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Heatstroke

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Summer is here and veterinaries are once again seeing cases of heatstroke - a very serious, even fatal, condition which is completely avoidable with raised awareness. Heatstroke is a condition that occurs when your pet's body is absorbing more heat than it can release, sometimes with tragic consequences. Yes, this week we are fear mongering a little, and for good reason. Dogs are most susceptible (particular some types), but so are cats and even birds. Please be careful this summer and indeed all year round. The desert is always the desert, no matter what time of year.

Some Causes

  • For dogs, a simple midday walk under the UAE sun can result in heatstroke. Be careful!
  • Being left in a car.
  • Exercising in hot, humid weather.
  • Dogs and cats suffering from heart or lung diseases, which affects the efficiency of their breathing.
  • Being confined to concrete or asphalt surfaces. And for birds, being confined to a cage exposed to the heat.
  • Insufficient access to shade and fresh water.
  • And having a history of heatstroke can exacerbate matters.

Some Signs

  • Panting (especially in dogs but also in birds), with the tongue and membranes in the mouth appearing bright red.
  • Weakness and fatigue.
  • Vomiting or diarrhea or both, sometimes with blood.
  • Muscle spasms.
  • Signs of confusion.
  • Staggering or lying down.
  • For cats, compulsive grooming to cool themselves down.
  • Birds will extend their wings from their body a little to cool down. They may appear anxious, agitated or have a blank stare. Panting can become very heavy, with rocking back and forth, and difficulty balancing.

Prevention

  • Do not exercise dogs in hot, humid conditions.
  • On hot days, walk your dog early morning and late afternoon.
  • Fresh, cool water should be available all the time, even when walking.
  • Don't leave your pet in a vehicle, even if the windows are down.
  • Especially during summer months, always provide access to a cool environment. And don't assume your pet always knows when to move out of the heat, so never leave them in the hot outdoors unsupervised.
  • Be even more vigilant with dogs and cats which are black or dark-coated, old, overweight or snub-nosed.
  • For birds, avoid leaving their cage near a window - glass can greatly magnify the sun's intensity. And always have cool water for drinking and bathing available.

Treatment

  • The most important part of treatment is recognising that your dog is overheating and that you then interve... FAST!!
  • The main goal in treatment is to bring the core body temperature down to normal. First, get your pet out of the heat and inside to an air-conditioned space. Towels should be soaked in room-temperature water which are then placed over the dog, and a fan should be blowing air directly onto your dog, who is now covered in wet towels. He literally becomes a wet blanket!
  • NEVER use ice-water or fridge-water... these are too cold and cause vasoconstriction and encourages shivering which, believe it or not, merely generates MORE heat... and this is NOT what we want to do!
  • If your dog is collapsed and/or showing signs of mental dullness, he needs to be taken to the vet immediately for intravenous fluids and treatment of shock. The problem is that if they have heated up to severe degrees, they literally cook their kidneys, intestines and central nervous systems... a "chilling" thought but frighteningly true nonetheless. So, if your animal, as he cools down, is still not reacting normally and becoming better in any way at all, he needs to get the vet as soon as possible.
  • And even if you think your pooch is fine and now cooled down... you would not be a paranoid mom if you took him to the vet anyway, just to be absolutely sure he is alright.

 

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