Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Signs of Heat Intolerance

I wrote about the loss of Ruby from heat stroke/hyperthermia the other day, and because it's another 100 plus degree day here in the Mid-Atlantic I thought I would add another aspect to the topic.

The best way to stay cool, inside, relaxed and comfortable.
I thought I would share my own experience with heat intolerance just to help you understand who is at risk, what signs to look for, and how to treat for the early signs, and when it's time to get help.

It has been a very hot summer here already, and it's only mid-July. I am on the MD-PA border and there was almost two weeks of above 100 degree days. Compound that with the very high humidity and the outside turns into a place that no man or beast should be.

Try telling that to my 3 year old beagle Jekyl. It is almost impossible to keep that dog inside. I thought it would be a great idea to train him to ring the bells on the door when he wanted to go outside. Little did I realize that he would ring them constantly. I have become his butler.

He feels compelled to be outside in the front yard, sitting on the little knoll, head and nose to the horizon, scanning for a reason to sound the alarm. Hhe howls if there is any hint of any kind of intruder, ghost, mammal, or automobile. If you call "guard dog" any canine that howls at everything then he deserves a very large trophy. He is obsessed. What did I think I would get?

The only time he will put his OCD tendencies aside is if it is raining. The rest of the time he is on duty.

Since it has been so hot I have had to restrict his outside time to short quick visits. Every time I bring him in, he rings the bells until I let him out. (Yes, I have resorted to yelling reprimands, and, yes, he ignores me).

He came in the other day after a short 10 minute trip outside and immediately lay down on the wood floor. He was panting, tongue lashing about with the excessive respiration's, with fully extended front and back legs, and laying on his side. He was huffing and puffing and exhausted.

I looked at his gums, (red), and felt for his pulses (rapid). He was also warm to the touch.

At this point I would tell all of you to go grab your thermometer out of your in-home emergency kit,
(WHAT!? You don't have one? Please see my blog for emergency kits at http://tinyurl.com/cv2vmt2 ()and tell you to check the temperature.

OK, to be honest I skipped the thermometer step. (I am going to claim professional privilege). BUT, if you take a temp and it is above 103 degrees (normal for a pet is 100-102.5) then please head directly to your vets office. Once a pet starts to heat up it is often very difficult to reverse it. At 104 degrees I am ALWAYS placing an i.v. catheter and running i.v. fluids. I just don't think that there is any better way to cool a pet then with i.v. fluids. Also once your temp starts to fall stop cooling. I have had lots of pets go from 104 to 103, to 98 in a matter of a few minutes. We also check the temperature every 10 minutes or so as we are cooling.(We keep a chart with a timer to help us keep track).

Jekyl when he first got inside.

Fully extended and flat-out.
This is his way of trying to maximize his cooling efforts.

I grabbed Jekyl and carried him up to the bathtub. He is very familiar with the tub. He hates it. Besides his annoying pestering tendency to "ring the bell" he also has an equally annoying although much more offensive, tendency to roll in the excrement of dead, dying, decaying, and disgusting things. They are too disgusting to mention. I think it is groundhog poop, but really I haven't gone to investigate. Whatever it is, from whatever source it leached out of, it is pungent.The kind of pungent that when you open the door you know before he sets foot in the house that it's bath time. He has had his smelly butt drug up to the bath tub more than any pet who leads as cushioned a life as he does. He is the cleanest beagle in the state. He hates that too.

I put him in the tub and ran the water on cool. It is very important to use cool vs. cold water. Cold water actually causes peripheral vaso-constriction and will slow down the cooling.

I know it looks silly but my leg is actually keeping him sitting in the tub.
He needed the cool water on his belly.

Should you ever find your pet panting, lethargic, open mouth rapidly breathing (I call this panting), or even worse non-responsive take your pet immediately to the vet or ER facility. Fast emergency care can save lives.

Jekyl cooled off quickly. I kept him wet and let him lie back on the cool floor. Needless to say I ignored his requests to be let back outside the rest of the day.

He is bad, but he is still soo cute!

One of the reasons that Jekyl is susceptible to heat intolerance is his size. He is a short thick stocky boy. When he heats up he heats up quicker, and when he tries to cool down it takes longer. The thicker, stockier dogs must be closely watched. The brachycephalic breeds (short, squishy-faced dogs like Bulldogs) need to be watched even closer. Keep your pets inside on hot days, keep them cool with lots of fresh water, and never leave or tie them outside. And most importantly please never leave them in a car.


  1. Would a mini bull terrier fall into to stocky and easily heat exhausted breed? Its only 83 and after about 2 blocks of slow walking my 50lb english bull terrier was drooling quite excessively and had been walking quite slow. He won't allow the thermometer to stay in long enough to get an accurate reading, when he sits it reads about 100. I just wonder if its the heat and the humidity today... i brought him in and he lay exactly as your dog, under the kitchen table where it is nice and cool.

    1. I would err on the side of caution and guess it is heat intolerance. Cool him off in a cool (not cold) bath and seek immediate veterinary help if he is still panting, lethargic or acting tired or nonresponsive. Better safe than sorry