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Monday, July 19, 2010

Dog Heatstroke Prevention and Treatment

Dog wearing spectacles

With temperatures in the triple digits in many parts of the country, pet owners need to be extra vigilant about keeping their animals cool.

Dogs are much more prone than people to develop heatstroke, because they are only able to sweat through their foot pads and can cool off only by panting. Even the healthiest of dogs can succumb to heat-related illnesses if pushed too hard or left in a confined space. Dogs with medical problems are even more vulnerable.

Help keep your pooch safe with these tips from the Humane Society of the United States, and veterinarian Ira Roth, director of the Community Practice Clinic at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine.

Protecting Your Dog From the Heat

Here are three things to keep in mind during these intense summer days:

Limit time outside. During extreme temperatures, it's a good idea for everyone -- man and beast -- to be inside if they can. But short-nosed dog breeds who naturally have more trouble breathing -- such as Boston terriers, pugs, English bulldogs, or boxers -- should be kept in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible. The same goes for dogs with renal or cardiac failure, or other health disorders, says Roth. If you can't keep your dog inside, make sure it has ready access to fresh water and shade, like in a dog house.

Reduce physical activity. Keep exercise short with just a walk in the early morning or evening hours. Taking your dog out to "do his business," or letting him walk with you to the mailbox in the middle of the day is probably fine. But it's easy to overexert a dog without realizing it, Roth says.

"If your daily routine is to come home and throw the ball and play catch for a while, you want to eliminate that or drastically reduce it," Roth tells Paw Nation. "Dogs will push themselves to exhaustion." It's up to you to recognize when your pet has had enough activity.

Never leave a dog in car: We know you've heard this before but we will say it again and again because even if you're parked in the shade, the inside of your car can quickly reach 120 degrees. "Pets who are left in hot cars even briefly can suffer from heat exhaustion, heat stroke, brain damage, and can even die. Don't think that just because you'll be gone 'just a minute' that your pet will be safe while you're gone," the Humane Society of the United States says in its Summer Care Tips guide. Also, don't leave your dog in the back of a pickup truck. The bed can get hot enough to scorch a dog's feet or belly.

What to Do if Your Dog Becomes Overheated
Quick action is the key to treating your pet.

If you suspect heatstroke, call your vet immediately. If your dog is panting excessively, staggering, seems disoriented or has reddish-purple gums your pet is in serious trouble. Fast treatment is critical to avoid life-threatening complications like blood-clotting abnormalities or multiorgan failure, Roth says. "Time will be an important factor," Roth says. "Many [overheated dogs] will die even with very, very aggressive treatment."

Cool your dog down. After contacting your vet, the Humane Society recommends that you move your pet to the shade or an air-conditioned area. Apply cool (not cold) water over his body to gradually lower his core body temperature. Apply cold towels or ice packs to your pet's head, neck, and chest only. Let your pet drink small amounts of water or lick ice cubes.

By staying alert and taking action quickly, you can keep your dog safe. Of course not all pet owners will be as vigilant as you so if you see a pet in a car alone during the hot summer months, alert the management of the store where the car is parked, and if the owner doesn't return, call local animal control or the police department. By Daphne Sashin

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