Canine Hydration and Heat Stroke
Warmer weather is coming
with lots of fun things to do with our JRTs – trials, fun days,
hunting, walks in the woods, or chasing a ball in the back yard. Also,
with summer we sometimes have very warm temperatures and the necessity
to protect our 4-legged friends from possible dehydration or even heat
stroke. Here are some tips to help keep your terriers hydrated and to
help you recognize the danger signs that indicate dehydration or overheating
may be occurring. Also listed are several emergency things to do if
heat stroke symptoms are discovered. This article will avoid being overly
technical, but includes several reference websites at the end –
some which are highly technical.
Proper hydration is essential
to maintain optimum body functions and temperature in all mammal species.
Virtually all metabolic reactions occur in the presence of water. A
water shortage (dehydration) causes the blood to thicken, reduces oxygen
carrying capacity of the blood and may cause body temperature to elevate
to potentially lethal levels. Canines cool themselves by dissipating
heat through their skin (mostly their bellies), by evaporation from
rapid panting, by a small amount of moisture excretion and evaporation
(similar to human sweating) but from only their paws or simply by drinking
water. However, in extreme heat situations, these cooling efforts may
be insufficient and dehydration and eventually heat stroke can occur.
Tips to Avoid Dehydration:
1. Always have water available
to encourage dogs to drink frequently.
2. Wet a dog before starting intensive physical activity or before going
out into a hot day – especially wet the stomach and groin areas
and the dog’s paws if water is in short supply.
3. Do not cover the dog with a wet towel or other so called “cooling
blankets” as this inhibits evaporation and can create Sauna like
conditions around the dog’s body.
4. Use battery powered crate fans to move air around crated dogs and
always keep crates out of direct sunlight. Remember that shade travels
during the day.
5. If the dog has not had a drink for a long time or shows signs of
dehydration, start re-hydration slowly – allowing only a few laps
of water every few minutes. Over drinking too quickly can lead to vomiting
and often causes even more fluid loss.
6. Do not allow the dog to drink excessive amounts of water after strenuous
exercise as this can also lead to vomiting. Wait a few minutes after
heavy exertion and allow frequent but small drinks every few minutes.
7. If a dog shows some signs of dehydration, it may even be reluctant
to drink. Try meat/chicken broth mixed with water to encourage drinking.
8. If a dog has problem holding the water down, let it lick a popsicle
9. If a dog refuses to drink for any extended period of time and exhibits
dehydration or heat stroke symptoms, seek veterinary assistance which
may include among other things injection of fluids subcutaneously or
Dehydration and Heat Stroke Symptoms:
A primary cause of both dehydration
and heat stroke occur when dogs are shut up in cars or other confined
areas with no ventilation and the “green house effect” from
the sun causes the interior of the vehicle or confined area to reach
high temperatures. Water should always be available. Dogs can overheat
if they are unable to find shade or a cool spot on a hot sunny day –
especially if the humidity is high. Obviously, dark colored or heavily
coated dogs are more susceptible to over heating in sunny conditions
but clipping or stripping a dog’s coat prior to hot weather can
help the dog keep cooler. Puppies up to 6 months or age, overweight
and older dogs are at greatest risk to heat related illnesses.
Exercise is healthy, but
extreme exercise under hot conditions can also cause dehydration and
may eventually create heat stroke symptoms. Exaggerated panting is the
dog’s first attempt to cool its body. Increased salivation accompanies
increased panting and unless moisture lost through this panting is replenished,
it eventually will lead to dehydration.
Symptoms of dehydration are reduction of skin elasticity as the dog
loses moisture. Pinch a little skin between your thumb and forefinger
on the dog’s back. If when released, the skin does not pop back
into place like it should, this usually indicates dehydration is occurring.
(You should have performed this test under normal conditions to have
an idea how this normally works because younger, fatter dogs will have
more elasticity than will older, skinnier dogs).
Reduced oxygen to the body
because of dehydration can cause the pulse rate to increase or become
erratic. The dog’s temperature may elevate (body temperatures
over 105 degrees Fahrenheit are dangerous). As mentioned earlier, excessive
salivation accompanies increased panting and the dog may appear anxious
or have a staring expression. The eyes may appear sunken and lack moisture
and the dog may become lethargic. The mouth appears dry and the gums
and nose are dry. Vomiting/diarrhea may occur. Panting can even suddenly
stop. The tongue and lips may initially turn very red and eventually
bluish in color. Muscle tremors, convulsions, vomiting, lack of coordination,
collapse and eventually loss of consciousness, coma and even death can
occur if remedial steps are not taken immediately.
Emergency Heatstroke Treatments
1. Immediately move the dog
to a cool, shady place.
2. Wet or immerse the dog in cool (not ice cold) water.
3. Fan wet dog vigorously to promote evaporation to help cool the dog’s
4. Do not apply ice as this constricts blood flow and will inhibit the
body’s attempts to cool itself.
5. Allow the dog to have small drinks of water every few minutes, lick
ice, ice cream or a popsicle. Use broth in water to encourage drinking.
6. If recovery is slow, take the dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
For more information relating
to dehydration and heat stroke go to following websites.
1. Dehydration in Dogs – http://www.bichonfriseusa.com/articles/dehydration.htm
2. 10 minutes to Disaster – http://www.trdogtraining.com/heatstroke.html
3. Heat Stoke – http://ww.sandiegoschutzhund.org/references/heatstroke.htm
4. Canine Heat Stroke - http://www.k9power.com/deboer_heatstroke.htm