Pet Owners Beware! Summer Heat Can Prove Life Threatening for Your Beloved Pet!

by Dr. Doug Pernikoff, DVM

We all love to share summer adventures in the sun with our beloved companions, but please beware!Dogs wear a coat of fur 24/7 and they lack the ability to sweat over their body surface, making them especially vulnerable to excess heat build-up and possibly, complete life threatening heat stroke.And worse yet, it can happen very quickly.

How many times have we heard a story of a pet or even a child left in a locked car in mid-summer.Statistics explain that even with the windows cracked, and outside temperatures in the low 70’s, it can take only 10 minutes for inside temperatures to rise high enough to overheat our pets and create an emergency scenario. Dogs and cats exchange body heat primarily through panting, thus the classic visual of an excited dog at play with his tongue hanging out of his mouth, lathered by copious saliva.There is real function there, aside from the ability for them to fling and slime us with their love and affection.But, like any good thermostatic device, the machinery has limits.

The signs to look for can range from mild exhaustion to head hanging, weakness, disorientation, or complete collapse and loss of conciousness.Body temperatures typically record up and above 105 degreesFahrenheit, and you often find the gums very dark purple, representing poor blood flow and shock.Basically, the body is trying to shut down.

Folks- these signs represent a true emergency scenario.Things to do immediately are to get the pet out of the sun, and hopefully, on the way to a veterinary facility.Begin to cool your pet by applying cold water or rubbing alcohol, especially in the groin and armpit regions where there is less hair and more opportunity to dissipate body heat.
Veterinary actions will include intravenous fluids to cool core body temperature and flush the toxins out while feeding the organs with necessary fluid support.Other therapeutic actions will work to fight against shock and worse.

In summary, it is best to prepare for your adventures carefully.Most dogs are short distance athletes.Take frequent breaks to cool down in shade with available water for both you and your critter.And, be sure to keep your cell phone charged with needed veterinary support numbers at hand. Please be careful and make your adventure safe for you and your buddies.

Dr. Doug Pernikoff and Staff
Clarkson-Wilson Veterinary Clinic
& Veterinary Pet Rescue(VPR)