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FAH News


July 18, 2011

With the heat of summer upon us, especially this week with temperatures predicted into the 90's, we need to remember that the pet members of our family require special precautions and care.


With cats, simply keep them in the coolest part of your house. If you do not have air conditioning, the basement may be the most comfortable room for them. As always, fresh water must always be available.

It is important to remember that dogs cannot control their body temperature by sweating as humans do, since they only have a relatively small number of sweat glands located in their footpads. Their primary way of regulating body temperature is by panting.  


To prevent them from suffering a heat stroke, take the following precautions:

1.   Limit walks to the very early morning hours just after dawn and in the evening after dusk. Not only is the heat dangerous to them, but also the scorching pavement. If possible, go outside only to let them go to the bathroom.

2.   Just as you should limit walks to the cooler hours, leave out the exercise altogether when the heat is excessive. Dogs are loyal to a fault. They will jog with their master, regardless of the temperature, until they succumb to heat stroke.

3.   As with the cats, if you do not have air conditioning, leave them in the coolest part of the house, such as the basement.

4.   Provide constant fresh water to them.

5.   NEVER take dogs for rides in the summer. The interior heats up too quickly and takes too long to cool down. The dog's body temperature in this situation can elevate very rapidly, often within minutes.

6.   Leave dogs at home and go to summer activities without them. Dogs do not benefit from large crowds, fireworks and potential health threats from unvaccinated and unhealthy dogs who urinate and leave waste behind to be walked in.

When considering travelling with your pets and taking them to functions, ask yourself how your cat or dog will benefit from it. Reasonably, the best place for them is their secure and comfortable home.

What is heat stroke?

Heat stroke is a term commonly used for hyperthermia or elevated body temperature. Generally speaking, if a pet's body temperature exceeds 103°F, it is considered abnormal or hyperthermic. Body temperatures above 106°F  without previous signs of illness are most commonly associated with exposure to excessive external or environmental heat and are often referred to as heat stroke. Even though the most common cause of heat stroke is a dog being left in a car, other common causes of heat stroke include being left in a yard without access to shade or water on a hot day, being exposed to a hair dryer for an extended period of time, and excessive or vigorous exercise during hot temperatures. Excited or excessively exercised dogs are sometimes at risk even if the environmental temperature and humidity does not appear hot. This is particularly true if they are kept in a poorly ventilated environment or dog house. And dogs that are muzzled for any reason can be at greater risk since their ability to pant is restricted by the muzzle.

If you have a feeling that your pet is not well, especially if your pet is in its senior years or has special needs,  and the temperature outside is posing risks, make an appointment with your veterinarian to have him/her checked out. Any infection causing fever can lead to hyperthermia. Seizures or severe muscle spasms can also elevate the body temperature due to the increase in muscular activity. 

What is the treatment for heat stroke? Hyperthermia is an immediate medical emergency. Get to your veterinarian immediately. Safe, controlled reduction of body temperature is a priority. Cool water (not cold) may be poured over the head, stomach, armpits and feet, or cool cloths may be applied to these areas.  Ice may be placed around the mouth and anus. Intravenous fluids, mild sedation and low-concentration oxygen therapy are also commonly used to treat heat stroke.

The prognosis depends on how high the body temperature elevated, how long the hyperthermia persisted and what the physical condition of the pet was prior to the heat stroke. If the body temperature did not become extremely high, most healthy pets will recover quickly if they are treated immediately. Some pets may experience permanent organ damage or may die at a later date from complications that developed secondarily to the hyperthermia. Pets that experience hyperthermia are at greater risk for subsequent heat stroke due to damage to the thermoregulatory center.

If you suspect that your pet is having a medical emergency related to heat, Call us as soon as possible at 679-1561. Use this number 24 hours per day. After normal business hours the doctor on-call leaves their cell phone number in the message and you can call him or her directly.