Archive for Thursday, July 12, 2001

Pet talk

July 12, 2001

I don't know about you, but did God turn off the air conditioning to save a few bucks?

It's definitely July in northeastern Kansas, and we're in for a typical summer hot and muggy. Our pets are just like us, having special wants and needs at this time of year, especially when they get hot.

Hyperthermia is defined as excessive body temperature (105 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit) in the absence of infection (due to virus or bacteria). When an infection is present, normally, the brain will not allow the system to overheat, but in hyperthermia, regulation of body temperature is lost.

At above 109 degrees, organ failure begins, where cells of the body begin to die. All animals and humans are prone to hyperthermia, but our discussion will pertain mainly to dogs and cats.

Generally, animals overheats by accident. We all have seen the obvious; that is, the pet that has been left unattended in the car for a period of time.

Be careful in this situation. Even if the pet is left with the windows cracked, the interior of the car can get extremely hot. If air is not flowing, this is a deadly combination. Long-haired, dark coated, or pug-nosed dogs (boxers, bull dogs, pugs, etc.) are more susceptible. Animals are all predisposed to hyperthermia if left in a hot, unventilated locale where there is no shade.

One example of "heat stroke" was an old, long-haired dog that went to sleep midmorning in the backyard of its owner's home and failed to wake up in time to seek shade. By the time it awoke, its body temperature had risen to 107 degrees and soon it was in shock.

What is necessary to pull an overheated animal out of its trouble? Reversal of the body temperature and early recognition are the keys.

To cool an animal down, the owner should spray the pet down and cool with an electric fan before transport to a veterinary clinic. Rubbing alcohol can be applied to the footpads, underarms and groin. Body temperature should be monitored until it reaches 103 degrees and efforts made to avoid a too-fast drop in body temperature.

Avoid ice baths because shivering and vasoconstriction of blood vessels lessen heat loss.

Severe hyperthermia/heatstroke often poses an acute, life-threatening emergency situation. Most animals upon arrival to a veterinary clinic may need intensive care via intravenous fluids, oxygen therapy, and constant monitoring depending on the severity of the episode.

Get in touch with your veterinarian as soon as possible if you suspect your pet has overheated. The sooner the situation is corrected, the better.

It's only smart to locate your dog's kennel in the shade in a well-ventilated spot and have frequent water available.

If you can, let your cat or dog inside in the heat of the day, especially in the basement where it's cool. You'll do them a favor and they will "beat the heat" like we do every summer.

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