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Monday, July 7, 2008

Warning Signs of Heat Injuries

Sadie lay under John 's pickup, the only spot of shade in the hayfield. Her panting was quick and shallow. Her eyes were slits, and the corners of her mouth were drawn way back in a grimace.

It was 92 degrees out there, and Sadie'd been having a ball, chasing butterflies and mice as we drove through the field loading fresh bales of brome hay onto a flatbed trailer. But now she needed a break, so we took one too.

Sadie, a big yellow Lab, was John's dog. She'd been in and out of the pond water several times that afternoon, and her coat was wet and stinky. So we knew she'd had the chance to cool herself. Still, she'd been pushing the limits when she finally settled down to rest in the truck's shade.

She reminded me that we all need to monitor our dogs' activities when the temperatures soar. Young, energetic dogs seem to have no inkling that they need to slow down and conserve energy...until it's too late and they're already suffering from heat exhaustion. Think about the miles your dog covers on an off-leash country walk with you, or even around your yard, for that matter. On a hot day, it may take very little activity and exposure before your dog is on his way to a medical emergency or death.

Dogs kept in backyard pens are not immune to the dangers. If the dogs are stressed, if water is not available, and if the area isn't adequately shaded, dogs can die a silent and amazingly quick death while you're inside a comfortable house or workplace.

When a dog suffers from heat exhaustion, he'll pant quickly and heavily, he may vomit, he'll be thirsty, and his gums and tongue may be very dark red. When the heat exhaustion turns to heat stroke, the dog can no longer cool himself. You'll see signs of shock--disorientation, stumbling, gasping, dilated pupils, pale gums, and glassy eyes. Take his temperature (rectally) and it may be 105 degrees. (Normal is 100-101.5)

If your dog is suffering from heat injury, take immediate action. Cool him with a water hose or even a bottle of drinking water, poured gently and directly onto his stomach and groin. Fan him with a towel or shirt. Do NOT use ice-cold water. Rubbing alcohol, rubbed on the stomach and groin, will also cool the dog as it evaporates. Bring the dog into air conditioning. Monitor his internal temperature (with the rectal thermometer). Call your vet and inquire about the next step.

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