Tips for treating heatstroke
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From Veterinary Partner
Veterinary Partner is a worldwide online community of thousands of veterinarians. Here is their official advice as to what to do — and what not to do — in providing first aid to a dog that you suspect is suffering heatstroke:
Initially the pet appears distressed, and will pant excessively and become restless. As the hyperthermia progresses, the pet may drool large amounts of saliva from the nose and/or mouth. The pet may become unsteady on his feet. You may notice the gums turning blue/purple or bright red in color, which is due to inadequate oxygen.
What to Do
- Remove your pet from the environment where the hyperthermia occurred.
- Move your pet to shaded and cool environment, and direct a fan on her.
- If possible, determine rectal temperature and record it.
- Begin to cool the body by placing cool, wet towels over the back of the neck, in the armpits, and in the groin region. You may also wet the ear flaps and paws with cool water. Directing a fan on these wetted areas will help to speed evaporative cooling.
- Transport to the closest veterinary facility immediately.
What NOT to Do
- Do not use cold water or ice for cooling.
- Do not overcool the pet.
- Most pets with hyperthermia have body temperatures greater than 105°F, and a reasonable goal of cooling is to reduce your pet’s body temperature to 102.5-103°F while transporting her to the closest veterinary facility.
- Do not attempt to force water into your pet’s mouth, but you may have fresh cool water ready to offer should your pet be alert and show an interest in drinking.
- Do not leave your pet unattended for any length of time.
Rapidly cooling the pet is extremely important. While ice or cold water may seem logical, its use is not advised. Cooling the innermost structures of the body will actually be delayed, as ice or cold water will cause superficial blood vessels to shrink, effectively forming an insulating layer of tissue to hold the heat inside. Tap water is more suitable for effective cooling.
From Tufts University Foster Hospital for Small Animals
Excerpts from “Take Shade: Preventing Heat-Related Illness”
A dog’s regular body temperature is 101 degrees. Anything above 103 degrees is abnormal and signs of heat exhaustion may become apparent; between 105-107 degrees it can begin to affect their thought processes. One of the first signs of heat exhaustion is intense panting. The tongue may look larger than normal, taking on a wide flat shape that is hanging out of the animal’s mouth. Your pet may not want to stand up and begin to seem disoriented, confused or dizzy.
You should contact your veterinarian if your pet has any of these symptoms. In the meantime, give him/her water and a cool place to rest; an air conditioned room also works well. Take a rectal temperature every 10 minutes to monitor. If the temperature is above 104 degrees, towels soaked in cool water (not ice cold) can be placed around your pet’s neck to help with the cooling down process. You may also help the cooling process by spraying a dog with a garden hose or immersing him/her in a tub of cool water (for up to two minutes). You may find that mild cases can be resolved fairly easily by taking these steps. Once the temperature is down to 103, it is important to stop the cooling process. It is possible to overcool your dog and give him/her hypothermia if you cool their temp back to normal.
From the Humane Society of the United States
Excerpt from this downloadable, printable flyer:
If your pet is overheated, move him to a cooler area and take these emergency steps:
(1) Gradually lower his body temperature by applying cool (not cold) water all over his body or soaking him in a cool bath.
(2) Place cool, wet towels over the back of the neck, in the armpits, and in the groin area. You may also wet the ear flaps and paws with cool water. Direct a fan on the wet areas to speed evaporative cooling.
(3) You may offer fresh, cool water if your dog is alert and wants to drink. Do not force your pet to drink.
Take your pet immediately to a veterinarian — it could save his life. Call ahead, if possible, to be sure your veterinarian is available.
From the HeatKills.org interview with Ernie Ward, DVM
Excerpts from this interview:
You should not attempt to rapidly cool your dog. Instead, your objective should be to get the dog into a cool environment as quickly as possible, then to gradually lower its temperature through tap water, or cool water – not ice. […]
Many also don’t know that older dogs are the most vulnerable, and can actually suffer hidden damage, such as in the case of renal failure. A lot of these dogs, the symptoms don’t actually show up until a month later, but they were accelerated by an event in a hot car.
From the RSPCA (New South Wales, Australia) comes the JustSixMinutes campaign