Now That it's (finally) Hot, How Much do You Know about Heatstroke?
Over the past few days, Brooklyn has had a little taste of summer. And while most of us are likely beyond eager to bury the memory of this past winter like a bone in the backyard, summer—for our four-legged amigos—is not without its potential hazards.
Curse this (beautiful, lustrous, hypoallergenic) coat of hair on such days!
Indeed, the rising temps can spell peril for some pups. These can include very young, very old, compromised dogs, little pups close to the ground, Northern breeds and big pups with a large volume to keep cool. There are other dogs, who thrive in the new warmth.
As Brooklyn dog walkers, we notice the Time-Spent-Outside to Panting ratio during the warmer weather can be about the time it takes to cover a city block. This being markedly quicker than in the cooler months when Fluffy would literally high-step it back into the apartment after a half-hour walk around the neighborhood and look up at us like, “Wait. That’s it?! C’mon! I was just gettin’ warmed up out there!”
Unlike us humanoids, dogs can’t sweat. And while that might be enviable in certain social situations, it is decidedly not when you are smack dab in the middle of downtown Brooklyn under a beating sun.
Shady region of sidewalk spotted! Must. Cross. Street.
Heatstroke in dogs is something to be acutely aware of as we turn the corner into summer. While Peteducation.com lists “coma” as one of the (obviously most severe) signs that a dog is suffering from an excessively high internal body temperature, we’re going to make sure that we can identify the onset of heatstroke long—long—before that happens.
Can we just...can we just stay here until...I don't know...fall?
So what does heatstroke even look like?
- Panting—of the heavy, rapid sort—is a good place to start as far as indicators go. And looking beyond (or around that), the mouth, in general, is perhaps the locus in which heatstroke symptoms are most easily registered. Look for:
- Bright red tongue
- Red or pale gums (while inspecting the gums, you can perform a capillary refill test in order to gauge adequate blood flow)
- Thick, sticky saliva
You may also notice a stiff bout of lethargy. If, for instance, Fluffy responds to the tennis ball you just hurled fifty yards downfield by watching it kick up dirt with each successive bounce, and looks back at you like you are totally nuts if you expect him to chase after it, he might be trying to tell you something. Namely, that he’d be mighty grateful if you got out of the sun and poured some cool water all over his body (Note: cool, not cold water is the safest approach). Or, if you think Fluffy would muster his last bit of energy to run the other way if you came at him with water, try putting him in a wet t-shirt.
I feel you tugging. I do. It's just, ya see, it's still SO hot. ...What's that? WATER?! OK!
Other symptoms include, dizziness, diarrhea, and vomiting. If your pup’s been outside, and is exhibiting any of these, begin proper cooling measures and then take him or her to a veterinarian in order to check for potential dehydration or other complications, and to be treated accordingly.
This is the best, most refreshingist water EVER.
The good news is that with adequate access to shade and water—and responsible high-temp pup care like limiting activity on excessively hot days—Fluffy should have no difficulty in staying comfortable while enjoying the outdoors this season.
OK. I'm good. Let's go back outside. Like, now. And maybe bring some more of this water.