IN the continuous hot weather, dogs are likely to get heatstroke. According to Vivian from JAR Animal Rescue, owner of three pugs, dogs are sensitive to high temperature. “They keep going around my feet, breathing and wheezing heavily, so that I will turn on the air conditioner. Once it’s on, they will find the coolest spot with wind and sit still.”
According to veterinarians, it’s best to take precautions before any heatstroke occurs. In summer, owners should avoid walking dogs in direct sunshine, especially around noon. Since the summer heat increases water consumption drastically, “you need to guarantee there’s drinking water 24 hours a day,” says veterinarian Tan Guang in Shanghai.
When taking a walk outside, remember to bring a bottle of water to meet the dog’s needs. Tan reminds owners of certain breeds to pay special attention, for they are easy targets of heatstroke. Pekingese, Chihuahua, Pomeranian, pug and bulldog are likely to get heatstroke because of their short nasal cavities, while Husky, Samoyed and Alaskan malamutes, used to colder climates, have thick coats and thus are less able to stand the summer heat.
Leashes are needed to control dogs’ range of activity. However, neck and chest straps should be immediately loosened once the dog shows minor symptoms of heatstroke. According to William Wang, a Shanghai veterinarian, most dogs will lie down to rest when they are tired. Owners shouldn’t encourage them to walk if they do this. Dogs that are obese or have cardiovascular disease shouldn’t go out during the day in summer. And hairy dogs can be better prepared for summer by shaving.
As a dog owner, Vivian offers some practical tips. “Keep the room well-ventilated and cool when you leave dogs alone in the apartment. It’s not just high temperature that could cause heatstroke; being in a stuffy room can, too,” she says.
She suggests that owners keep the room cool and avoid sudden rise and fall in temperature. When walk dogs in the evenings, she usually takes bottled water as well as wet towels and alcohol, “just in case.”
Symptoms to look out for
Wang suggests that dog owners keep an eye on the following symptoms, which often indicate a heatstroke. When a dog is panting or breathing in a labored fashion, the owner should observe the color of his oral mucosa — the color of his gums. Congestive or pale gums usually indicate heatstroke, accompanied by symptoms like convulsion of the limbs, trembling, high fever, tachycardia, coma or shock. A dog showing symptoms of convulsion should be given something to bite, a bone or twig, preventing him from biting his own tongue.
“The degrees of heatstroke can be divided as minor, moderate and severe,” Tan says.
Drooling, restlessness and breathing heavily can be signs of minor heatstroke, while dull-looking and trouble breathing indicate moderate heatstroke. In the most severe case, a dog may be unconscious or in a coma, meaning he is in desperate need of emergency treatment.
First aid measures
Since heatstroke is an acute and potentially fatal condition for dogs, it’s essential they be sent to a hospital as soon as possible. According to Wang, emergency treatment for heatstroke includes intravenous infusion and oxygen inhalation. “Any delay could lead to respiratory acidosis and visceral injury,” he says.
On the way to the hospital, make sure that the dog’s head keeps in a low position with his airway clear. The body temperature can be cooled by wrapping him in a blanket soaked with cold water.
In case there is no hospital around, the owner should take some first-aid measures. First, the dog must be removed from a high-temperature environment with his neck strap untied. If it’s just minor heatstroke, the dog will gradually recover in a cool environment with sufficient fresh water. Food with a high liquid content is the best choice during this time.
For moderate heatstroke, the dog should be given a cold water shower or bath immediately to cool his body temperature. Ice cubes could be used for cold compress in the belly area and an alcohol scrub for the paws.
For severe cases, alcohol should be used to scrub the whole body.
“Owners can try pushing water through the anus using an injection syringe, then immediately send the dog to the hospital,” says Tan.