Heat Strokeby Dr. Marc Habib
All too often, dogs are seen left alone in vehicles parked in the sun or even in the shade with the window generously rolled down - by all of about 5 cm.
This attitude is mainly one of irresponsibility. Remember that unlike humans, dogs do not perspire through their skin.
Perspiration or sweating is an excellent system that allows humans to conduct temperature exchanges with the outside air, thereby preventing the body temperature from rising too quickly in extreme heat. This system is also used artificially in cats. When they lick themselves, they deposit saliva on their coat, which thereby allows for a thermal exchange to take place.
With dogs, even though their skin does not produce the sweat that is necessary for thermal exchange, air blowing in an open space does help cool their body through radiation and conduction.
Dogs therefore, do not only breathe with their mouths, they perspire through their mouths. What happens in the event of heat stroke?
If left in the heat in a vehicle that is almost entirely closed, the dog will begin to pant in order to perspire and to lower his rising body temperature. Moreover, he is unable to lower his temperature through his skin because there is no air circulating in the closed vehicle. Therefore, his body temperature rises to a dangerously high level. In addition, a panting dog quickly exhausts the amount of healthy air available in the vehicle and ends up breathing in exhaled air that is high in carbon dioxide and low in oxygen. The combination of these factors makes the dog highly susceptible to fainting. It occurs suddenly. The dog is often standing, as though in a daze, his legs spread apart, gasping for air and breathing quickly. Often, he begins to tremble or may even have convulsions. If his temperature reaches 42°C, he will begin to vomit and will end up going into a state of shock, which may quickly become irreversible.
Rapid action must be taken as soon as possible.
The dog’s temperature must be brought down as quickly as possible by placing him in lukewarm water that is progressively cooled, or in cool water that is in a well-ventilated, airy place. Monitor the dog’s temperature and general state. Take the dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
Which animals are at risk?
The larger the dog, the more quickly he will use up the air in the vehicle.
Dogs with cardiac problems or respiratory difficulties run the risk of suffering heat stroke very rapidly since gaseous exchanges in their lungs are extremely limited.
Breeds with short faces (Boxers, Pekinese) have more problems breathing than other breeds.
Animals that are high-strung by nature may also be sensitive to heat stroke.
Obese animals, since fat is good insulation.
Never leave a dog in a vehicle parked in the hot sun.
Remember that even if the vehicle is parked in a cool, shady spot, it may be in the sun a few hours later.
Always leave the windows sufficiently open.
Never leave puppies, older dogs or dogs with cardiac problems in a vehicle in the heat, even in the shade.
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