Our Pet Care Blog

Heat Exhaustion

(08/24/2012) Brent Wilson

Unfortunately Las Vegas summers can be overwhelmingly hot, which can be extremely dangerous to pets if not cared for properly. The weather here can often lead to heat stress, also known as heat exhaustion.

The amount of water a dog has consumed, being in an enclosed space, obesity, age, cardiovascular disease, and exercise all increase the risk factors of heat stress. Lack of acclimatization or proper conditioning for various activities performed in the summer months also has a tremendous impact on the dog’s response to the heat.

Dogs do not have an efficient way to handle the heat because they do not sweat the way humans do. The only means a dog has of cooling himself is to move air over their moist tongue and airways by panting. Unfortunately their cooling system does not always work because the muscle activity they use when panting also generates some heat. In addition to panting, additional signs of heat stress may include flushed, red skin on the ear flap, deepening color of the mucous membranes (or gums may appear pale and dry), and a darkening, musky color and slight swelling of the tongue. As fluids are depleted from the body, the mouth becomes dry, the eyes become sunken, and the skin loses elasticity. (Lift the skin along the back. Normally, the skin should quickly snap back into place. If it does not, dehydration is present and treatment by a veterinarian is needed.)  As the stress increases, you may see a lurching gait or loss of balance, quivering and/or weakens of extremities, hyper-salivation, vomiting and/or diarrhea, decreased mental awareness, and convulsions.

 The first thing an owner should do after noticing these symptoms is get the dog to an air conditioned area, or if that is not an option at the moment then get them to the coolest possible area. Let your dog rest and get them a cool drink of water (always be sure to have water on you in this climate). Not only is it a good idea to provide a drink for them, but pouring water on them and finding anyway to provide air to move across the dog’s body for evaporative cooling.  Delaying the cooling process (particularly if you are more than a few minutes from a vet) can increase the risk of long-term effects or even death. This means it is important to act immediately with the cooling process and seek medical help from your vet IMMEDIATELY any time this happens. Do not try to treat this by yourself as it is life threatening!

 Hopefully this never happens to any of your furry friends because we know how stressful and scary it can be. Please do your best to keep them cool, and remember to always have water available for them! 

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