Heatstroke signs and prevention for dogs

Hyperthermia can be defined as the elevation of the body temperature to levels above the normal range. Heat stroke on the other hand can be defined as a non-fever hyperthermia which usually occurs when the heat dissipating mechanisms within the body are not able to accommodate the excess external heat. Even though the two terms are often used interchangeably they actually refer to two different things. Dog fur is effective in protecting them during the cold weather but in the hot days, it works against them. Unlike humans who eliminate heat by sweating, dogs eliminate heat by panting. When panting is not enough to cool down their body, their temperature rises and could lead to multiple organ failure that can sometimes be fatal.

Signs and symptoms to look out for
The immediate environment of a dog is his biggest risk for heatstroke. If the dog is left in a confined space that lacks fresh air or in a very humid environment, he is at risk of overheating. Dogs with long hair, short nose or flat face are at a higher risk of overheating since their nasal passages are small and they find it difficult to circulate enough air to cool off their body.

A dog that is experiencing a heat stroke will have the following signs:
• Panting
• Dehydration
• Excessive drooling
• Increased body temperature – above 104 F
• Moist body tissue and reddened gums
• Rapid heart rate
• Irregular heart beat
• Thick sticky saliva
• Diarrhea
• Vomiting – sometimes bloody
• Shock
• Coma

What should you do if your dog is over heated?
If you notice your dog displaying any of the above signs, you should take immediate action. Before taking him to the vet you should give him some first aid. First, remove him from the hot environment to a cooler area, shade will work but most preferably an air conditioned room. Check if he is conscious and he is panting. If he is conscious, give him small amounts of water. You should restrain from offering him large amounts since they could cause him to vomit which increases his chances of dehydration. Also refrain from giving him very cold water since it is counterproductive. A quick drop in body temperature can cause other medical conditions that could be life threatening.

If your dog seems unresponsive or is having seizures you should start by checking his heartbeat and breathing. Before beginning any first aid, ensure you call the hospital to tell them you are taking your dog immediately so they start preparing for your arrival. After that, start cooling procedures immediately. Place a soaked, cool towel on her neck, head and underneath his legs. Make sure not to use cold water. You can use a fan to speed up the cooling process.
Even if your dog seems to be fully recovered, you should still take them to the vet. Heatstroke can cause several unseen problems such as swelling of the brain. It is therefore essential to take him to the vet.

Heatstroke Prevention
During the summer, there are several things that you can do to keep your dog safe:
• Give him access to clean fresh water at all times
• If he will be outside, ensure he has access to complete shade
• Walk your dog during the cooler times of the day, in the morning and as the sun goes down
• Do not overdo exercise sessions or play sessions during the hot days

Dogs are part of many families. It is therefore essential that they be kept safe at all times to avoid health complications.

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