Cookin’ Eggs and Killin’ Dog’s: A Lesson in Heatstroke in Animals

Living in a dirt poor neighborhood of Green Bay a time ago, I recall my income was so sparse that only Wal-Mart could satisfy my desire to have the only pool in my neighborhood.  Six bucks bought me eight-inches of water in a five-foot circle of plastic – essential to keep my German shepherd cool when the heat of summer settled over northern Wisconsin.  A collection of bare-chested boys in swimsuits – in oversized flippers, towels over shoulders, swim masks suctioned to their foreheads – gathered to stare longingly at the threatening dog as she held vigil over the pool.  Their wanting looks told you this was the country club to which they held no membership.

That’s what I would do to keep my dog from heat stroke in the summer…tease the neighborhood kids: you?   The best prevention is avoidance and six dollars was a small price to pay to avoid heart stroke.

Hyperthermia is more common than we like to admit and, unfortunately, the cases we hear about most frequently involve dogs locked in cars.  The danger point for our pets’ is between 107 and 109 degrees.  In the sultry south it takes only minutes for the air temp in a sealed vehicle to reach this deadly mark.

On a 75° day the inside temp in a car can hit 120° in 30 minutes.  In fairness, since 75° degree days might already be behind us, consider a 100 degree day.  In 15 minutes the temp inside a closed-up car can reach 140°.  And remember at 107° our pets, trapped in the sauna, literally begin to bake.

Proteins denature at temps as low as 105.5°.  What does that mean?

When the slimy albumin of an egg begins to turn that delicious, edible opaque white; proteins are denaturing.  That’s great for breakfast, but a death sentence in a dog overheating.  Remember 107° is critical; it’s when cells begin to breakdown.  Once cells begin to fry, things move rapidly to life-threatening.  Tissues are damaged and organ’s fail.  Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (SIRS) and Multiple Organ Dysfunction Syndrome (MODS) kill dogs quickly, working like a microwave cooking from the inside out; an insufferable death.  Even survivors can experience irreversible damage to the brain and other vital internal organs like liver, kidneys and the heart.

Animals enclosed in poorly ventilated areas on a hot day, as well as those exercising excessively in the Lowcountry’s extreme heat are also at risk of the same fate. The real tragedy is; all of these situations are avoidable.

Though summer brings other hazards to our furry friends including ticks, insect and snake bites, fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and rodent baits, none are as preventable as your awareness of your pet’s overheating.  Panting, increased salivation, bright red gums, changes in mental awareness, stumbling or collapse are sure–fire signs your animal’s self cooling system isn’t keeping up with the demands of the day’s heat.  Get out the hose, start cooling’ them down and call your vet immediately.

Again, and most importantly, don’t be the fool in the newspaper article that locks their “kids” in the car just to run into the store for a “few seconds,” even if just to buy the kiddie pool.

The dog, by the way, never let the little moochers into the pool in Wisconsin.  Who could blame her; kids are filthy little creatures that pee in pools and dogs drink from them.

Stay cool and enjoy your summer.

Thank you to the Boggan Family for sending us a picture of Riley in her Swimming Goggles!

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