by Doris Donnerman
(last updated February 17, 2009)
In the first aid classes most people end up taking at some point or another in their lives, you learn a variety of different things. You learn what to do for hypothermia, second degree burns, sprained ankles, broken wrists, and blood-spurting flesh wounds. You probably also learned how to deal with the health problems associated with the heat. Things you were taught to worry about were probably heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Believe it or not, dogs can actually suffer from these problems too, heatstroke being the most severe, so here's how to deal with it.
Just like with humans, there are a few telltale signs to look for in dogs to see if they have heatstroke. Heatstroke can come at any time the heat is extreme and you should look for the following symptoms: rapid panting, twitching, barking for no reason, and staring with a crazed look. You also should have a good idea of what kind of behavior is normal for your pet, so you can sense if your pet's behavior is abnormal. If you determine that your pet does have heatstroke, here's what you should do.
You need to take your pet inside, or find some shade if you're outside and unable to take your pet inside. Pour cool water on him every few minutes, but don't try to place him in a tub of water or put ice on him. While the latter option may seem logical initially, this is definitely something your should not do. If you immediately immerse your pet in cold, ice water, you increase its chances of serious damage. If your pet is hot enough to be suffering from heatstroke, by putting it in cold water immediately, you will send it into shock, which can have detrimental effects on the heart and other systems. It's definitely best to sprinkle your pet with cool water, and have it drink cold water. Continue this until the symptoms stop and then keep your pet indoors for a while. If the symptoms come back often, you definitely need to take your pet to the vet.
Even if the heatstroke was a fluke, a one-time occurrence, you should still call your vet and see if there is anything else you should be doing to treat your dog. Also, your vet can tell you if you need to take your pet in for further treatment. Accompanying heatstroke is dehydration, and so you want to make sure that after identifying the heatstroke, that your pet becomes fully hydrated. If you're unsure about anything you're doing, you should definitely take your pet into the vet's.
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