Monday, June 20, 2016

Another Summer Issue: Heat Stroke

Heat stroke (or hyperthermia) is a condition caused by overheating in your pet. Early in heat stroke, symptoms may be easy to miss. Appearing distressed, panting, and acting restless are common signs, but you may just chalk them up to the excitement of the day. As heat stroke progresses, you may see your pet become unsteady on his feet.  His gum color may also change from pink to blue or purple. Heat stroke is an emergency which requires immediate veterinary care.

Avoiding heat stroke is easy if you consider the following points:

•  Never leave your pet in your car on a warm day. Not even to run into the store for a minute. On a warm day, your car can become an oven. Studies have shown that even in temperatures as mild as 70 degrees, the inside of your car can rise 40 degrees in as short as an hour. Let me repeat:  NEVER leave your pet in your car on even a slightly warm day.

Provide shade for your outdoor dog. Being able to get out of direct sunlight can help your dog stay cool.

• Because dogs cannot sweat, they rely on panting to cool their systems. Provide adequate ventilation at all times, especially if you have a short-nosed breed like a Pug or English Bulldog.

Work up slowly to exercise. If you’re like most of us, you AND your pets have been dormant most of the winter. Just as you’re not ready for that marathon right off the bat, our pets also need to ease into their new exercise routine.

Keep a special eye on older pets. They have a harder time rising and can be very sound sleepers. Falling asleep in the sun may sound luxurious, but for older pets it can be life-threatening.

Just as the case with our canine friends, obese cats are more prone to overheating, so these are the ones that you’ll want to keep a closer eye on during extremely hot days. 

There are other heat related situations that can potentially use up one of your feline’s nine lives, though. Knowing that cats seek out the warm spots, it may not be a surprise to hear that cats often jump into the clothes dryer, especially if there are freshly dried clothes there. This is enough to overheat your kitty, but an even more dangerous event may follow. Cats can go undetected in the dryer before it is started, leading to a potentially life threatening (not to mention very scary) wild ride. Check your dryer before you start it, especially in the winter when cats are even more likely to seek warmth.

Your vet will make a diagnosis based on your pet’s history and the physical exam findings. Heat stroke is treated with intravenous fluids and other supportive treatments, including possible plasma transfusions and treatments for kidney failure and gastrointestinal damage. Despite aggressive treatment, there is still a 50% mortality rate in patients who present with severe heat stroke, so remember that prevention is key to keep our furry friends from overheating this summer.

Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on

Monday, June 6, 2016

Dry Drowning in Dogs

Dry Drowning in Dogs

Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on
Staff Veterinarian and Pet Health Writer of Petplan
(with permission) 

The mercury has risen where I live, which is welcome after our harsh winter that seemed to last forever. And finally, summer is officially here.

With summer, though, comes some dangers for our pets. For the last few weeks, my Facebook feed has been sprinkled with posts warning friends about the risk of “dry drowning” in children, and this got me thinking about the same condition in pets.

I will never forget the first case of “dry drowning” or “secondary drowning” that I ever saw. I was a fourth year student in veterinary school, working my clinical rotations. A very nice young couple came in to our emergency service with their 9-month-old Golden Retriever pup. It seems their pup found his way into their pool while they were out.

Dogs love swimming, and we know that most dogs can instinctively swim. They’ll eagerly jump in the pool for some real doggy paddling, but the trouble comes in getting out. By instinct, dogs tend to approach the side of the pool to exit, only to find themselves unable to climb out.

Like most dogs, the Golden Retriever pup could not get out of the pool. His owners had not taught him how to find and use the steps yet. These owners were very lucky to get home in time to see his accident; they were able to rescue him from the pool before he became so exhausted that he could no longer swim.

But their dog wasn’t out of the woods yet. That’s because the pool water he may have aspirated (or inhaled) while struggling to keep his muzzle above sea level was acting as an irritant in his lungs. This irritation was causing pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs) to occur. As fluid built up inside his lungs, his ability to breathe became hampered.

This, dear readers, is dry drowning. It can happen hours – or even days – after a near drowning accident, and it is heart breaking because even though you rescued your pet from the immediate danger of drowning, you could still lose her later due to complications.

My story has a good outcome—the pup pulled through, much to everyone’s relief. But many stories do not turn out as well.

If you have to rescue your pet from a near drowning episode, keep a very, very close eye on him or her in the hours after the accident. To be safe, you may want to think about just taking her to the vet for observation, especially if the accident happens in the evening hours and you need someone to watch her overnight.

This summer, make sure your pets know how to get out of the pool. Teach them where the steps are and how to use them. And go one step further—never let your pet have access to the pool without supervision. It’s just not worth the risk!