MJ Wixsom: So hot, it is not fit for man nor dog

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 25, 2022

The thermometer read 99 degrees. That would be okay if it were the rectal temp on a pet, but it was the truck thermometer during the dog days of August and we were moving things from one house to another.

To make it worse, the humidity was high making the heat index awful. I felt awful.

Excess heat can be quite dangerous. Heat stroke is the worst of the heat related disorders. The body loses the ability to control the internal temperature.

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Body temp rises rapidly. In humans, they lose the ability to sweat.

Dogs stop panting. Within ten to fifteen minutes the core temperature can reach 106°F or higher.

Heat stroke victims will have confusion, altered mentation, coma and or seizures.

Emergency treatment is required or death/permanent damage will occur.

For dogs, wet the head and leave the window air blow over them as you head to the vet. Evaporative cooling is much more effective than air-conditioned air.

Heat exhaustion happens after there is an excessive loss of water and salt through excessive sweating.

The CDC says that “Workers most prone to heat exhaustion are those that are elderly, have high blood pressure, and those working in a hot environment.” I have had more trouble with the heat since I had severe dehydration while working a remote check list on the Iditarod.

(I prefer this explanation to that elderly part of the CDC’s.) People with heat exhaustion have headaches, nausea, dizziness, thirst, irritability, heavy sweating, elevated temp and decreased body temp.

Dogs may have all of these, but will also be panting heavily. First aid includes shade, cooling and fluids, but emergency medical treatment may be needed.

This is probably the point that I was when I insisted that I needed to lay down. My knees almost gave out.

My family may have thought I was grouchy, but CDC says it wasn’t my fault. M’Kinzy said that I must really be worn out when I did not get up for takeout supper. I just couldn’t stand the thought of food.

Luckily, we needed some errands run in the air-conditioned stores until it was cooler.

Rhabdomyolysis is a complication of heat stress and prolonged physical exertion.

It causes a rapid breakdown and death of muscle tissue. The muscle death releases electrolytes and proteins into the bloodstream causing heart arrhythmias and seizures.

Even mild amounts can damage the kidneys Muscle cramps and pain, dark or chocolate colored urine and exercise intolerance can all be signs.

Heat stress does not have to be only in hot weather. Sled dogs can have rhabdomyolysis when the temperature is too warm (say 20°F). Sometimes, dark-colored dogs must wear jackets to reflect the sun’s heat.

Rhabdomyolysis is not an uncommon cause of a sled dog getting to ride in the basket to the next check point. Rest and lots of water are important to humans and pets.

Heat Syncope is a fainting (syncope) episode or dizziness that usually occurs with prolonged standing or sudden rising from a sitting or lying position. We used to see this on the Academy drill field. Although we said the cadets were weak, dehydration and lack of acclimatization contributes to the fainting.

Syncope can certainly be worse in heat, especially in the short-nosed dogs.

Heat cramps are something that I had a lot of at the academy. The Coast Guard Academy is situated on a hilly campus and we did a lot of running on those hills.

Sweating depletes the body’s salt and causes dehydration. Decreased salt levels contributes to painful cramps. Side cramps would make running difficult, but later my calf muscle cramps were extremely painful.

Although they gave me handfuls of salt pills, we now know that those should be avoided. Water and electrolyte replacement liquids, like sports drinks, are important.

Heat rash is the last heat disease. The human version is caused by excessive sweating during hot, humid weather. The dog version is caused by drooling from excessive panting.

Small blister like red spots appear in the wet places. Keeping the area dry is important. Ointments and creams will make it worse (or be toxic).

Unfortunately, my moving is not done.

I will be back out today and it is just as warm. But today, I will limit the amount of time that I am out and I am preparing by having an extra cup of cappuccino and an extra soda.

Today, I will not worry about calories, but take in plenty of fluids.

So, for you and your pet, avoid the heat and drink plenty of fluids.

MJ Wixsom, DVM MS is a best-selling Amazon author who practices at Guardian Animal Medical Center in Flatwoods, Ky. GuardianAnimal.com 606-928-6566