Hot Weather Dangers for Dogs - TRUE STORIES

Hot weather can be deadly for your dog. Make no mistake, when the sun's out, when the temperature starts to climb, your dog can be in real danger. Today, I want to share with you four stories that I know are not unique, that will just help highlight some of the problems and some of the dangers that your dog can come across.


So, I just wanted to share with you a few experiences that I've had about how hot weather can be dangerous for your dog.

Dogs die in hot cars

The first one that I'll start with is a story of a young puppy. So this puppy was brought to me one spring. It was a warm spring day, but it wasn't baking hot. The sun was out, and I actually saw this puppy to start with because it had a discharge in its eye for a few days. On examination  I found a grass seed under its eyelid.

Now, that is not the story, unfortunately, because that was a simple fix. I removed the grass seed and, with some medication, sent the puppy on his way.

What I didn't expect was 30, 40 minutes later for this owner to rush in, with the limp dog in her arms, in real distress. And as soon as the dog was put on the table in my consult room, it was very apparent that the puppy had passed away.

When I put my hands on the puppy's body, it was baking. I was amazed how hot it was. I later found out that the lady had gone to the library, actually, to renew some books. She had left the puppy in the car, and she had left it in the sun, and the temperature had just climbed.

Now, being a small young dog, it didn't take very long at all for his body temperature to start climbing. By the time the lady got back to the car, and it must have been no more than about 20 minutes, the dog was dead. The body was baking hot.

It was just a really short trip. It doesn't need to be that hot outside. You may or may not have seen the video of me sitting in a car to show you just how hot it gets and how quickly a car gets hot.

Remember too that open windows don't do anything for your dog.

And this is not a unique situation, at the moment I'm seeing friends and colleagues put videos up on Facebook of people that have recorded dogs being left in cars. It's something that happens all the time, and it's just so unnecessary. And this is just one example of a fatal outcome.

So don't mess around. If you're going out, don't take your dog with you, certainly don't leave them in the car.

Squashed nosed dogs are at a higher risk of heat stroke

Okay, so my next story is of a bulldog. You may or may not be aware that bulldogs, being brachycephalics, or squashed nose dog breeds, are more prone to developing heat stress. For their body temperature to climb and to suffer from heat stroke.

On this particular day, it was summer day, it was really warm. It was a Sunday and I was on call, and I got the phone call that this dog seemed to be struggling, it wasn't doing that well. This Bulldog seemed to be panting and not able to settle.

Now, by the time it got to me, it was very clear that he was really struggling to breathe. He was making an awful lot of noise in his throat. His breathing was very fast, very shallow, and he was going slightly blue. It quickly became apparent that he was about to go into respiratory arrest, so his breathing was about to stop

We made the decision to anesthetize him to be able to put a tube down his throat to help him breathe.

A rather unexpected consequence of this was that because he was struggling so hard to breathe he swallowed an awful lot of air. This caused his stomach to dilate, to bloat, and his stomach had then twisted. This is something called a GDV, or gastric dilation-volvulus. A fatal condition without surgery. So after discussion with the owners, the decision was made to take him to surgery, where everything went well. That's pretty big surgery, but for this dog surgery went very well.


He then seemed to recover pretty well, but his throat had swollen so much that after we extubated him after we woke him up from his anesthetic, it was only about 20 minutes or so until again he started to really struggle to breathe. We had to re-anesthetize him and re-intubate him. From there, it became apparent that the only way we were going to get him through was to place a tracheotomy.

At this stage the owners elected that enough was enough and it was decided that he was to be put to sleep.

So, that's just another way with an at-risk dog breed that hot weather can be really dangerous. Now this was really not a usual consequence of getting hot. But these increased dangers are something that we need to be aware of.

Brachycephalic dogs, their airways are really tiny, and I've spoken about that at great length in a couple of articles. One all about the short-nose, squashed-nose dogs and problems that they have and what we can do about improving the health of brachycephalic breeds. The other all about the ugliest dog in the world.

Health risks increase hot weather dangers

Now on the same day, and it was a very hot day like I say, I also saw a dog that had laryngeal paralysis. This was something that the owners were aware of. This dog had coped all right with this problem for a number of months.  When the flaps of the larynx (voice box) are unable to move the airway is more narrow. And again, they're more prone to overheating in exactly the same way that the prior unfortunate bulldog was. This was another at-risk dog.

We'd had this discussion before, that if anything happened to this dog then they were not going to treat them. The owners had elected not to go to surgery to correct that problem in the first place, and they were aware of the risks.

So this dog became very unwell, started vomiting, really struggling for breath. And so the decision was made again to euthanize this dog

Another at-risk dog in the heat that unfortunately ended up dying as a result of the hot weather.

Dogs will exercise until they drop

So the final story I want to share with you today is about a working dog. So, this dog needed to do some work, to round up some stock. But the sun was out, the weather was hot. And these working dogs they just go and they go, and they do their job. If we don’t intervene, they do what's expected of them until they drop.

Unfortunately, in this case, this dog just worked itself to the ground. It got so hot, and it got far too hot before its owner realized that it was overheating and it was developing heatstroke. He tried to cool it off as quickly as he could. He threw it in the river, tried to cool it down, but unfortunately by that stage it was too late.

By the time the dog was brought into the clinic the next day his temperature was actually really low. It's blood work showed that its kidneys and its liver were completely destroyed. They weren't working at all, and the dog was nearly comatose.

Rather than go through a slow and distressing death, the dog was euthanized.

And that's just an example of how our dogs don't know what’s good for them. They won't necessarily rest. We need to manage them appropriately. We need to be aware of the risks that they're under and go about reducing those risks to keep them cool in the hot weather in the first place. We need to prevent them overheating but also be aware of what we can do to cool our dogs down quickly should they start to develop signs of heatstroke.

Being aware can save your dogs life

And so my final story today was actually one that was sent in by one of my newsletter subscribers commenting on the information I had sent out about the hot weather. And they said that it was really timely, because they went for a walk at about eight in the morning. It was cooler than the heat of the day, but it was still warm. And importantly, as well, it was really humid, it was really muggy.

This owner recognized that her dog was getting hot, recognized before it was too late. Their dog became a little bit unsteady on its feet.  The owner immediately took action and cooled them off appropriately. they went straight home, had a relaxing rest the day, had a quiet rest of the day, and their dog was absolutely fine.

And that's really what it's all about. It's about recognizing the signs of heat stroke and the best way we can go about keeping our dogs cool. In this case absolutely the right thing had been done. Have your exercise in the early morning, or in the late evening when things are a little bit cooler. Spotting the signs of heat stroke, so that's really important. Keeping an eye out, being aware that even with the best planning that overheating does happen, but recognizing those signs and taking action.

So getting their dog cool was the next correct action. Cooling their dog down quickly. And that's something that we know, time and again, will and does save lives.

I wanted to share these real world situations, to let you know that this isn't just an abstract concept. It's not something that happens every now and then. It's a very real risk in hot weather in the summer for our dogs overheating.

And it can have fatal consequences.

So enjoy the hot weather but keep your dogs cool, keep them safe.

Our Pet's Health: because they're family.