With the hottest June on record for SW Idaho—and more triple digit temps this week— our veterinary blog offers summer safety tips for avoiding heat-related injuries and trips to the veterinary emergency hospital.
It’s been one HOT week in the Treasure Valley. When the thermometer shoots this high—it’s critical for pet owners and caretakers to keep pets cool, hydrated, and safe. Heat exhaustion and dehydration are two heat-related health problems considered to be veterinary emergencies that require immediate treatment. Both are life threatening if not treated.
HEAT EXHAUSTION/HEAT STROKE. If your dog becomes lethargic or seems to be experiencing breathing problems seek veterinary care immediately. Panting is the mechanism that enables dogs to cool down. They exchange internal body air for cooler outside air—clearly an inefficient and ineffective process when the outside air is extremely hot.
• Increased respiratory rate
• Increased heart rate
• Excess salivation
As heat exhaustion symptoms progress, a dog’s body temperature increases and the physical signs become even more serious, including:
• Gum color may become brick red, then purple or blue (cyanosis)
Treatment. Dogs suffering from heat exhaustion require immediate veterinary attention—even if his/her condition does not seem serious. Cool water (not ice water) may be used to begin to decrease body temperature during your trip to the veterinarian. Soak towels in cool water and wrap around your dog.
In many cases, heat exhaustion is preventable. Never leave your dog unattended in your car. A cracked window will not prevent your dog from overheating, even in milder temperatures. In addition, pets should have access to abundant shade and fresh water while outdoors in the summer time. The best advice is to limit outdoor time to short periods, avoid strenuous exercise, running, and hiking during the heat of the day, and offer lots of fresh water—more than he/she typically drinks.
Very young pups and senior dogs have a higher risk of developing heat stroke. Brachycephalic breeds (short-nosed dogs such as Pugs and Bulldogs), obese animals, long-haired dogs and those with black or dark furry coats are also more susceptible.
DEHYDRATION. When dogs lose body fluids faster than they can replace them, he/she may suffer from dehydration. The most common causes of dehydration are severe vomiting and/or diarrhea, inadequate fluid intake, fever, severe illness, or heat exhaustion.
A prominent sign of dehydration in a dog is the loss of skin elasticity. When the skin along the spine is gently pulled up, it should quickly spring back into place. In a pet suffering from dehydration, the skin will stay upright when pulled back, remaining in a ridge along the back.
Another sign of dehydration is dryness of the mouth. Your pet’s gums should be wet and glistening. When dehydrated they become dry and tacky. Saliva is thick and tenacious. In an advanced case, the eyes are sunken and the dog exhibits signs of shock, including collapse.
Treatment. A dog who is visibly dehydrated should receive immediate veterinary attention. Intravenous fluids are critical to replace body fluids.
If you are concerned that your pet is suffering from heat exhaustion or dehydration, it is always appropriate to consult your veterinarian right away. If your family veterinarian is unavailable, WestVet is open and able to address your concerns 24 hours a day. No appointment is necessary for veterinary emergencies.