How to deal with a pet’s heat stroke |

How to deal with a pet’s heat stroke

Steve Sheldon
Vail, CO Colorado

Some of the more common causes of respiratory emergencies in pets are trauma, choking, laryngeal paralysis, heart disease, electric shock, poisoning, allergic bronchitis/asthma, and congestive heart failure.

If it is an emergency not associated with choking first make sure your pet is breathing, if not, perform mouth-to-nose resuscitation as described above.

If the pet is breathing, make plans to get to a veterinarian immediately. In the meantime keep your pet as calm and as cool as possible. Remember, dogs and cats dissipate heat by panting, if this is compromised they can overheat quickly.

Place your cat in a cool, dark, well-ventilated carrier. Carry your dog to the car if possible, but do not put a leash around its neck.

If your pet is choking and you can’t remove the object you’ll have to perform the Heimlich maneuver. You can do this one of two ways. If you can, lift the animal with its head up and its spine against your chest and your arms wrapped under its forearms and around its chest. Now push inward and lift upward with short, powerful strokes.

If the pet is too heavy, lay it on its side, extend the head and neck into a natural position, and place your hands behind the animal’s ribs and give short pushes up towards the diaphragm. Once you have dislodged the object bring both your pet and the object to your veterinarian.

Because it is summer, I wanted to get in a few words about heat related injuries. There are a lot of factors that contribute to heat injuries but none is as important as our environment. It can just get plain hot here folks.

Animals with heavy coats, medical conditions and heart disease are even more at risk for heat stroke. Animals suffering hyperthermia need immediate attention. Check the pet’s vital signs, whether it’s breathing, and resuscitate if necessary.

While you’re doing this you can start cooling the animal down. Don’t waste precious time taking the temperature yet because starting the cooling process won’t hurt your pet but delaying can.

Use lukewarm water baths or cool water-soaked towels at first. Do not use ice water or ice baths at first because this can cause peripheral veins to constrict, preventing heat from leaving the pet’s body.

Once you’ve started cooling take a rectal temperature, you can stop cooling when you get to 102-103 (normal for a pet is 101-102 F). You’ll need to go see a veterinarian immediately because hyperthermia is very serious and requires aggressive supportive care.

I don’t need to mention never leave you pet locked in you car, do I?

In future columns, we’ll discuss how to handle some more specific injuries such as toad poisoning (rinse the pet’s mouth out immediately!), burns (apply wet compresses), insect bites (Benadryl and meat tenderizer), poisoning (call 1-800-2823171) and eye injuries (flush and cover).

I’m a healing professional; I couldn’t mention all these maladies without at least giving you a hint how to handle them.

Stephen Sheldon, DVM practices at Gypsum Animal Hospital; he welcomes your questions and can be reached at 970-524-DOGS or

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