July 22, 2013
Drs. Stephanie Morgan and Heather Moeser
Downtown Mobile Vet – 919-917-8312 – www.downtownmobilevet.com
Exercise is good for you and your pets. However, have you ever decided to take a run mid day during the summer time? After recently making that choice in this hot weather, I am still feeling the effects of it. I felt dizzy, and I couldn’t catch my breath, but it seemed like such a beautiful sunny day and I am a regular runner. It reminded me that although exercising on a beautiful day is usually good, it could also be dangerous, especially for your pets. Make sure you assess the weather before you exercise your pet to avoid hyperthermia and heat stroke in your pet, potentially life threatening diseases. There are 3 common clinical signs to look for and 3 things that you can do if you suspect your pet to have an elevated body temp or heat stroke.
Common causes of hyperthermia (body temp > 103 °F) and heat stroke (body temp > 106 °F) are environmental conditions or situations including hot humid day, mistakenly being confined to an area with limited ventilation (i.e. NO CAR RIDES) or too much exercise and decreased water access.
CLINICAL SIGNS OF HYPERTHERMIA AND HEAT STROKE INCLUDE
- PANTING/ DROOLING – If your dog is excessively panting or drooling then they need to come inside to AC and get attention. Dogs naturally pant as a cooling mechanism, but they should be able to control their breathing to some extent if not overheated.
- DIFFICULTY BREATHING – is your pet unable to catch their breath or having difficulty breathing. Other signs may include brick red gum color and increased heart rate. These pets need to be seen by your veterinarian immediately.
- ABNORMAL WALKING – if your pet is moderately to severely overheated they may experience stumbling, stupor, or becoming unresponsive. These pets need to be seen by your veterinarian immediately.
Other clinical signs include bloody diarrhea, seizures, and death.
If you have done your best to avoid the causes of hyperthermia and heat stroke and you feel your pet is showing some of these signs then there are some actions that can be done in your home for mild cases. Please recognize that Moderate to Severe cases need to go to the veterinarian immediately for intravenous fluids and medications.
COMMON ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE IF YOU SUSPECT HYPERTHERMIA
- WATER – Big ol’ bowl of water! You can help cool your pet by giving cold water. Additionally, a baby swimming pool may offer some relief during these hot days.
- RUBBING ALCOHOL – you can put cold water/rubbing alcohol on your paw pads and the inside of their ear flaps. These are the only places where your dogs and cats can perspire. This will cause evaporative cooling which is another natural mechanism that animals use to regulate their internal temperature.
- AC/FAN – decreasing the environmental temperature gradually and increasing the ventilation can also help decrease your pet’s mild hyperthermia.
If you have any questions how your pet is responding or if the initial steps are not helping then you will need to bring your pet to the veterinarian immediately for advanced diagnostics and possibly hospitalization. Summer weather is great; we just need to be careful when we enjoy it. Heat stroke is a serious diagnosis and can quickly lead to irreversible changes in your pet’s health including death.