It is a hot summer day and the family is out enjoying the weather. As you are watching the children and dog run, play and have a good time, you notice your dog has slowed down a little bit. As you continue to watch, the dog starts stumbling, is panting quite hard and then vomits. What do you do?
Recognizing when your pet is in distress and knowing the basic first aid principles are key to providing early intervention and potentially saving your pet’s life. With the warm weather and summer fun in full swing, we will focus on some common warm weather and heat related injuries your pet could fall victim to.
Signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke in dogs include collapse, a body temperature over 104°F, excessive panting or difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart rate and wobbliness.
If your dog has been exposed to hot temperatures and exhibits any of these signs, then immediate action should be taken to decrease body temperature. First remove your dog from direct heat and sunlight. If their body temperature is above 104°F then spraying the dog with cool water, draping the dog in cool towels and placing the dog in front of a fan will help to safely decrease their body temperature.
These measures can all be performed while transporting your pet to their veterinarian for further assessment and treatment. It is important to remember to not immerse your pet in ice water as that will decrease their body temperature too quickly which can cause significant harm.
Like humans, pets can have allergic reactions to a variety of stinging insects.
Often these reactions are mild such as some redness and minor swelling at the site of the sting that will resolve on its own. However, pets can develop severe allergic reactions and even anaphylactic shock which can be deadly if not caught early and treated appropriately.
Signs of a developing severe allergic reaction include hives, swelling around their eyes and lips, itching and licking at the site, vomiting, difficulty breathing and collapse. If these signs are noted, bring your pet to their veterinarian for injectable medications. Administration of oral diphenhydramine can be beneficial for known allergic reactions where the medication was administered prior to the presentation of the allergen. In emergency cases, however, oral medications have too slow of an onset and if your pet’s airway is compromised by the swelling they will not be able to swallow the pill.
Hot pavement and asphalt is a common cause of burns on dog’s paw pads during this time of year. Avoid walking your dog on concrete, asphalt or pavement during time of direct sunlight or during the hottest part of the day. If your pet does burn his paw pads (or any other body part) then immediately rinse or soak the area in cool water for 5 to 10 minutes to help decrease the pain and amount of tissue damaged. Wrap the burned area in a cool, moist cloth and take the pet to the veterinarian for evaluation. Do not apply any petroleum, ointment or butter on the burns as this can cause further irritation and damage during removal.
It is important to remember that owner-provided emergency treatment and basic first aid should never substitute veterinary care; however, it may save your pet’s life before you can get them to the veterinarian for treatment. For pet parents that want to brush up on their pet first aid principles, the Red Cross has developed a free Pet First Aid app. This app provides basic care information for a variety of ailments to assist you in providing basic first aid and early interventions.
(Editor’s note: Abell is a veterinarian at the Fort Leonard Wood Veterinary Clinic.)