PADUCAH -- A local vet clinic in Paducah says two dogs were dead on arrival recently because of heat exhaustion, including one that was cooled too quickly. With excessive heat expected to return next week, it's important to know how to cool your pets safely.
The two deceased dogs were taken to West Kentucky Emergency Veterinary Services on July 21. One dog's body temperature was only 95 degrees (compared to the normal body temperature 101 to 102.5 degrees) because the dog was cooled too quickly. That dog died en route to the clinic, said Cassondra Shelby, the office manager and licensed veterinary technician at the WKEVS. The other dog that was dead on arrival had a body temperature of 109 degrees.
Dr. Russell Jones of WKEVS said when days are above 85 degrees, limit dog activities in direct sunshine, such as playing fetch. Mornings and evenings are also cooler than the middle of the day. If the dog lives outside, make sure a lot of water and shade are accessible.
"Dogs overheat easily. They don't have sweat glands like we do. And their main way that they dissipate heat is through panting, and that's a very inefficient process, especially the bigger the dog gets, it's just harder for them to lose heat," said Jones.
Jones said signs of overheating include "excessive drooling, acting like they're not all there in the head, sudden change in behavior, seeking out cool places to sit and lay down, and then some of the worst signs are actually having a seizure, fainting, going unconscious."
If your dog is suffering from heat exhaustion, you can cool them by soaking them in water. You can also use ice packs or wet cloths by placing them under the dog's armpits or between their back legs, said Jones. Another way to cool the dog is by spraying rubbing alcohol on the pads of the feet.
"They have a lot of blood vessels in their paws, and it helps dilate the pores around their feet," explained Jones. "As the alcohol evaporates, it takes the heat with it."
But once you get you dog's body temperature to about 103 degrees, stop the cooling process. Jones advises using a rectal thermometer to monitor the dog's body temperature.
If your dog is showing physical signs of heat exhaustion, such as passing out, Jones advises bringing the pet to a vet's office even if you are cooling them.
"If you're to the point where you think you need to cool your dog down, they need to go to the vet," said Jones.
Bigger dogs, flat-faced dogs (like boxers, pugs, English bulldogs), black dogs and overweight dogs are all more prone to heat exhaustion. If a dog's body temperature gets too high, the internal organs can get damaged.