Heatstroke is a disease condition that can develop in any animal due to exposure to high environmental temperatures. Signs include excessive panting and drooling, agitation, whining, respiratory distress, dark gums, vomiting and collapse due to shock. Heatstroke can lead to brain damage and death. As always, the best way to treat heatstroke is to prevent it altogether. If your dog starts to develop heat stress doesn’t wait. The pet should be taken to the veterinarian immediately. I don’t recommend that any dogs be kept outdoors during the Arizona summers. However, if your dog is kept outdoors ensure that the dog has: 1) shade 2) constant source of water kept in the shade. Dogs will often tip their water bowls and can potentially be left outside without water.
Some ways of providing a constant water source are to:
- 1. Purchase an automatic water delivery system. There are many types available through pet shops, internet retailers, and often at horse feed stores.
- 2. Provide a water trough too large to tip over. I’ve found that using the large hard rubber cattle feed tubs often works well. The tubs are widely available at local horse feed stores and fairly inexpensive.
Parked cars and dogs don’t mix
Heatstroke quickly occurs in dogs that are left in parked cars. Even on what we may consider to be a “nice” spring day in Arizona , a parked car will quickly become too hot for your dog. Pets can suffer life threatening hyperthermia in just a few minutes.
Factors that contribute to heat stress are:
- Short noses = Dogs with short squashed faces are called brachycephalic breeds. Pugs, Bostons and Bulldogs are just a few examples of brachycephalic breeds. The short nose decreases their ability to cool themselves making these breeds extremely sensitive to heat stress and they will progress to heatstroke much quicker then other breeds of dogs.
- Thick Coats = A thick coat of fur will no more protect your dog from heatstroke then wearing a thick winter coat in the heat of summer would protect you. Thick coated dogs will quickly develop heatstroke. If your dog spends a lot of time outdoors in warm weather, it is often advisable to have the pet shaved yearly to keep them cooler.
- Obesity= Larger dogs and obese dogs are better insulated and are very susceptible to the heat.
- Hot Pavement= Our pavement, pool decking and desert sand become extremely hot in the spring and summer months and dogs can and will burn their pads if forced to walk on these surfaces. A good rule of thumb is that if the surface is too hot for you to walk on with bare feet than it is also too hot for your dog. Each year we see dogs that have been hiking with their owners and have literally walked until they burned their pads off. Injured pads require lengthy healing times and are very painful to your pet. Never assume that your pet will know when to stop if the surface is to hot. Most dogs will literally stay with you until they can no longer walk. In the summer pets should only be walked on cool surfaces (such as grass) and often the best time to walk them is early morning or late night, but realize that in the midst of summer it is often too hot for your pet even during these times.
Did you realize that your pet can become burned by the sun? Pets with pale skin, white or pale hair coloration, thin coats and decreased nasal pigmentation (pink noses) are just as susceptible to sunburn as we are. These same pets are also at increased risk of cancerfrom sun exposure. Even indoor animals can have an increased risk of sun induced cancer. The classic example is the white coated cat that spends all day sunning in a window sill and later develops ear tip or nasal cancer. The only way to protect your pets is to limit their sun exposure either by sunscreens or avoidance of the sun especially during the hottest part of the day. You most be careful with sunscreen because certain type can be toxic to animal and especially cats. Always consult with your veterinarian on whattypes of products to use. A good rule of thumb is to avoid any product containing zinc.
- – AVOID those containing zinc
- – AVOID PABA ( para-amino benzoic acid ) containing sunscreens
- – Use those containing salicylates cautiously
- – Use a no tears baby sunscreen for pink eyelids, avoid direct eye contact
- – Use the highest SPF available on pink areas of the body
- – On white dogs could try placing them in a T-shirt when out for a walk
If your pet dose develop heat stroke the most important aspect of treatment is prompt and early care. The pet should immediately be taken to your veterinarian who will typically hospitalize the pet and start IV fluids in addition to medications.
Cats & Dogs:
AZ Animal Welfare League: (602) 273-6852, http://www.aawl.org/
Friends For Life: (480) 497- 8296
Arizona Humane Society: (602) 997-7585, http://www.azhumane.org/
AZ Rescue: (480) 598-9410, http://www.azrescue.org/flash.shtml
ASPCA: (602) 246-8280
Animal Benefit Club of AZ: http://www.animalsbenefitclub.com/
Animal Rescue Foundation (Tucson), http://www.petfinder.com/shelters/adoptafriend.html