What to be aware of and how to address a dog whose body temperature is on the rise
By Dr. Roger Krogstad, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
Being outside on these hotter days, we cope through perspiration and drinking lots of fluids to replace this loss.
Pets do not sweat though, so how do they keep cool? We have all heard of central air conditioning, and this also applies to our pets’ cooling systems. Through panting, evaporation takes place in the lungs, cooling the blood that then circulates throughout the body. As long as there are moderate temperatures and adequate water intake, this system runs efficiently. One limiting factor and a reason for livestock alert is not only extremely high heat but high humidity that slows the evaporation cooling process.
Often misunderstood, a fan is of little to no benefit to a hot pet because there is no surface evaporation to facilitate cooling as with people. If the pet is wetted down first then this air movement will speed evaporation and facilitate a cool down.
Dogs that are dark haired, long coated, overweight, older, or brachycephalic — short-nosed and with a long soft palate — may be more susceptible to heat stroke. Pets kept outdoors should have access to shade and water that cannot be tipped over. They should also be checked frequently for increased panting or heat stress. Strenuous exercise in hot weather can speed dehydration, so water should be carried to give your dog in these situations.
Heat stroke is a killer. With excessive body temperatures, irreversible tissue damage can occur to many necessary body systems and brain swelling is possible.
If your pet suddenly collapses from heat stress or is found in an overheated car, begin immediate cool down, and call your veterinarian or emergency center for guidance. Cool water on the feet and underside between the back legs will start the cooling process. In severe cases complete body immersion may be necessary to more rapidly reduce the body temperature back to normal. If the pet is able to swallow, oral fluids should be given for rehydration. Electrolyte drinks are not needed as electrolytes are not lost through respiration. Water is the best choice.
The normal cat and dog temperature is 101.5. It is not unusual to see pets suffering from heat stroke with temperatures of 108 and greater. These pets require immediate hospitalization and supportive care, but sadly some do not survive.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.