Hot Dog! How to Cool Your Pet During a Heat Exhaustion Episode
The unthinkable happens—your hyperactive dog chases one too many balls on a scorching summer day and collapses. Seemingly fine one moment, your beloved companion appears to overheat in the blink of an eye. Keep a cool head during this terrifying situation, and quickly and safely lower your furry pal’s body temperature by following these steps that our team at Quinebaug Valley Veterinary Hospital has put together:
Step 1: Bring your pet indoors into an air-conditioned building — Take your pet to the coolest place that you can find nearby, to provide a cool, ambient temperature.
Step 2: Run a cool—not cold—bath — If your pet is in and out of consciousness, ensure their head remains above water. A cool bath will be more beneficial at reducing your pet’s body temperature than an ice bath, since extreme cold causes vasoconstriction, where the blood vessels in the extremities constrict, and the overheated blood is shunted back to your pet’s core, actually raising their body temperature. By running cool water over your pet, you also help heat evaporate, rather than trapping it around their body, as you would using wet towels.
Step 3: Point a high-powered fan at your pet — Proper ventilation will further dissipate heat and help cool your furry pal.
Step 4: Check your pet’s temperature every five minutes — Once your pet’s body temperature reaches 103 degrees, stop the cooling process. If you continue until their temperature reaches a normal level—100 to 102 degrees—you could inadvertently cause hypothermia by cooling your pet too much.
Step 5: Rush your pet to our veterinary hospital — After heat exhaustion or heatstroke episode, your pet needs veterinary care. While not always immediately obvious, but detectable on blood work, organ damage can occur if your pet remains too hot for too long. Once at our hospital, we can evaluate your best friend’s condition, and form a treatment plan, which may include monitoring and intravenous fluid therapy, or blood transfusions if the situation is critical. Regardless of how well you cooled your pet at home, a veterinary visit is crucial, to detect hidden organ damage or other issues.
Once your pet suffers from a heat exhaustion episode, they are more at risk for future heat-related issues. Keep a close eye on your furry friend during hot weather, and contact us in the event of a heat emergency.