Ah! The summer sun seems to finally be upon us and here in Poughkeepsie & Dutchess County, N.Y., we are getting more than one day here or there where we can sit outside and enjoy the nice weather. When I checked the weather for Memorial Day, it even said we may reach a high of 81 degrees! 81! Wow! I remember not too long ago when the winter was dragging on and on and it took me two days to shovel our sidewalk from one snowstorm. Now, people step into the office and complain about the heat outside. The weather is truly an amazing thing and it can be astounding how quickly it can change. So, this post is about the weather. Not that we didn’t have anything else to discuss like those people that joke about “discussing the weather”. This is specifically about the heat building up in the car which is a very serious issue. As you can see from the charts here from weather.com, in a matter of only ten minutes on a 90 degree day, a car’s inside temperature jumps almost 20 degrees to 109! In a matter of thirty minutes, the temperature jumps to 124 degrees inside!!! All too often we see patients come off the Rail-Trail with heatstroke or were left outside in the sun too long. Heatstroke can lead to hospitalization and, in some cases, death. Even here at the hospital, sometimes patient s wait in the car while we take care of paperwork and review your go home instructions; please use common sense because even a few minutes in the car can be dangerous.
Some dogs are more prone to heat stroke than others and it may not be who you think. Brachycephalic dogs are the most likely candidates for heat stroke. What does Brachycephalic mean? Merriam-Webster defines it as meaning “short-headed or broad-headed with a cephalic index of over 80”. Cephalic Index is defined as “the ratio multiplied by 100 of the maximum breadth from side to side of the head to its maximum length from front to back in living individuals”. Bottom line is Pugs, Boston Terriers, Pekingeses, Boxers, Bulldogs, Shih Tzus or any other breed with “pushed in” faces are considered Brachycephalic. This means that their nostrils may be smaller, windpipe may be shorter, and ultimately this affects their breathing. These issues may not allow these breeds to pant as effectively, thus not allowing their bodies to cool down as efficiently as non-brachycephalic breeds that do not have any respiratory concerns. It is also important to note that if you are the parent of a Pomeranian or a Yorkshire Terrier, although they are not considered to be Brachycephalic, they are prone to heat stroke and heat stress due to their weak tracheas which can lead to respiratory distress. Don’t forget about cats either! They can be affected by the heat just as much as many dogs and it can even be worse for them if they are put in a hot plastic carrier and then put in a hot car.
Breed aside; any dog can be subject to heat stroke. Signs of heat stroke include heavy panting, difficulty breathing, vomiting, fever, and diarrhea. Eventually the gums turn grey as shock sets in and they collapse and can go into seizures and coma. Left untreated, ultimately death follows. If your dog is showing ANY signs of heat stroke or was left outside in a car, tied up in the sun on a hot day for too long, or any other situation that could put them at a high risk for heat-related issues; call your veterinarian here in Poughkeepsie & Dutchess County, N.Y.!
– Post by Michelle W.