Summer Heat

Know How to Avoid Serious Risk & What to do in an Emergency

Most of us have enough sense not to leave a dog in a hot car, but our pets can still be susceptible to heat stroke. All of us need to know the risks. We should also know first aid.


Dogs who run too hard in the direct sun can easily spike body temperatures above the critical level of 105 degrees. Think ahead when you leave home. If the female dog next door comes into her heat cycle, your love-starved unneutered male may run the fence hard enough to die. Dogs with epilepsy can overheat if they have a convulsion in the yard. Also consider your use of insecticides. Pets who eat bug killers can seizure uncontrollably and overheat fast.


Some pets are more prone to trouble than others. Thick heavy haircoats or extra fat makes it hard to dissipate heat. Those with a history of heart or respiratory disease and dog breeds with pushed-in faces like Pugs and Bulldogs are especially high risk. Other vulnerable pets are the very young and very old as well as those poorly conditioned weekend warriors. There are plenty of ways for Murphy’s Law of Heat Stroke to apply this summer.


Be ready and keep a rectal thermometer handy. Any pet who is panting heavily with thick and possibly blood tinged saliva should be suspect. Look for dark red gums and vomiting or diarrhea. Advanced cases may seizure or show stupor or coma.


Seconds count: Spray that pet with cool water and turn a fan on him/her ASAP. Wet the footpads, arm pits, and groin with rubbing alcohol to help dissipate heat. (Do not immerse a heat stroke victim in an ice water bath. The blood vessels in the skin will constrict, slowing heat loss.) Check the pet’s temperature often and quit all of the above when it comes down to 103. Head to the nearest animal hospital for oxygen and emergency treatment for shock. Brain injury and kidney failure are huge risks so don’t waste time.


Does that sound scary? In New Mexico every veterinary hospital treats heat stroke every summer. We hate it when it happens and we hate it more when pets die. Keep your wits about you and give us a hand.