

If our Spring weather is any indication, we’re due for some lovely hot days over the next few months, sparking early concerns about protecting pets from the heat. Heatstroke can kill in just minutes.

Every year, people and pets die from overheating, often in closed vehicles and usually through either forgetfulness or stupidity. Never leave any living thing trapped in a vehicle in hot weather. Leaving the windows down doesn’t make it safe and neither does parking in the shade. Even five minutes of baking can cause problems, particularly for frail or flat-faced animals. Pugs and Bulldogs have a hard time breathing at the best of times. They are not good at regulating their body temperatures by panting – dogs don’t sweat like humans – and will quickly succumb to heatstroke.

Overheating tragedies don’t just happen in cars – even the backyard holds perils in the heat of summer. For dogs allowed outside on their own, be sure to provide water, shade and maybe a small pool to help with cooling. Older or infirm animals should not be let out during the hottest parts of the day and should be checked frequently for signs of distress.

Signs of hyperthermia or heatstroke begin with excessive panting and restlessness, progressing to lots of drooling and unsteadiness, then collapse. The normal body temperature for a dog is 38 to 39 degrees Celsius. At 41?, the risk of serious brain and organ damage or death is high.

Victims of heatstroke need to see a veterinarian immediately, but starting to cool things down on the way can help improve the animal’s chances. Apply towels soaked in cool water all over the body. Refrigerated water or ice can make things worse by constricting surface blood vessels and trapping the heat deeper inside.

A rectal thermometer for your pets comes in handy to help monitor heatstroke cases. You are aiming for a body temperature in dogs or cats of about 39?. Offering water to drink is helpful, but only if it is taken voluntarily.

See Veterinary Partner for more information.

Dr. Fiona Gilchrist
Hillcrest Animal Hospital
May, 2012