Preventing your canine from heat stroke

Now that the summers are in, it has become crucial to take extra  care of our pets. Like humans, dogs can also suffer from heat stroke. Dr. Gautam Unny gives tips to prevent heat stoke in our canines.
We all try our best to combat summer hazards and we should give equal attention to our four-legged friends as they do not sweat and cool their bodies like us. Even a 10-minute lock up in a car on a sunny afternoon can be life threatening for them.
Case file
(Dona’s heat dilemma)
Dona is an eleven-year-old German Spitz who miraculously recovered from an acute attack of heat stroke. She was going to Saharanpur with her owner Col. Sharma, when she was left in the carfor about ten minutes. It was aday in August, when the temperatures were soaring and to add to the distress, the humidity was stifling. Col. Sharma, after about two hours drive felt that it was necessary for everybody in the car to take a break and therefore stopped the car under a shady tree and went to fetch some cold water for Dona. To ensure that she did not jump out of the carand follow him on the congested highway, he pulled up the windows.
To his utter dismay when he came back to the car, Dona lay practically unconscious, finding it difficult to breathe. He immediately poured cold water on her and fed her some of the ice cream he had also brought back with him. After some time, Dona did recover and the family then made a practically uneventful journey back home. During the journey she was shown to a vet who administered some injections to control her motion sickness. She however continued to throw up sporadically all through her journey. The subsequent day saw Dona refuse food and the frequency of vomiting increased. She could not even retain water and therefore Col. Sharma rushed her to our clinic.
Dona was running abnormally high temperature and all symptoms indicated that she had suffered from a heat stroke. She was required to undergo some blood tests but in the meantime, she was started on intravenous fluids to stabilise her. The results that followed left Col. Sharma totally flabbergasted! The Creatinine levels that indicate kidney trouble were grossly elevated and were at 7.2 (Normal 1.5 g/dl). What was astounding was the severity of the sudden damage to the kidneys.
Dona took a full month to recover, but not all dogs are as lucky. What has to be understood is that this problem can be totally circumvented by some proper planning.
How heat
stroke occurs
The brain regulates the monitoring of temperature so that the body temperature neither goes too far below or above normal and this is called homeostasis. The abnormally high rise in temperatures beyond physiological limits due to external factors like high temperature and humidity is called Hyperthermia. In a case of heat stroke, the animal has temperatures beyond 108 degrees Fahrenheit (102 is normal). At this stage, the animal collapses, has rapid breathing, the mucus membranes of the eye are brick red, could vomit or have loose motions. Some animals also have seizures. In the last stages of heat stroke, the dog respires slowly with deep breathing, and this is not a favourable prognostic sign.
Other problems associated with
heat stroke
The reason why some animals who recover from heat stroke get renal failure is that the body in a case of heat stroke suffers from a total circulatory shock. Adequate blood does not flow to the vital organs and the kidneys do not get adequate supply of blood for a short period. This is enough to cause them to get damaged. If an animal who has suffered from a heat stroke does not pass urine (anuria) or less urine (oliguria), then he should be rushed to a vet. If after treatment, the pet begins to pass urine, then the signs are favourable. Dogs who do not respond to treatment even after the administration of diuretics (drugs that enhance urination) may not recover.
Preventing heat stroke
So, what can the guardian do to prevent this potential complication?

  • Never leave a pet in a closed and ill-ventilated area where air circulation is low. A car with rolled up windows is one such place.
  • Provide cool and fresh water at all times.
  • On a long journey, take short breaks and again ensure adequate hydration of the pet.
  • The first sign that a pet is feeling too hot is when he pants too much. Remember, as dogs do not sweat too much they cannot cool themselves off as humans do. A cold water dousing will immediately lower the body temperature.
  • If at home, dip the entire pet in a tub of water or keep ice packs on his body.
  • Try and make him drink water but if he does not or throws up, get to the vet fast.
  • Emergencies do not come forewarned and therefore keep your vets mobile number handy.

The aim is to get the temperature back to normal in the shortest possible time and at the same time ensuring that it does not go far below normal. So, to ensure a happy summer just follow the tips mentioned above to keep your pet free of this potential threat.
(Dr. Gautam Unny is a gold medallist from the Madras Veterinary College and has been treating pets for over a decade now. He has also authored ‘A manual on dog care’ published by Rupa & Co. He can be contacted at 011-22153622 or 9810053451 at A-150, Anand Vihar, Delhi –110092.)   

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