I want to remind everyone that pets can suffer heat stroke if left in a car even for a fairly short time. Cars left in the sun can heat to dangerous levels within as little as ten minutes even if a window is open a small amount. Signs of heat stroke include lethargy, dullness, heavy panting, weakness and possibly collapse. It can quickly escalate to a life threatening condition. Secondary complications such as liver or kidney failure, infections and brain damage can occur. Treatment needs to be started as soon as possible by a veterinarian. It should include cooling the body quickly, intravenous fluids, and management of secondary complications. Prevention is the best medicine and the following three rules need to be followed:
- Never, never ever leave a pet alone in a car regardless of the temperature. Many cars are fish bowls that heat up quickly in sunlight even if the outside temperature is cool.
- Pets should always have access to fresh water.
- Do not let a pet over exert itself especially in hot humid weather. Remember also that many breeds with short muzzles (referred to as brachycephalic breeds such as English bulldogs, Pugs, Pekingese, etc.) have more difficulty cooling then longer faced dogs. Dogs do not sweat. They cool by panting and brachycephalic breeds have thick throats with narrow windpipes that make this process inefficient at the best of times. In hot, humid weather panting may not be adequate to cool the body and heat stroke may ensue.
If you suspect your pet has signs of heatstroke he or she needs to be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Travel and play safely with your pet this summer.
Dr. Ken Ross