Summer’s Silent Killer: Canine Heat Stroke
Summer heat and strenuous exercise can be a deadly combination for sporting dogs, regardless of their overall health and weight status. Dogs cannot sweat other then through the foot pads, so their ability to regulate body temperature in warm environments is difficult.
Normal core body temperature for a dog is between 100.5°F and 102.5°F. Heat stroke is a serious emergency condition in which the core body temperature becomes elevated for a prolonged period of time leading to diminished organ system functioning. Organs can begin to shut down resulting in permanent damage. Heat stroke is most commonly brought on by overly strenuous activity or extreme environmental heat.
Factors contributing to heat stroke include: poor body condition, heavy exercise, dehydration, insufficient recovery time after strenuous activity, high humidity, and elevated environmental temperatures either outside or in housing facilities.
Symptoms of heat stroke include:
- Excessive and noisy panting
- Vomiting or excessive drooling
- Severe muscle weakness or cramping
- Staggering while walking or unable to stand
- Seizure-like activity or unresponsiveness
- Sudden death
If your dog is exhibiting signs of heat stroke, take immediate action. Begin by contacting your regular veterinarian and relocating the dog to a cooler environment out of direct heat and sunlight. Submersion in cool water for several minutes will help cool body temperature quickly. Placing the dog in front of a fan can also help cool the dog.
Depending on the severity your dog’s symptoms, your veterinarian may recommend an emergency examination. Your vet may also run diagnostic tests (including blood work and urine analysis) to determine treatment and prognosis. Hospitalization may be necessary.
You can help prevent heat stroke in your sporting dog by incorporating the following into the dog’s training program:
- Provide plenty of access to drinking water
- Allow adequate down time and recovery time
- Provide shade
- Follow appropriate training regimens set up by reputable trainers
- Consult with veterinarian before beginning a training program
Proper physical conditioning of sporting dogs during the off-season is extremely important.
Dogs with other health conditions (comorbidities) or who are on certain medications may also be at increased risk
Very young and geriatric dogs also have higher susceptibility to heat stroke.
Amanda Burow, D.V.M. (Dr. B), is a graduate of Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Burow’s patient list includes hunting dogs of all varieties, as well as several field trial dogs and full time sporting guide dogs. In addition to practicing general veterinary medicine, she has special interest in the areas of preventive care, emergency medicine, and dermatology. In her spare time, she enjoys being outdoors and on the lake, staying active, reading, and spending time with family and friends.
Mud River is proud to share these tips from Dr. B with our customers. Keep in mind it is best to work with your local veterinarian to determine the needs for your animals.