Most pet owners are aware of the dangers of leaving their pet in a hot car or taking their dog for a run on a sweltering summer day. However, heatstroke is not limited to those situations by a long shot.
Consider this story:
It was a lovely early summer day. The temperature was hovering around 70 F (21 C) and Baker was heading out to walk to the park with her owner. Baker is an active 5 year old female/spayed Labrador Retriever. Like most Labs, Baker is ball crazy and when they reached the park a game of fetch the ball ensued. But on this day, after chasing & fetching the ball several times , Baker seemed very reluctant to return the ball to her owner and they decided to return home. Her owner tried to get the ball from her but Baker insisted on carrying the ball in her mouth, all the way home, which was a fairly long way.
When they got home, Baker. appeared to be panting excessively. She went into the backyard where she collapsed and could not get up.
Baker was rushed to Royal York Animal Hospital. By the time she got to the hospital, Baker could not stand. Her abdomen was very sore and her body temperature was 105.4 F (40.8C) Normal body temperature for a dog is 100 – 102 F (37.7 – 38.8 C)
What do you think was wrong with Baker?
If you guessed Heat Stroke you would be correct but this is not be most pet owner’s first thought and they would not recognize this as an ermergency.
Baker was admittted to the hospital and the Royal York Veterinary Team performed emergency life saving procedures. Radiographs (xrays) were taken as Baker’s abdomen was so sore & painful to touch. The radiographs showed that her stomach and intestines were full of air. This would have been caused from extra swallowing from carrying the ball home in her mouth. Due to the fact that dogs perspire through their tongues the ball had made it difficult for Baker to get a good air supply when she was already over-heated.
Baker’s body temperature had then started to climb dangerously high. As her body temperature climbed, essentially the body organs start to “bake”.
Luckily Baker did not sustain permanent organ damage as her owner was quick to act and Royal York Animal Hospital was quick to cool Baker’s temperature with cold water towels, icepacks, IV fluids and a medication called Sulcrate to help with any secondary hemmorhagic enteritis. (internal bleeding).
The excessive gas in the stomach would have predisposed Baker to Stomach Bloat (a secondary emergency and often fatal condition) but this was averted in time and BAKER MADE A FULL RECOVERY.
This is a particular cautionary tale as the weather was only warm but not hot BUT Baker is an energetic, ball chasing dog.
Extra care also needs to be taken if your dog is a “flat faced” breed (Pugs, Bulldogs, Boston Terriers etc) because their airways are already often compromised and they can become overcome with the heat very quickly.Dogs that are very active can over-heat in milder temperatures especially if they are continually holding objects in their mouths
Bottom line: Know your dog and pay attention: If its too hot for you to go for a long or brisk walk or play in the park then it is definitely too hot for your dog and could be fatal. Also, if you suspect your pet is suffering from heat stroke don’t delay — cover your dog with a cold, wet towel and transport immediately to your nearest Veterinary Hospital.
Sadly, we see quite a few of this types of emergencies during the summer and all don’t end quite as happily.
Dr. John Allen
Royal York Animal Hospital 416-231-9293
4222 Dundas St West, Etobicoke, Ontario