With summer upon us, it is important to know that animals overheat much faster then humans. Animals with short snouts can have a rise in body temperature very quickly, particularly when they are under the stress of travel. Animals cool themselves through their breathing and pads of their feet. Here are signs to look for, treatment if this occurs, and prevention. We all want to keep our animals safe during transport and if you are not familiar with what to look for in extreme heat then hopefully this will help you understand and take notice. If possible, bring a bottle of water and small towels on the plane with you as well as a small battery operated fan to insure good ventilation through the crate. You can also carry an icepack, or ice, in a small cooler as well but DO NOT put this directly on the animal. You can use it to cool the water they drink if the water has become hot. The water should not be freezing cold but very cool. All on board in a tiny cooler would be helpful.
Hyperthermia is a term describing an elevation in body temperature. This increase typically occurs as a response to a trigger, such as inflammation in the body or a hot environment. When a dog is exposed to high temperatures, heat stroke or heat exhaustion can result. Heat stroke is a very serious condition that requires immediate medical attention. Once the signs of heat stroke are detected, there is precious little time before serious damage - or even death - can occur. Dogs do not sweat through their skin like humans - they release heat primarily by panting and they sweat through the foot pads and nose. If a dog cannot effectively expel heat, the internal body temperature begins to rise. Once the dog's temperature reaches 106°, damage to the body's cellular system and organs may become irreversible. Unfortunately, too many dogs succumb to heat stroke when it could have been avoided. Learn how to recognize the signs of heat stroke and prevent it from happening to your dog.
Signs of Heat Stroke
The following signs may indicate heat stroke in a dog:
•Increased rectal temperature (over 104° requires action, over 106° is a dire emergency)
•Dark red gums
•Tacky or dry mucus membranes (specifically the gums)
•Lying down and unwilling (or unable) to get up
•Collapse and/or loss of consciousness
•Dizziness or disorientation
What to do if You Suspect Heat Stroke
If you have even the slightest suspicion that your dog is suffering from heat stroke, you must take immediate action.
1. First, move your dog out of the heat and away from the sun right away.
2. Begin cooling your dog by placing cool, wet rags or washcloths on the body - especially the foot pads and around the head.
3. DO NOT use ice or very cold water! Extreme cold can cause the blood vessels to constrict, preventing the body's core from cooling and actually causing the internal temperature to further rise. In addition, over-cooling can cause hypothermia, introducing a host of new problems. When the body temperature reaches 103°, stop cooling.
4. Offer your dog cool water, but do not force water into your dog's mouth.
5. Call or visit your vet right away - even if your dog seems better. Internal damage might not be obvious to the naked eye, so an exam is necessary (and further testing may be recommended).
Tip: recruit others to help you - ask someone to call the vet while others help you cool your dog.
Preventing Heat Stroke
There are ways you can prevent heat stroke from happening in the first place.
•NEVER leave your dog alone in the car (or plane) on a warm day, regardless of whether the windows are open. Even if the weather outside is not extremely hot, the inside of the car acts like an oven. Temperatures can rise to dangerously high levels in a matter of minutes.
•Avoid vigorous exercise on warm days. When outside, opt for shady areas.
•Keep fresh cool water available at all times. ( I would make certain the dog is well hydrated the day before the flight)
•Certain types of dogs are more sensitive to heat - especially obese dogs and brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds, like Pugs and Bulldogs. Use extreme caution when these dogs are exposed to heat.
**NOTE: short snouted animals can also have difficulty breathing in very cold weather as well. Limited time on the tarmac is best, should be fine in the aircraft with good ventilation. Always keep in mind it is warmer in a crate!