BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Just a few weeks into summer, and veterinarians are already seeing dogs overcome by heat. Experts at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine warn that heat stroke can take hold in minutes, and owners have just minutes to respond.
"The prognosis is very dependent on how hot they were, how long they were that hot and how quickly they received adequate care," said Dr. Kirk Ryan.
The LSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital is warning about heat stroke, a condition that can prove fatal to pets. Animals cannot expel heat from their bodies through sweating like humans do. This causes their body temperature to rise to a dangerous high, eventually breaking down their internal organs at a cellular level.
Ryan said cases of heat strokes are almost always dogs, especially those who exercise in the heat or are left out too long.
Excessive panting or drooling are some of the biggest red flags. Ryan adds that if a pet is lagging behind while out on a walk, that's a sign they could be feeling the effects of the heat.
"People have a tendency to think of their dogs as these robust, wild spirits, which they are, but they're just as acclimated to an air conditioned environment in many cases as we are," said Ryan.
Early signs of heatstroke are rapid breathing, rapid heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea, as well as discoloration of the gums from pink to bright red, to dull and grayish-pink. If a pet displays any sign of these symptoms, first hose them down in cool or room temperature water before taking them to a vet as soon as possible.
Ryan says the sooner a dog is treated, the better their chances of avoiding what he calls the horrible effects of heat stroke which include coma, seizure and organ failure.
Ryan says heat stroke is completely avoidable if owner are careful to monitor their pets. It's also important to make sure they have access to water, shade and aren't left outside for too long.
The LSU veterinarians say that animals cannot tell us when they feel hot, so it is up to the owner to provide shelter from the sun, water to drunk, and a way to cool off as the heat rises. It is recommended that pet owners do not leave their animals in hot cars, and that owners do not take their pets on walks in the middle of the summer day, and instead plan for early morning or late evening hours when the temperature is lower.
"Puppies and kittens are more susceptible. Elderly pets are more susceptible and certain breeds (with short snouts) like pugs and bull dogs are more susceptible," Ryan explained.
It also does not have to be in the triple digits for heat stroke to happen. Ryan said even temperatures as low as 80 degrees can hurt higher risk dogs.