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Vail pets: Don’t let dog and cats feel the heat

Stephen Sheldon
Vail CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado –I thought I’d never get the chance to write this article as this summer in Colorado’s Vail Valley has been anything but hot – until now. Thanks to Sandy B. for requesting the info.

Heat stroke is not too common a problem here due to our dry environment but since we are all very active out here it can occur. High humidity combined with high heat – a.k.a. the heat index – is the real dagger with heat stroke.

You should be aware of some of the symptoms and how to protect your pets. A study found that the death rate can be cut in half by an owner who recognizes the symptoms and acts quickly and properly.

Heat stroke for dogs and cats is defined as extreme body temperature of 106 to 109 degrees, which results in thermal injury to tissue. Dogs do not sweat in the same manner we sweat – they regulate their body heat by panting, drooling, sweating through the pads of their feet and by spreading the heat along their coats. Some breeds such as bulldogs and St. Bernards (any dog with a ‘pushed-in face’) as well as shepherds and Aussies are more likely to suffer heat stroke.

The early signs of heat stroke are increased panting, increased heart rate, vomiting, bounding pulses, vomiting and depression. Worsening signs are collapse, seizures and bleeding. A dog’s body temperature may even drop before death occurs.

If you even think there is a remote chance of heat stroke act quickly. The antidote is simple: cool water. Douse your dog completely with cool water, but do not use ice water or ice baths. This causes the veins and arteries to constrict too much and blood cannot circulate properly which will make the situation worse. Repeat after me: No ice water or ice baths.

Try to get your dog to drink some cool water as well. You cannot overdose your dog by hosing them off with cool water; nor will your dog overdose itself by drinking too much water (but never force water down their throats). Next, seek immediate veterinary care – time is critical.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure with heat stroke. Always allow your dog or cat access to water; a resting pet should drink an ounce of water per pound each day and you can double or triple that if they are hiking with you or playing a lot outside.

Bring a portable water dish with you when you hike. It is OK to let your dog drink from a fresh source of stream or river water; the Centers for Disease Control says giardia rarely occurs in fresh flowing streams.

Some common sense measure apply here too: don’t cage your pet outside in direct sunlight and don’t leave them in enclosed cars or hot houses. If it is really hot keep your pets indoors, and take extra care with your older dogs pets because they are much more susceptible to heat stroke.

Heat stroke is deadly, almost half of those stricken with it die. But remember that study – 100 percent of those dogs whose owners acted quickly survived!

Stephen Sheldon, DVM practice at Gypsum Animal Hospital. He can be reached at 970-524-DOGS or by visiting the hospital Web site, http://www.gypsumah.com


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