I mentioned several ways of keeping your pup cool during the warmer months in my post last Friday.
In case you missed it, you can check it out here:
Did you know that older dogs, overweight dogs, as well as brachycephalic breeds (<– read my article about health problems in them here!) such as pugs and English Bulldogs are especially prone to overheating?
While above mentioned dogs are prime candidates for heat strokes (i.e. hyperthermia), any dog can get affected by the heat, especially when exercising excessively in warm weather.
While we of course all hope to never experience a case of heatstroke in our dogs, it’s good to know how to react to it.
If we know what measures to take in order to lower our dog’s body temperature, we’ll be less stressed out & more likely to actually help our dog!
Pet First Aid Workshop
Yesterday, I was able to refresh my knowledge of pet first aid by participating in a workshop taught by Dr. Brian Lapham, DVM, of Southpoint Animal Hospital in Durham, NC.
While I have taken a pet first aid & maintenance class before, this workshop (including hands on CPR practice on a K9 dummy) was a welcome reminder of how to prevent & deal with common pet emergencies, heat stroke being one of them!
I highly recommend taking a pet first aid class/workshop ~ it’s really interesting & you DO learn a lot!
The Red Cross offers them on a regular basis, and you can check on their website if any workshops are held in your general area.
Also check in with your vet or boarding/daycare facility; They should be able to point you in the right direction!
Pet First Aid Book
I have an excellent book covering various aspects of dog (& cat) emergencies, & recommend having one close-by for potential emergencies:
SHOJAI, AMY D.: The First Aid Companion for Dogs & Cats. RODALE INC: 2001.
Symptoms of K9 Heat Stroke
- Pale gums & bright red tongue
- Heavy, excessive panting in combination with increased heart rate
- Increased salivation
- Vomiting & Diarrhea
Check your dog’s vital signs in order to correctly assess the gravity of the emergency.
Side note: If your dog is panting extremely hard and has glassy eyes, or should he even be unconscious, he needs to be taken to a vet’s office right away ~ don’t waste time measuring his vitals at that point!
1. Measuring Body Temperature
Measure your dog’s temperature with a digital rectal thermometer, using a lubricant. It will beep once it has taken the temperature. A dog’s normal body temperature is between 101 – 103 degrees Fahrenheit.
Any dog with a core body temperature above 104ºF needs to be seen by a vet right away!
2. Feeling the Pulse
A large dog’s normal heart rate is between 60-100 beats per minute, while a small dog’s heart beats between 100-140 times per minute (puppies and young dogs under 12 months of age have an even more elevated heart rate of about 180 beats per minute). Dogs who are in excellent physical shape and work out on a regular basis will have a lower heart beat either way.
Place your hand over your dog’s heart (it is located on the left side, and you can feel it beating behind the front leg) to count the beats. Do this for 15 seconds and then multiply by 4 in order to know how fast it beats within one minute. Alternatively, you can place 2 fingers on your dog’s femoral artery to feel his pulse. The artery can be felt on the inner thigh of the hind legs in the groin area.
3. Measuring Respiratory Rate
A dog who isn’t excited or physically exhausted breathes between 10-35 times per minute. You can measure your dog’s breathing rate by observing his flank movements, or by holding a wet finger right in front of his nostrils (you’ll feel his breath on your finger every times he exhales).
Should your pooch suffer from a mild case of heat exhaustion, you should be able to treat him at home. However, a follow up visit at your vet’s office is still advisable.
First off, get Fido out of the heat and into a cool area. In order to lower his body temperature, his belly and paws need to be cooled.
Depending on your dog’s size, you can achieve this by placing your pup into a bathtub or sink with cold water, or hosing him off with the garden hose outside.
Alternatively, wrap wet, cool dish towels around his paws and on his belly, and place ice packs or frozen bags of vegetables on top of the towel.
Don’t use too much ice for too long, as ice makes the blood vessels shrink! I learned this valuable piece of information in yesterday’s pet first aid workshop!
Offer cool water, but don’t force any water down your dog’s mouth, since he could choke on it. If he’s not able to drink on his own, he definitely needs to be rushed to the vet asap!
Once the core body temperature has dropped down to 103ºF/39.4ºC, you can stop the cooling process in order to avoid the opposite effect of hypothermia (when body temperature drops below 98ºF/36.7ºC). You’ll also notice that your dog’s panting will significantly decrease.
Supervision as Prevention!
Always supervise your dog in order to avoid him getting affected by heat stroke. Never leave him alone in a car, even if the windows are cracked. The interior of a car heats up incredibly fast and will feel like a hot oven to Fido, potentially killing him!
Have you experienced a case of K9 heat stroke? How did you handle it? As always, we’d love to hear from you in our comment section!