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Dr Tammi's Advice Heat Stroke

Tamara Hisatake-Bumgardner, DVM offers heat stroke tips for your dog

Fellow IACP (International Association of Canine Professionals) member, Tammie Hisatake-Bumgardner, DVM of Buck Creek Animal Clinic will be our guest blogger. It is a little long but the info coming straight from a vet who also does search and rescue in extreme heat is the best advice for keeping our dogs safe in the heat.  Dr. Tammie has graciously given permission to cross post from the IACP message board. If you wish to use Dr. Tammie's material you must contact her for permission.  Below is her post.
Re: Avoiding Heat Related Injuries in Dogs (kinda long)

Okay...I'm baaaack...and I am adding my nickel's worth...and I am the vet who
did Search and Rescue in the desert...I'd like to offer a professional opinion.

There has been a lot of good information in this discussion, however, it appears
there are a few misconceptions too. I WHOLEHEARTEDLY agree that prevention is
the best approach in any heat related emergency.

Dogs can only sweat through their feet. So the only two mechanisms they have
for cooling is via panting or vasodilation at the skin surface, most effective
at the less haired parts of their body (e.g. ears, face, abdomen). Once the
capacity of those two mechanisms have been exceeded, the dog will overheat if
the environmental or working conditions create the potential for hyperthermia
(elevated temperature).

If at all possible, you should be intervening before the heat stroke level.
Signs of hyperthermia are vigorous panting, "spooning" and extension of the
tongue - (the tongue gets thick, spoon shaped and hangs down to their elbows),
and flushing of the skin...may not be able to visually see this in all breeds.
Dogs that are at higher risk are those that are overweight, short-faced (Pugs,
Boxers, Bulldogs, etc.), muscular (Rotts, Pitties, Mastiffs, etc.) or may have a
metabolic or circulatory disease.

Once a dog is in heat stroke, it is an emergency. When the rectal temps exceeds
105-106 degrees, the body starts shutting down. When they are seriously
overheated, and you start to cool the dog, you better be watching their core
temps, because their is a tendency for them to become extremely hypothermic as
their hypothalamus is unable to regulate core temperature.

Cooling the body is the biggest goal, but rapid cooling is asking for trouble.
Rapid cooling can trigger several things: 1 - the hypothermic plunge, 2 - Focal
vasoconstriction which defeats your purpose and 3 - the most deadly -
disseminated intravascular coagulation...aka DIC. DIC is the rapid triggering
of ALL of the clotting mechanisms in the body...if the dog does not die of an
embolus, the next step is hemorrhage, as all of the clotting mechanisms are
consumed...the symptom of DIC I usually see in canine heat stroke is bloody
diarrhea that looks and smells just like parvo diarrhea. Be aware that even if a
dog is successfully treated for hyperthermia, they may have brain damage or
organ failure as a result, so extensive aftercare is a possibility too.

Cool or tepid water is what I recommend, wet towels and fans work, wetting and
cooling the pressure point areas like feet, axilla, face, neck, inguinae,
abdomen are most effective. But I use the body wetting the coat and
ruffling it backwards mimics sweating in humans and horses and helps to cool by
evaporation. I don't like to use ice packs directly on the body, but have used
them when they are wrapped in towels so no shock to the tissue. Rubbing alcohol
is also a good cooling agent, but evaporates quickly and must be reapplied

Intravenous fluids at room temperature is one of the best techniques in a
veterinary clinic to help stabilize temp, blood pressure, electrolytes, etc.

Electrolyte imbalances in canines is not due to sweating (see above), but
usually due to either vomiting/diarrhea that occurred earlier with heat stress
or heat exhaustion, or with the release of potassium into the bloodstream by the
red blood cells that are blowing apart due to the elevated temperature

I started using the misting bottle about 10 years ago, when I realized I was
wasting a lot of water that my dog wouldn't drink. The misting bottle could wet
their mouths, force fluids (several squirts at a time), keep their noses moist
(better to keep sense of smell maximized) check for wind direction and to use to
mist them. (I keep my search poodles clipped short). It is a fantastic tool,
easy to use and relatively lightweight. My search poodles now will come to me
and bump the bottle when they want a drink. I squirt slowly and evenly with a
mist while they drink. I tried using the stream on the nozzle, but it chokes

During the summer months in Arizona we always carried several extra gallons of
water. I always soaked the dogs (including my husbands German Shepherds) before
they started out into the field. It significantly increased their working time
to be dripping wet BEFORE we hit the field. I am now in Kentucky with a much
higher humidity where it is a bit less effective, but I still do it...especially
wetting their faces.

For those of you I left behind in the desert, or in/on the concrete jungle,
don't forget to consider the reflective heat the dogs are getting from the
white/light surfaces as well as the radiant heat. The temperature just a few
inches off the surface may surprise you, and that is the height at which our
canine companions have to breathe/pant/work/walk/attempt to cool. If the
conditions wouldn't be comfortable for you to walk barefooted in a furry coat,
it probably isn't comfortable for the dogs either.

Hope this helps!

Tamara Hisatake-Bumgardner, DVM
Eubank, KY 42567
IACP #2177