We have heard cases of a dog left in the car during summer as the owner rushed into the store for a few minutes only for the canine to be found dead. It does not take long for a dog‘s body to succumb to heatstroke; as little as ten minutes are enough. However, no matter how well you try to avoid such incidences, sometimes accidents happen, and you might need to offer first aid to a dog suffering from heatstroke. Do not fret even if you have no idea of handling emergency treatment in dogs; here is your chance to learn the signs of heatstroke, while also equipping yourself with tips for treating and preventing it.
Recognizing heatstroke in dogs
If you have been to a science class, you must know the different heat transfer methods, which apply to animals. Animals mainly lose heat by convection whereby hot air rises from their skin and is replaced by cooler air. They also keep their bodies by lying on cool surfaces, which is termed as heat loss by condition; panting and sweating entail heat loss by evaporation. Unfortunately, sometimes all these methods are not enough to regulate a dog’s body temperature, and when that happens, the animals get hyperthermia. Hyperthermia comes in three different forms: heat stress, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke.
Heatstroke is the most severe of the three and occurs when the temperatures go above 41 degrees Celsius. It is classified as either exertional or non-exertional. Exertional occurs when the dog is doing activities that increase its body temperature; non-exertional implies a dog’s temperature is rising due to the conditions he is in, such as in a car whose windows are closed. Regardless of the type of heatstroke that your dog suffers, the signs will be the same. The symptoms can be neurological, gastrointestinal, and renal, among many more.
The most common signs include vomiting, diarrhea, excessive drooling and panting as well as lethargy. Some of the signs are not obvious since they happen internally. Today’s Veterinary Nurse discussed them, among which are renal and cardiac failures. We know that heat causes expansion; hence once the temperatures go beyond normal levels, the article explains that blood vessels will dilate. As a result, cardiac output will go up, resulting in the heart being overworked to keep up with the demand. Subsequently, it will lack enough oxygen, and heart failure will be the result.
First aid for dogs suffering from heatstroke
RSPCA provides us with emergency first aid for a canine suffering from heatstroke. Since heat exposure is the cause, your goal should be to ensure that the dog’s temperature reaches the proper level by gradually lowering it. Therefore take the dog out of the sunny area and put him under a shade. Next, use a cloth soaked in lukewarm water to pat his body. Caution should be taken not to use cold water lest you subject the dog to shock due to peripheral vasoconstriction. However, some sources advise that you can put ice around the anus and mouth, and you can apply rubbing alcohol to the footpads to promote pore dilation and increase sweating.
Additionally, if you have a fan, turn it on and place the dog such that the cool air from the fan gets to him. As you douse his body, you can also have the dog take a few sips of cool water. However, you must also be careful not to extend the dousing process so much that he cools down and starts shivering. Drinking water is not enough to hydrate your pup; hence experts recommend administering a crystalloid solution mixed in the ratio of 20ml per kg of water. The fluid should be given to the dog every 15 minutes, and once the mucous membranes start getting back to normal, you can stop. You can also monitor the rectal temperature, and once it reaches 39.4 degrees Celsius, your dog is out of danger.
Further, if your dog shows signs of inadequate oxygen, usually through hypoxia or dyspnea, he will have to undergo slow oxygen construction therapy. All you need is a face mask, whose diaphragm has been removed to enable panting, or an oxygen hood; oxygen cages are not recommended. However, even after the dog recovers, there could be other secondary effects of the heatstroke, and American Veterinarian cites systemic inflammatory response syndrome and disseminated intravascular coagulation as examples. In such cases, then taking the dog to the intensive care unit is the only option.
How to prevent heatstroke
In 2015, 46 police dogs left in cars by their handlers died of heatstroke. The number of deaths of dogs between 2011 and 2015 was 619. However, given the many cases that have continued to be reported, by now, the figure is in thousands. One retired dog handler said it is upon the dog handlers to check on the animals as if they were their children. The dogs may be intelligent, but they rely on us to make the right decisions concerning them; hence, you should not leave your canine in the car during hot weather. Even cracked windows have been shown to result in heatstroke cases.
If you prefer your dog to enjoy the outdoors, it is up to you to ensure enough shade for him to run to whenever the temperatures become too much to bear. Moreover, provide the canine with enough drinking water and ensure that he can get to it easily. Since your pet will most likely be on a leash, make sure that it cannot easily tangle to prevent him from getting to the water or shade. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals published a story of a dog died frog that from heatstroke. He could not access the water or shade because his tether got tangled up in the wooden pallet.