Heatstroke Deadly To Dogs

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Heatstroke is deadly!

My Gibson is resting fairly comfortably in his usual place under my desk after suffering heatstroke. Two days ago I was told that there was less than a 50 percent chance that he would survive.

Gibson would not leave the yard on his own, but if his stepsister says, "lets jump the fence and run for a while," he replies -- "Sounds like a great idea" and they're off, over the four-foot gate and immediately disappearing into the woods. I knew within minutes when they left, so I began the search, on foot and in the car.

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Gibson is happy to be home. The area on his legs that were shaved for the numerous intravenous injections are visible. He is resting comfortably and getting stronger. Will he again follow his sister out for a run on a hot day?

They were not to be found. Three hours later, Lacy returned, ready for a drink of water and dinner. No sign of Gibson. I found him lying in a neighbor's yard. He could barely walk, but I got him into the car and gave him water. I assumed he had gotten into some bad water and had a very sick stomach.

Naturally, this was Friday evening. I kept a close watch and the next morning, though he was unsteady on his feet, he went outside long enough to take care of business. I had to go to Scottsdale and I knew that if he needed medical care, it would have to be an emergency hospital and those are in the Valley.

Saturday afternoon, his gums were bright pink, he could hardly stand and he had a moist sore on the inside of his thigh. (This, I later learned was due to internal bleeding.) I took him to the emergency hospital.

They began doing tests but were fairly sure, due to his symptoms, that he had suffered heatstroke. The tests verified their prediction and his prognosis was bleak.

He received four units of blood and fluids, as well as antibiotics and other medications. By Sunday afternoon, his condition was still poor. I decided I could no longer afford this treatment with such a poor chance of survival.

The veterinarian suggested that, since we had already put so much into him, give him until the next morning. I agreed, but said that, if he survived, I would have to take him from that hospital in the morning, due to the cost.

Monday morning, Gibson was a bit better and they reluctantly turned him over to me, stating that he needed additional hospital care. I knew that any regular vet would not provide continuous overnight care. I brought him home. They said to watch for bloody diarrhea, vomiting or blood in the urine. He is on three different medications.

It is now Wednesday and he is doing amazingly well. I am watching him closely. This afternoon, he will see our veterinarian in Payson.

An information sheet provided by the emergency hospital stated, "heatstroke is a potentially fatal condition characterized by extremely high body temperature and collapse. It results from exposure to high environmental temperatures. Heatstroke often occurs in animals that are left in an automobile, chained/housed in the sun without sufficient shade and water, or are taken for walks or hikes in the sun."

It continues, "Dogs and cats pant to lower their body temperature. Heat is lost through the evaporation of moisture from the tongue. High humidity allows for moisture to evaporate slowly from the panting animal's tongue. The animal cannot cool itself effectively and the body temperature rises."

Signs of heatstroke are panting, restlessness, bright, red gums, rapid heartbeat and a body temperature over 103. Vomiting and diarrhea may also occur. "If allowed to progress, the animal may have convulsions and/or go into a coma. The animal may stop breathing and die."

Treatment for heatstroke includes slowly lowering the body temperature and improving circulation. Oxygen and intravenous fluids are administered.

Medication may be given to treat shock and reduce swelling in the brain. Kidney failure is common. The body's ability to clot the blood must be checked regularly.

According to the American Red Cross Pet First Aid book, if your pet shows signs of heatstroke, cool him down with a wet towel around his head, neck, feet, chest and abdomen. Do NOT immerse him in water. The book states, "Many consequences of hyperthermia won't show up for hours or even days. Some of these conditions can be fatal, if not treated medically.

Potential problems include kidney failure, problems with blood clotting, destruction of the digestive tract lining, neurologic problems including seizures, swelling of the brain and respiratory arrest." An animal who suffers heatstroke is more inclined to have it happen again.

This has been a very frightening experience. It has also been very expensive. You suddenly realize how very important these pets are to you. We do not have emergency animal care in Payson. However, there are wonderful hospitals throughout the Valley. Gibson was at the Emergency Animal Clinic of Scottsdale.

The veterinarians rotate, so you are not likely to see the same person for more than 12 hours. But the care Gibson received was amazing. The doctors came and talked with me several times a day, updating me on his condition and letting me know what the costs would be.

I left there with two copies of a 26-page report. One I dropped off with our vet in Payson and the other I have read over several times, amazed at what this poor guy has been through and how close he came to not surviving. Fortunately, I was able to pay the bill. For those who cannot afford the treatment, there are no options. Heatstroke is deadly.

-- Christy Powers is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at cpwrather@earthlink.net or by snail mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry AZ 85544.

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