This dog is hot and panting

As the weather in Houston heats up, this is the time for canine pet owners to think about heat stroke (or over heating their companion dogs).

Often pet owners don’t  realize (or forget) that our furry friends are unable to sweat the way people do. For dogs, that means the only way for them to get rid of heat is by panting. That predisposes dogs to over-heating much faster than a person would. Left outside or in a car for too long can allow the dog’s core body temperature to rise quickly and once their temperature goes above 104, they can rapidly develop life-threatening issues.

Here’s some important facts:

An increased body temperature caused by environmental conditions is commonly referred to as hyperthermia, heatstroke, or heat prostration. Hyperthermia may be a life-threatening condition, and requires immediate treatment. 

A dog’s normal body temperature is 101.5°F plus or minus 1 degree Fahrenheit, and any time the body temperature is higher than 105°F, a true emergency exists.  Heatstroke generally occurs in hot summer weather when dogs are left with inadequate ventilation in hot vehicles.  However, heatstroke may also occur in other conditions, including:

  1. When an animal is left outdoors in hot/humid conditions without adequate shade.
  2. When exercised in hot/humid weather.  
  3. When left in a car on a relatively cool (70°F) day; a recent study from Stanford University Medical Center found the temperature within a vehicle may increase by an average of 40 degrees Fahrenheit within one (1) hour regardless of outside temperature. 

Other predisposing factors may be obesity and/or diseases affecting a pet’s airway.  Keep in mind that prolonged seizures, eclampsia (milk fever), poisonings, and many other conditions may cause hyperthermia. Also, brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds (Pekingese, Pug, Lhasa Apso, Boston terrier, etc.) may suffer from “ineffectual panter syndrome” that results in an increased body temperature that may be fatal.

Initially the pet appears distressed, and will pant excessively and become restless.  As the hyperthermia progresses, the pet may drool large amounts of saliva from the nose and/or mouth.  The pet may become unsteady on his feet.  You may notice the gums turning blue/purple or bright red in color, which is due to inadequate oxygen.

What to Do

What NOT to Do 

Rapidly cooling the pet is extremely important. Cold tap water is suitable.

Severe hyperthermia is a disease that affects nearly every system in the body. Simply lowering the body temperature fails to address the potentially catastrophic events that often accompany this disorder. A pet suffering from hyperthermia should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible

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