Sunday, June 6, 2010

Be ready for heatstroke in dogs

I am a volunteer reserve park ranger for the City of Poway. Yesterday morning, I was riding on patrol with another ranger and we met some women walking their dogs down in the canyon below Lake Poway. They were resting in the shade before heading back to their cars, about 1 1/2 miles away. 

We chatted for a few minutes. They admired the horses, we admired the dogs. They were carrying water, and all seemed well. They headed out, and a few minutes later, we followed behind them. 

As we rode into Blue Sky Reserve, we could see them hiking up ahead. Blue Sky is a beautiful riparian habitat, with lots of shade from gorgeous old oak tress. But it is recovering from the fire of 2007, and there are areas with bright, hot sun. Although it is not that hot yet this summer, it was about 75 degrees at 11 am. 

We watched one of the dogs lie down in the middle of the trail. His owner gave him a little yank on the leash and he got up and trotted along, only to lie down again about 10 steps later. She repeated the jerk, and he got up and tried to follow. He quit almost immediately.

I couldn't stand it any longer. I trotted up behind her and said, "I am worried about your dog." Her pet was panting and exhausted, trying gamely to please her by keeping up. He was a Lhasa Apso type, with a long shaggy coat. 

I explained the dangers of heat stroke, even in warm, not hot , weather, and I had her pour water over his paws to help cool him. She promised to give him a few minutes rest in the shade until he stopped panting, and then if he still had trouble keeping up, she would carry him the rest of the way to the car.  

I see countless dogs on the trails in the heat, and always stop the owner to be sure they have water. That's not enough. They need to know what to do for their dog. I agonized about this little dog all day yesterday, hoping he was okay. 

What to do if a dog shows signs of heatstroke
Pet sitters who do midday walks should be extra careful in the summer. The first symptom of heatstroke is elevated body temperature. Since you are not going to be carrying a thermometer in your pocket, here are some symptoms to look out for:
  • Excessive panting
  • Bright red gums or gums that are too white
  • Pounding fast pulse
  • Excessive salivation
  • The dog stops and lies down, reluctant to continue
Be proactive in treating heatstroke
It can't hurt to cool off the dog if you are unsure about his condition. 
  • Let him rest in the shade.
  • Wet his paws, head abdomen and chest to cool down his body temperature. Use a wet towel if you have one, or even your shirt (Don't be shy, this is an emergency). Cool water from a garden hose is fine. 
  • Take the dog to the vet- even if he appears to recover. Some of the consequences of heatstroke, for example kidney failure, may not show up for days. 
Heatstroke is a life-threatening emergency. Don't let it happen to your dog or a dog in your care.

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© 2010 Terry Albert. All Rights Reserved.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Terry,

Very helpful, and always a good reminder at this time of year.


Valerie Pegg said...

Thanks for the awesome info, Terry. Heat stroke happens so fast to some dogs...I'm really glad that you put this info out for people to find. We have a shih tzu and we have to be really careful with him because of his short little snout. Our little schnauzer/terrier gets hot even more easily for some reason. We take shorter walks and have more playtime in our big, shady fenced backyard in the hottest months in Georgia.

Terry Albert said...

Hi Valerie- You're right, the smoosh-faced dogs overheat more quickly than a long nosed dog. Out here in California we have dry desert heat which is bad enough. Add in eastern humidity and the heat seems even worse. Even if a dog is used to the heat- it's too hot to ask him for much. I find myself wanting to stop everyone on the trails and send them home with their dogs.

bbes tribe said...

Thank you so much for all the info. I didn't know there was a vaccine for rattlesnake bites. It is good to be reminded sometimes. Thank you!!
Ernie, Sasha, Chica's Mom