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Heat Stroke

Working dogs are often exposed to rigorous physical activity, sometimes in challenging environmental conditions. One of the most serious risks these dogs face, particularly in hot weather, is heat stroke. Understanding the preliminary signs of heat stroke and knowing how to administer first aid can be crucial in saving a dog’s life.

Heat stroke occurs when a dog's body temperature rises to a dangerous level, usually above 106°F (41°C), due to excessive heat and physical exertion. Early signs to watch for include excessive panting, heavy and rapid panting especially when the dog has not been exercising strenuously, excessive drooling, and red or pale gums. A dog's gums may turn bright red or pale, and their tongue might appear very red. Increased heart rate is also a response to rising body temperature. Dogs may appear weak, unsteady, or have trouble walking, and they may seem confused, disoriented, or not respond to commands. In severe cases, dogs may vomit or have diarrhea, sometimes with blood, and may experience seizures, collapse, or even become unconscious.

If you suspect your dog is suffering from heat stroke, immediate action is critical. Move the dog out of the heat and into a cool, shaded area or an air-conditioned space as quickly as possible. Begin cooling the dog by applying cool (not cold) water to their body, using a garden hose, wet towels, or placing them in a bathtub with cool water. Focus on the dog's neck, armpits and groin area where there are large blood vessels. Avoid using ice-cold water as it can constrict blood vessels and impede cooling. Allow the dog to drink small amounts of cool water, but do not force water into their mouth as this can cause choking. Use a rectal thermometer to monitor the dog's temperature if possible, aiming to bring it down to about 103°F (39.4°C). Once it reaches this point, stop the cooling process to prevent hypothermia. Even if the dog appears to recover, it is essential to take them to a veterinarian immediately, as heat stroke can cause internal damage that may not be immediately apparent.

Preventing heat stroke is always better than treating it. Ensure your dog has access to fresh water at all times and schedule training and work sessions during the cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late evening. Allow for frequent rest breaks in shaded or cool areas and monitor humidity, as high humidity can increase the risk of heat stroke even if the temperature is not extremely high. Consider using cooling vests, mats, or bandanas designed for dogs.

Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate attention. By recognizing the preliminary signs and knowing how to administer first aid, you can protect your dog from the dangers of excessive heat. Always prioritize prevention by managing your dog's activity levels and environment during hot weather. With proper care and vigilance, you can help ensure your working dog stays healthy and performs at their best, no matter the conditions.


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