Jun 09 2014

YOUR PET AND HEAT STROKE – More common than you know!

Every year, hundreds of dogs and cats die from heat related illness. Too often we hear about pets being left in cars in parking lots…pets being chained out in the yard with no water or shade…it’s such a horrific and unnecessary way for a pet to die, and is almost totally preventable. You are responsible for them…it’s not the other way around.

The normal body temperature for cats and dogs is typically between 100° to 102.5°. Unlike us, they cannot dispel heat effectively enough to cool their bodies to a safe level. When their body temperatures rise above 104°, heat stroke symptoms can be seen…when the temperature is 106°, you’re looking at vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, coma and death. The symptoms for humans and animals with hyperthermia are virtually the same. The best way to keep this from happening is PREVENTION.


It doesn’t have to be over 100° outside for hyperthermia to occur. The primary means of cooling comes through their respiratory tract – but it’s not terribly efficient, mostly due to their extensive hair covering…while we cool off through sweating, dogs that have really heavy coats – and ESPECIALLY – dogs whose coats are not clean or are matted, will really have a hard time even ‘getting’ cool. They do dispel a little body heat by panting and to some degree through their pads – but it is not effective in keeping their temperatures at a safe level.

Dogs and cats that can be especially prone to suffering from heat-related illness quickly are dogs with very short faces, such as Bulldogs or Pugs, or in the case of cats, breeds like Himalayans. They cannot get fresh air in quickly enough to cool them down – they can succumb to heat stroke very quickly…this is also true with overweight, sick, or older pets – and even very young pets.


Probably the safest thing for your pets is for them to be kept inside the home in the air conditioning during the hot summer months. Play-time during hot days must be limited and monitored – most dogs do not know when to quit playing…and if you are inside and they get into trouble, it may be too late by the time you get to them. There is nothing more heartbreaking than an owner rushing into the hospital with their beloved pet dying or already gone from heat stroke – that could ABSOLUTELY HAVE BEEN AVOIDED!!!

We have all seen people with their dogs at fairs, and festivals…temperatures at ground level can be absolutely unbearable…with very little airflow if it’s a crowded venue – and how unbearably hot is the pavement? Many folks think that dog’s pads are made of some material impervious to heat…well, let me tell you, this is NOT TRUE. If you can’t stand or walk on hot pavement in your bare feet, your pet shouldn’t be made to, either. This is common sense.


Never leave them in a car without air conditioning…even on days that you think might be cool enough. Temperatures in cars increase an average of 40° in an hour – as the temperature in the vehicle rises, your dog’s temperature will rise – as will their inability to draw in fresh cool air from the window that was left open an inch. Think about this for a moment…many veterinarians refer to cars as ‘glass coffins’. Even though you meant to only leave them for a few minutes, DON’T DO IT…in some states is considered a crime! Don’t be one of those people…

Your pet’s bodies are 70-80% water…very similar to ours. For them to lose even 10% of their body fluid can be a serious problem. It doesn’t take much activity for them to lose a significant amount of water…so it is CRITICAL to keep them hydrated. YOU SHOULD ALWAYS HAVE CLEAN – let me repeat that – CLEAN, COOL WATER wherever your pet is…and be sure they drink regularly. An old plastic tub teaming with algae and bacteria is NOT CLEAN WATER!!! If you wouldn’t drink it, your pet shouldn’t have to.

 Those of you who love to run (or walk) with your pets – please do this very, very early in the morning, or late in the evening…do not run them when it’s hot out…humidity effects pets just as it does us, so avoiding hot, humid times are crucial. When the heat index is high, in the 80’s, YOU shouldn’t run – let alone take your dog with you. He will run and run and run…because he’s with you, and he wants to please you. BE VERY CAREFUL HERE – AND USE COMMON SENSE!

 If you must leave your dog outside during the hot hours – be sure that they are in a shaded pen, where there is AMPLE fresh water that cannot be turned over. A fan attached to the outside of pen can help keep the air flowing as well – just be sure the cord is safely out of the way. Ask a friend or neighbor to check on them throughout the day. Although it’s best to NEVER leave them outside unattended, especially in the hot summer months, these are things you can do to keep them safe. If need be, keep them in large crates inside so that they stay out of trouble while you’re gone, but stay cool.

 Keep their coats clean and brushed out. Dogs with heavy coats should ideally be kept inside…but, if they can’t be, it’s imperative that their coats be kept clean and mat-free…talk to your groomer for help in keeping their coats healthy. (Just a note – although shaving a heavy-coated dog seems like a good idea, it may not be what is best for your pet…so ask the experts).

 Have your veterinarian check your pet out prior to summer activity…especially if they will be more active outside. You want to be sure there is no underlying illness, such as arthritis, cancer, heart disease, etc.

 If you have to travel with your pet, try to take them to places where they are welcome so that they can enjoy the cool air conditioning.


IF YOU SEE AN ANIMAL IN A CAR IN A PARKING LOT, call the authorities…don’t go into the store and hope that someone will find the person for you. Call the police and stay near the car until they arrive and let them handle it. BUT DO SOMETHING…you may just save a life.





drkclark | Uncategorized

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