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What to do if your dog is overheated.

We recently had an emergency call from a frantic owner about his Shih Tzu, Buddy. Buddy means the world to his owner, so he takes him everywhere with him. Buddy’s owner left him in the car for just a few minutes and was sure to get the car extra cold before he left. However, by the time Buddy’s owner was able to return, the car was hot, Buddy was panting, and several concerned onlookers had gathered. Luckily, Buddy was just fine, but this is the sort of situation that can easily end in tragedy.

Overheating can occur in dogs and cats when they are exposed to the sun with inadequate shade or water, if they are exercised in the heat, or if they are left in a car with outside temps over 70 degrees.

Pet temperatures are normal up to 102.5 degrees, but if you suspect your pet may have overheated you can take the following steps:

  • Take a rectal temperature with a digital thermometer. If your pet’s temperature is 105 degrees or higher, begin cooling procedures immediately.
  • Remove your pet from the hot area, and place the pet in a cool, shady area with a fan on the pet.
  • Do not over cool the pet. This is the most common complication of treating overheated pets. Do not use very cold water or ice (these will constrict the outer vessels of the skin and trap the heat in the core of the body). Stop cooling the pet once the body temperature reaches around 103 degrees.
  • Using cool water, wet areas of the skin that are exposed to the fan. Evaporative cooling by the water will speed the cooling process.
  • Leave a bowl of water near the pet for them to drink from when they are able to sit and are able to drink on their own. Never try to syringe any water or food to a debilitated pet.

Severe hyperthermia can cause life threatening complications as different organ systems are damaged. It is very important to get your pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible after suffering a hyperthermic event. We all love to get outdoors and enjoy the weather with our pets in the summertime. Just remember to take some precautions when it comes to keeping your pet cool and comfortable.

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