HYPERTHERMIA (HEAT-INDUCED ILLNESS)
Campaign provided and compiled by Wag'N Pet Emergency Management
Every season has its set of outdoor activity with your furry companions. After battling winter cabin fever, spring and summer time finally take our activities outside. For those of us with furry children (pets) it is crucial to mind some very important safety aspects in mind during these outings.
FACT: It is a common misconception that dogs do not sweat. They do sweat, ever so slightly, through their footpads, however not nearly enough to regulate body temperature and maintain it within a safe range of 100.4°-102.5° degrees Fahrenheit OR 38° – 39.2° Degrees Celsius.
Although normal values for dogs vary slightly, it usually agreed upon that body temperatures above 103° F (39° C) are abnormal.
Hyperthermia is defined as a rectal temperature of 105° to 110° F (or 41° to 43° C).
As a dog breathes in, air travels through the nasal passage and is cooled before it reaches the lungs.
As the outside air temperatures increase and/or as humidity indexes increase a dog’s core temperature regulation will have to make use of its respiratory system aka panting.
Unlike humans whose cooling mechanism involves sweating, a dog’s body burns a lot of energy regulating its heat from hot to cool.
So imagine you have lost your ability to sweat and can only regulate your body temperature by breathing hard. In order to accomplish your cooling goal you will need 2 things:
- Cooler outside air to breathe in.
- Access to cool air.
So let’s rethink that cracked car window cooling myth!
The bottom line is, if you sit in that car with engine off and you begin to sweat, your dog’s respiratory system is starting to work overtime to keep cool. So just because an activity does not bother you physically in terms of heat regulation, please keep a close eye on your dog as this same activity can lead your dog’s internal core temperature to dangerously spiral from heat exhaustion, followed by heatstroke, and ultimately death. Nothing to Wag about!
Signs of HEAT EXHAUSTION by progression in your dog may include:
- Excessive panting
- Rapid breathing rate
- Gasping for air
- Difficulty Breathing
- Rapid heart rate
- Anxiety or Agitation
- Red Mucous Membrane (tongue and gums)
- Difficulty getting up
- Struggling to breathe
- Excessive drooling
- Frothing at the mouth
- Weak pulse
- Dark Red gums
- Dry gums Black, tarry stools
- Lack of coordination
- Seems confused
- Anxious, Vacant or starring expression
More severe hyperthermia clinical signs include:
- Lack of voluntary coordination of muscle movements (Ataxia)
- Hyper salivation
- Muscle Tremors
- Loss of Consciousness
Treatment goals for the animal patient with heat-induced illness are to lower the core body temperature.
LEGAL NOTE: Dogs are personal property. Right or wrong, agree or disagree, as far as the law is concerned they are personal property. If the owner is present you will need his or her consent. When the law gets there, they may take custody of the animal, but unless the law is there, you need consent if owner is present. You will not get consent by cussing them out and threatening them. You might want to try the reasonable collected approach where you actually remain in control and make a point that you are there to help the animal first and foremost. Explain that without immediate help, on scene, right now, the animal might not make it to the vet alive or arrive in a worst condition. You are asking the owner to help you save the dog's life. You'll catch more bees with honey than vinegar. This approach does not guarantee that the owner will allow you to touch their property but remember that you'll catch more bees with honey than vinegar.
Screaming, yelling and insulting, although appealing, demonstrates a lack of self control which will further the animal's injuries by getting it even more excited, mad defensive and increase its blood pressure. The last thing you want is increase the patient's (animal's) blood pressure while under distress. The responders and the victim need to remain calm. If and when you get consent, proceed as follows:
YOU ARE YOUR PET’S 911™ - ACTIONS FOR SURVIVAL
- Remain calm! Focus on saving life. Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs)are not tasked with enforcing the law, they provide help and let law enforcement do the enforcement. You are your pet's EMT!
- Remove the animal from the warm environment (car, house, etc)
- Place the animal in the shade, on natural earth ground. Most outdoor parking areas have scrubs, trees or mulch covered ground, remove to exposed layer and place animal directly on cooler earth ground (stay away from asphalt).
- Place towel over dog and poor cool (NOT cold) water atop the towel. Water poured directly over the dog will evaporate too fast. The towel will absorb the water and stay wet and cool longer. Make sure the towel covers the belly area and under the pet’s armpits.
ATTENTION: Immersion in COLD water or ice baths is absolutely contraindicated because it will cause extreme peripheral vasoconstriction, inhibiting the animal from to dissipate heat through conductive cooling mechanism. In laymen’s terms, the skin will reject the new extreme opposite, constrict vessels and the animal will effectively lose its ability to cool, and ultimately die).
Once the rectal temperature is back down to 103° F (39° C), transport to veterinarian using a vehicle with AC on lowest temperature setting.
ATTENTION: Heat-induced illness can affect all major organ systems. Any animal that has gone through this trauma may develop respiratory alkalosis (low levels of carbon dioxide in the blood due to breathing excessively), gastro intestinal bleeding, renal failure, cerebral edema and Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) aka Excessive Blood Clotting in Dogs
Dogs that are going to die of heat-induced illness usually die within the first 24 hours following the event.
AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION IS WORTH A POUND OF CURE IN THE CASE OF HEAT
In the hot summer months, think before you wag. Keep a close eye on your pets, give them plenty of access to shade, water, and resting time. If you want to do what’s best for your furry companion, remember that they are different from us when it comes to regulating their body temperature, and that an extra eye needs to be kept on them once we start sweating in their environment.
1. Do not ever lock your dog in your car. If you have to run errands, leave the dog at home. Period! Those 5 minutes can turn into over 30 minutes in no time! This rule applies to both men and women! No exceptions! Applies to pets and children!
2. If your dog is an outdoor dog, make sure there is shade available all day and that there is plenty access to cool water. A baby pool/pet bath in the shade would be best.
3. Dogs should be properly groomed so that their hair doesn’t get too long. Dogs with long hair are more susceptible to heat stroke and other hot weather problems.
4. Exercise your dog less vigorously and if you feel like a run do it preferably in the early morning when the earth has reached its longest time away from the sun’s heat
5. Hot pavement is painful to human feet and dog paws alike, and can result in painful injuries to your dog. Avoid letting your dog walk on hot asphalt, sidewalks, and hot truck beds. Let the dog run in the grass, mulch or earth ground next to the sidewalk
6. Be particularly careful with older dogs, dogs with short noses, such as pugs and bulldogs, overweight animals, and dogs with heavy fur
7. If you're out with your dog in warm weather, carry cool water for both of you and offer it about every 20 minutes. Rest in the shade often
8. If you clip your dog's fur short in the summertime, avoid situations that could cause sunburn. Dogs are particular susceptible to sunburn of the skin, ears, and nose.
ADDITIONAL RISK FACTORS INCLUDE:
• Previous history of heat-related disease
• Age extremes (very young, very old)
• Heat intolerance due to poor acclimatization to the environment (such as a heavy coated dog in a hot geographical location – aka a husky in Florida)
• Poor heart/lung conditioning
• Underlying heart/lung disease
• Existing breathing difficulty and/or heart disease condition
• Collapsed trachea
• Increased levels of thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism)
• Short-nosed, flat-faced (brachycephalic) breeds
• Thick hair coat
• Dehydration, insufficient water intake, restricted access to water
• Being muzzled while put under a hair dryer
• Suffering from a high fever or seizures
• Being confined on concrete or asphalt surfaces
• Being confined without shade and fresh water in hot weather
• Being confined in a car when outside air temperature exceeds 70° F (21° C)
DOGS LEFT IN CARS ARE SUBJECTED TO THE FOLLOWING
RADICAL TEMPERATURE CHANGES
• 72°F outside air – Inside car temp will rocket to 116 degrees within 60 minutes
• 85°F outside air – inside car temp in 10 minutes =102°F
• Outside air temp 80°F
– Starting inside car temp 80°F
– After 10 minutes - Inside car temp 99°F
– After 20 minutes – Inside car temp 109°F
– After 30 minutes – Inside car temp 114°F
– After 40 minutes – Inside car temp 118°F
– After 50 minutes – Inside car temp 120°F
– After 60 minutes – Inside car temp 123°F
- Kirk and Bistner’s Handbook of Veterinary Procedures and Emergency Treatment by Richard B Ford & Elisa M Mazzaferro