Archive for Thursday, August 16, 2007

Dog days not kind to man’s best friend

August 16, 2007

Last week after finishing supper, I looked up at my lovely wife of 23 years and noticed that all too familiar look in her eyes. Now before you start thinking the wrong thing here folks, both of us almost in unison blurted out, "Wanna go for some ice cream?"

"Thought you would never suggest it," my wife added.

As we drove down our country lane toward the nearest paved road, the most direct route to Dairy Queen, we passed by a farm house known for its cat population.

"Did you see that cat on top of the car back there?" she said.

"What? No, I was checking on the sunset," I replied.

"Man, it must be hot if even the cats are panting. That cat back there was panting so hard it looked ready to check out," she said.

Even at 8:30 p.m., the temperature was 94 degrees with a soaking humidity, thanks to the unexpected but needed rainfall last Wednesday night. I think I will go out back and dig me a deep hole in the dirt like my dog does to get cool. It might just keep me from getting overheated.

Blame it on the movement of the jet stream, they say, but, once again, it's time to talk about heatstroke or hyperthermia. Maybe we can prevent tragedy and the loss of a beloved pet as we wait out this recent heat wave.

Hyperthermia is the elevation of the core body temperature, generally greater than 104 degrees as the normal body temperature is 101 degrees. Dogs are much more prone to this condition than cats.

Farm animals seem well adapted to the fluctuations in the temperatures, thus having less trouble. I must say, though, we encourage you to occasionally hose down you horse with cool water and place a fan in its stall.

As for dogs, dogs with undershot jaws -- bulldogs, pugs, boxers and other brachiocephalic breeds -- overweight and pediatric, geriatric and dark collared are all susceptible to overheating. Those dogs, like human counterparts, that lounge inside in the AC and the go out to take a vigorous walk or exercise with their owners are more prone, also.

Common signs of heatstroke are obvious excessive panting, collapse or inability to rise -- especially after walking or running, vomiting and/or diarrhea, seizures and/or tremors and altered mental states. These dogs also may have very red mucous membranes or gums, may have increased respiratory effort, and loud upper airway sounds.

If you encounter your pet with suspected heatstroke, immediately remove it from the source of heat. One should initiate cooling with cool baths via garden hose or bathtub sprayer.

Avoid cooling too rapidly, as with ice bathes, and stop cooling at about 103 degrees. Remember, a dog sweats through its mouth and footpads. Therefore, avoid the hot pavement when walking.

If your dog appears unresponsive and begins to show the serious signs above, seek emergency care at you local veterinarian as soon as possible.

Yesterday, as I returned to the office from lunch, I paused at a stop sign on the main drag in De Soto. I looked both ways, as always, and about a block from me, a young lady was briskly walking both of her dogs on a leash down the sidewalk.

I looked at my dash and the temperature outside registered at 99 degrees. I shook my head and said a prayer for the dogs.

This is exactly the wrong time to walk your dog. The outside temperature is nearly 100 degrees and the pavement, where the pads of the dog are, may be higher, I could only think, and hope it had better be a short walk for the dogs' sake.

A few years ago, a client presented a 17-year old, black-haired dog for signs of a heatstroke. According to the owner, the dog had gone to sleep on the lawn outside and awoke hours later.

The dog's core temperature was 107 degrees. A cool bath, cool intravenous fluids and shock therapy saved this geriatric dog's life.

These situations are just a few instances of the potential this heat wave can have on the health of our pets. You need to use common sense and remember your pets wear a winter coat of fur, so to speak, and have cooling systems vastly different from ours.

Keep them cool, provide plenty of shade and cool water and do not overexert your pet in the heat.

You will have plenty of time for long walks or to play frisbee or fetch soon. In the mean time, stay cool.

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