The weather in this area is as perfect as it gets for being outdoors at any time of day, on any day of the year. So when warm weather comes, the effects on our pets can come as a surprise, especially on a midday hike in the hills or traveling to a warmer area.
The effects of heatstroke can come quickly, and mortality is 50 percent.
Heatstroke occurs when the body is generating more heat than it can get rid of. Short-nosed breeds of dogs, obese dogs, older dogs and those with upper airway or heart disease have more difficulty regulating body temperature. Nervous and excitable dogs, along with those being excessively exercised, are also at risk.
Signs of heatstroke may begin with excessive panting, appearing distressed and becoming restless. Large amounts of saliva may come out of the dog’s mouth and/or nose. Weakness and difficulty standing may then occur, and you may notice gums looking bright red or purple/blue.
If you suspect heatstroke, move to a shaded/cool area and soak the dog with cool water. Put ice packs, if available, under the neck and on the groin area. Do not use wet towels, as that keeps heat in, and alcohol on the pads is not effective alone.
Do not immerse the dog in ice water or force it to drink. Allow the dog to drink cool water if it wants to. Heatstroke is a disease that affects the entire body, and simply lowering the body temperature may not address severe complications.
A dog with heatstroke should be seen immediately by a veterinarian. Delayed admission to a veterinary hospital is a major risk factor for death.
• Do not keep dogs outside without shade. A wading pool can help keep them cool.
• There is no right answer regarding whether to clip or not to clip a long-haired dog. If you do clip, then shave no closer than 1-2 cm, as a shorter length could lead to sunburn.
• Adding low-sodium chicken broth to a dog’s water will increase its intake.
• For a ball-playing dog, it is important not to let it keep the ball in its mouth after playing, because it will prevent effective panting.
• Be careful with older dogs lying inside near a sunny window, as they may not realize that they are becoming overheated.
• Be careful when leaving a dog in the car, even on cool days. A study by Stanford University Medical Center found that the temperature inside a vehicle increases an average of 40 degrees within an hour, regardless of outside temperature.
Again, it is important to realize that decreasing the dog’s body temperature alone may not prevent damage to the kidneys, intestines, liver, brain and blood circulation problems that can occur with heatstroke. Start cooling your dog immediately if the veterinarian is more than a few minutes away, but don’t delay getting to a veterinary hospital.
Dr. Kenton Taylor is a veterinarian at Miramonte Veterinary Hospital, 1766 Miramonte Ave., Mountain View. For more information, call 962-8338 or visit miramontevet.com.