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AVOIDING HEAT INJURY IN DOGS

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Avoiding Heat Related Injuries in Dogs
Nate Baxter DVM

The first thing that needs to be understood is that dogs and people are
different enough that most of the info cannot cross lines. I do not profess to know what the appropriate procedures for people other than what I learned
in first aid.
 
Dogs do not lose enough electrolytes thru exercise to make a difference, but
if the dog gets truly into heat stroke the physiology changes will make them
necessary. BUT oral replacement at that point is futile, they need IV and Lots of it.
 
Cooling: Evaporative cooling is the most efficient mean of cooling.  However, in a muggy environment, the moisture will not evaporate so cooling does not happen well. I cool with the coldest water I can find and will use ice depending on the situation. The best way is to run water over the dog, so there is always fresh water in contact. When you immerse a dog in a tub, the water trapped in the hair coat will get warm next to the dog, and act as an
insulator against the cool water and cooling stops. If you can run water
over the dog and place it in front of a fan that is the best. Misting the dog with water will only help if you are in a dry environment or in front of a fan. Just getting the dog wet is not the point, you want the water to be cool itself, or to evaporate.
 
For MOST situations all you will need to do is get the dog in a cooler
environment, ie shade, or in the cab of the truck with the air conditioning
on (driving around so the truck does not overheat and the AC is more efficient). Up to a couple of years ago, I was very concerned about my dogs getting too hot in the back of my black pickup with a black cap. New white truck fixed a lot of that problem. When I had one dog I just pulled the wire crate out of the car and put it in some shade and hopefully a breeze.  But having 2 dogs and running from one stake to another, that was not
feasible.  So I built a platform to put the wire crates on, this raises the dog up in
the truck box where the air flow is better. Then I placed a 3 speed box fan in front blowing on the dogs with a foot of space to allow better airflow. I purchased a power inverter that connects to the battery and allows the 3 speed fan to run from the truck power. It has an automatic feature that prevents it from draining the battery. When I turned that fan on medium I would find that the dogs where asleep, breathing slowly and appeared
very relaxed and comfortable in a matter of 20 minutes or less, even on very hot
muggy days.
 
Alcohol: I do carry it for emergiencies. It is very effective at cooling due to the rapid evaporation. It should be used when other methods are not working. You should be on your way to the veterinarian before you get to this point. We recommend using rubbing alcohol, which is isopropyl alcohol, not ethyl, for those of you not aware. So do not try to drink it.  Alcohol should be used on the pads and lower feet area where there is little more than skin and blood vessels over the bones. Use a little bit and let it
evaporate, you can use too much as some is absorbed through the skin.
There are concerns about toxicity, but you have to get the temperature down.
 
UPDATE NOTE-alcohol has fallen out of favor with ER specialists, use it only as a last ditch effort if nothing else works.
 
I purchased those cooling pads, but found that the dogs would not lay on
them. I would hold them on the back of a dog that just worked to get a quick cool, but have not use them for years. I also bought a pair of battery operated fans but found them pretty useless. Spend your money on the power inverter and get a real fan.
 
Watching temperature: If you feel your dog is in danger of heat injury,
check its temp and write it down. Keep checking the temp every 3 minutes. I
recommend to get a "rectal glass thermometer. The digital ones for the
drug store I have found to be very unreliable, Don't forget to shake it down
completely each time, sounds silly, but when are worried about your companion, things tend to get mixed up. This is VERY IMPORTANT**once the temp STARTS to drop, STOP ALL COOLING EFFORTS. The cooling process will
continue even though you have stopped. If the temp starts at 106.5, and then
next time it drops to 105.5, stop cooling the dog, dry it off, and continue monitoring. You will be amazed how it continues to go down. If you do not
stop until the temp is 102, the temp will drop way too low. I cannot emphasis this point enough.
 
When the dog is so heated that it is panting severely, only let it have a few laps of water. Water in the stomach does not cool the dog, you just need to keep the mouth wet so the panting is more effective. Do not worry about hydration until the temp has started down. A dog panting heavily taking in large amounts of water is a risk of bloat. Due to the heavy panting they will swallow air, mixed with a large amount of water they can bloat.  Once the temp is going down and panting has slowed to more normal panting then allow water. The dog will rehydrate it self after temp is normal. If
the dog has a serious problem and even though you have gotten the temp normal,
get the dog to a vet, as it can still need IV fluids and some medication.
Also, a case of heat stroke can induce a case of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis
(not parvo), with a ton of very bloody diarrhea and a lot of fluid and electrolyte loss. These cases need aggressive treatment.
 
The best method of treatment is prevention. Learn to watch your dog,
and see the changes in the size of the tongue, and how quickly it goes down.
Learn your dogs response to the different environments, and be careful when you head south for an early season hunt test or trial. I have been to Nashville
at the end of May, only 5 hours away, but the difference in temp and humidity did effect the dogs as they were used to more spring weather in Ohio. Try different things in training to help the dog cool and learn what works better.  Another very important point=> Do not swim your hot dog to cool it then put in put in a box/tight crate. Remember, evaporation can not take place in a tight space, and the box will turn into a sauna and you will cook your dog. Carry a stake out chain, and let the dog cool and dry
before putting it up.
 
I know this is a bit long, but hopefully this is easy to understand and helps provide some useful information.
Remember: Prevention, learn your dog. It is worth the time and effort.
_________________
Nate Baxter, DVM
Lebanon, OH

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Most of the information on my site is from my own views, opinions, or research that I have done.  Where appropriate I have sited my sources and links to their sites.  Do not take my opinions as that of a licensed vet.   Any person  that relies solely on my information does so at their own risk.