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Treating Overheated Pets & Heatstroke

by recycler on September 12, 2011

Heatstroke can be fatal, if not treated quickly & correctly.

Last week, we took a look at some general tips to protect your pets from succumbing to heat-related illnesses and some signs to help you know if your lovable little pet buddy was suffering from heat exhaustion or possibly heatstroke.

The heatwave in Southern California has dissipated over the weekend, but we felt it would be remiss for us not to share with you how to treat your animal, if your pet is indeed suffering symptoms of heatstroke or another heat-related illness.

Here are some things you can do to try to cool down your lovable little guy or girl:

(Note: As dogs are the most common pet affected by heat-related illnesses, this blog post is directed primarily at dog owners.)

First things first, if you believe your animal is overheated or possibly suffering from heatstroke, DO NOT give it or put it in ice cold water.

“When you put the cool water on, it helps the blood vessels of the skin dilate and dissipate the heat,” veterinarian Lori Teller told a Houston-based news organization. “If you use cold water, it actually makes the blood vessels constrict and traps the heat inside.”

Just the same as if you have hypothermia, you don’t immediately get into a sauna. Your vessels do the opposite of your desire. Instead of cooling down your pet, the ice water will make them even warmer as the blood vessels constrict and internally trap heat.

Know the signs and the steps to treating heatstroke.

Instead of ice cold water, the first thing you should do is get your pet out of any direct sunlight. Get them to a shaded area that has plenty of ventilation, allowing them to get fresh air. If you have a fan, allow it to blow on the pet.

Begin with some slightly cool water. There are several ways this can be accomplished. If you have a kiddie wading pool, fill the pool about half way up your pets body and immerse them in the water, making sure to cover their stomach area. If you don’t have a children’s pool, spray the animal with cool water from a hose and spray the area around the animal, so that if it gets up to move, it still has a cooler place to lie down. Wrapping cool towels around the pet or fanning the pet also can be used.

You want to cool the animal, but even though your pets are your best friends, don’t be overzealous. A gradual decline in temperature is best. If you lower the temperature to fast, you can put your pets at risk for other serious ailments.

Make sure when you are gradually lowering your pets’ body temperature that you are cooling key areas:

  • paws – the only area where dogs actually sweat
  • ears & neck – closest to the brain
  • stomach – best place to reach all the vital internal organs

After your pet has begun to cool down, begin applying ice packs to these areas and possibly include the groin as well. While you are going to want your best buddy to drink water, you don’t want him/her to drink too much. The intake must be controlled so he/she doesn’t over-drink.

It’s best to begin by just wetting the lips and mouth and then build from there as you are able to cool the animal.

Having a rectal thermometer is ideal so that you know your pet’s exact temperature. Once you get the dog down to between 103 and 104 degrees, it is time to turn to the pros. As soon as it is safely possible, you should then get your pet to a veterinarian to have him/her check and make sure there are no other issues, as there are a number of potential dangers that a battle with heatstroke can initiate.

Hopefully, you and your fur buddies never have to go through a heatstroke scare, BUT if you do face this frightening encounter, hopefully now you will be prepared to act quickly and save your animal from any permanent damage or illness.



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