Vets warn of heat stroke – June 10, 2011

Veterinarians warn that with high temps, heat stroke can be fatal for dogs

Published: Thursday, June 09, 2011

Of The Oakland Press

Had a passerby not alerted police, a dog left in a car might have died from heat in Troy.

A person called Troy police at 2:58 p.m. on Tuesday to report a dog left in an unattended vehicle in the hot sun.

The dog appeared in distress and the person was giving it some water through a window that was partially rolled down. An officer arrived at 3:07 p.m. at 4550 Investment Drive and the temperature outside was 98 degrees.

The officer, who is a K-9 officer, immediately extracted the dying dog from the vehicle. The dog was taken over into the building to cool it down.

Oakland County Animal Control responded and took possession of the dog.

Attempts were made to contact the owner with no results. The officer waited until 4 p.m. but the owner never returned to the vehicle. Had the person not contacted police, Troy officials said, the dog surely would have died from the heat.

The abnormally hot temperatures so far this June have veterinarians reminding pet owners that heat stroke can strike our four-legged friends too.

“We’ve already had a couple cases this season,” said Dr. Sara Snow, veterinarian at Oakland Veterinary Referral Services, or OVRS. “It got hot really fast.”

The Bloomfield Hills-based specialty practice has a 24-hour emergency room, so Snow said it’s not uncommon for them to see emergency cases of heat stroke.

“It’s very dangerous,” she said. “It can be fatal.”

Pam Porteous, manager of the Animal Care Network, said she’s come across three cats in Pontiac that appear to have died from heat stroke. The group sends volunteers into Pontiac neighborhoods for welfare checks.

Porteous said that with the recent heat, volunteers are focused on “water patrol.”

“Water is our most important thing,” Porteous said. “None of these dogs have water; they have dirt in their bowls. I don’t understand it.”

Early signs of heat stroke in dogs include uncontrollable panting, bright red gums, staggering and in general, behaving disoriented, said Dr. Joel Smiler, staff veterinarian at the Oxford Veterinary Hospital in Oxford.

“The first thing to do is to try to cool the dog off with cold water and a fan, but I wouldn’t go too long with just home remedies,” said Smiler. “If you’re really suspicious if the dog is going into heat stroke, go to your veterinarian or an emergency veterinarian.”

Vomiting, diarrhea and pacing can also be “red flags,” Snow said.

Once symptoms are present, heat stroke can progress quickly.

“It gets bad in a hurry,” he said. “Then you have a collapse and once it’s heat stroke, the dog can’t control their temperature so sometimes, no matter what you do, you can’t regulate their temperature.”

Heat stroke can require hospitalization, cooling, IV fluid therapy, antibiotics, blood transfusions if the heat stroke creates issues with blood clotting, and more, Snow said.

“There’s a whole spectrum,” Snow said. “There’re dogs that just need a little help to cool off and dogs that are here for over a week.”

To prevent heat stroke, Smiler recommends keeping dogs inside in air conditioning, if possible, or ensuring shade and water is available if left outside.

“A fan works really well,” Smiler said. “Fans are incredibly effective in cooling them off.”

Placing cold wash rags on a dog’s paw pads and head can also help to cool them down, he said, since the pads play a role in temperature regulation for dogs. Ice and cool water can also be used to cool a dog.

Avoiding walks and exercise is a good tip for dealing with the heat. Not only can the physical activity bring on heat stroke in such extreme temperatures, but scorching hot asphalt can injure a dog’s paws as well, Smiler said.

For many long-haired dog breeds, shaving can sometimes do more harm than good.

“Most of the time it’s better not to (shave a long-haired dog) because it provides some protection from the heat, unless you have a really heavily coated dog like a Husky,” Smiler said. “If you do shave your dog, you want to leave some coat on because they can get sunburned just like people.”

Dogs left outside with shade and water will usually be all right, he said.

“They naturally just know they shouldn’t be out running around and will just sit there and cool themselves,” he said. “The main thing is shade and water.”

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