Treating Heat Stress in Dogs

HEAT STRESS
By Dr Karen Hedberg BVSc
Heat stress usually occurs on a very hot day, or on a moderately hot day following several consecutive hot days. It may also occur if a dog is in an area with restricted air circulation, such as a closed car, crate, tent or a dog trailer.
Heat gradually removes the dog’s body reserves of sugar and salts, so that the longer a hot period lasts, the quicker the heat stress can occur. The dog’s main ways of losing heat are:
1. RESPIRATION - through panting.
2. SWEATING - through pads only.
3. HEAT LOSS - through areas of minimal hair, i.e. belly and anus.
Symptoms of Heat Stress
The dog suffering heat stress is usually very sluggish and reluctant to move. Respiration is extremely rapid and the mucous membranes, i.e. the gums and conjunctiva are bluish in colour. The breathing is extremely laboured, there is usually very little salivation and the dog may vomit, stagger and collapse. If the dog is not treated at this stage, it will shortly die.
Treatment
The number one priority is to cool the dog fairly rapidly. The most important area to cool first is the head and neck, particularly the neck. The blood going to the brain is cooled, in turn preventing brain damage and settling down the respiration rate.
Turn a tap on full bore to wet the dog thoroughly and keep running the water over the dog, starting on the head and neck. Also, if you have any ice, place some on the bridge of the nose (especially important on short-nosed breeds) and on the sides of the neck. Keep the water flowing over the dog until it’s respiration settles down. You can wet the dogs mouth, but don’t expect the dog to swallow too much water as it may be incapable of swallowing at this stage…too much water and you will choke the dog.
When the dog starts to breathe in a less laboured manner, turn off the tap and keep sponging the dog down with wet towels. Too rapid a temperature drop can cause brain damage. As the respiration rate returns to normal, leave the dog sitting on a wet towel and give it a small drink of water.
** Do not wrap the dog up. DO NOT PLACE WET TOWELS OVER THE DOG as it does not allow the heat to escape - REMEMBER THAT HEAT RISES. **
As soon as the dog settles down take it to the nearest Vet if it has not returned to normal quickly. The Vet will usually administer a very short-acting cortisone which returns the body systems to normal and helps the dog to recover from the stress of what has happened. It is an idea to administer electrolytes either intravenously if the dog was severely affected, or orally if it was less severe. The electrolytes replace the salts that the body has lost. Very weak glucose solutions with electrolytes are a help. Nothing concentrated should be given; the idea is to re-hydrate the dog,  i.e. return fluid to the system.
Prevention of Heat Stress
Prevention of heat stress is of course better than cure.
1. Always ensure that your dog/s have adequate shade and water. If the dog for some reason has to be left in confined area ensure that:
     a.      Ventilation is more than adequate.
     b.      Shade is available.
     c.      Water is always available.
2. Puppies and older dogs are especially susceptible to heat stress. If  your dog falls into this category you should always leave a wet towel or           
    wet newspaper over part of the area where they are kept. Also, if you freeze a large dish of water it can be left  with the dog, so that the ice will
    melt gradually during the day. Leave a sprinkler going over the shed if applicable; if not, direct a fan over the animals to stir the air. If using a
    fan with puppies make sure the fan is directed OVER them and not ON them.
3. In hotter weather it is a good idea to give your dog electrolyte salts to help prevent heat stress. There are two additives that are very helpful,
     especially after several hot days.
     a.   Bicarbonate of soda is the main salt that is lost during heat and is therefore the most important to replace. Give large dogs one flat
           teaspoon daily; if it’s very hot double the quantity of bicarb. Put the bicarb in the food, they don’t like it in their water.    
      b.  Electrolytes - various brands are available - give one flat teaspoon for average to large breeds.
4.   If travelling in hot weather, in addition to the salts or bicarb always travel with plenty of ice and water and if the dogs are at all distressed,  
      place them on wet towels. The dogs will cool quickest through their feet, belly and anus. Remember hot air rises so don’t cover the dogs  
      with wet towels.

REMEMBER…PLENTY OF SHADE, VENTILATION, WATER AND SALTS and a small amount of glucose.

REMEMBER…that heat stress can occur on a relatively mild day, especially if it’s been hot for the several previous days.

Reprinted here with the kind permission of Dr Karen Hedberg BVSc


Contact Details

Jenni Cameron & Lem Awdjew
Brisbane Valley-Brisbane, QLD, Australia
Email : [email protected]