There are three kinds of scenarios with heatstroke. Two you’ve heard of, one you haven’t. The one you haven’t, is by far, the most common kind.
Vehicular Heatstroke - Everyone knows the dangers of leaving your pet (or tragically, a child), in a hot car either accidentally or with the windows half-heartedly cracked. So leave your pets at home when you’re running errands. Check out this clip from Dr. Ernie Ward showing how quickly your car heats up and for all you parents out there, visit Ray Ray’s Pledge, created by her loving parents, in memory of a sweet little girl who succumbed to vehicular heatstroke.
For these next two causes of heat stroke, there is one point you need to understand.
DOGS DON’T SWEAT.
They cool down by panting. If a dog can’t pant efficiently, then they can’t cool down efficiently. They use passage of air over the moist surfaces of their tongue, mouth and airway to cool through evaporation.
To oversimplify, they sweat in their mouth.
Brachycephalic Heatstroke – Ask any the owner of a Bulldog/Pug/Boston or other brachycephalic (squishy-faced) dog and they will tell you the same thing. Their dog does NOT handle the heat well, because they have a hard time breathing. They snarffle or sound like they are perpetually snoring. The combination of the extra tissue in the back of their mouths (elongated soft palate), everted “tonsils” (laryngeal saccules), narrow nostrils (stenotic nares) and a narrow windpipe (trachea), means they cannot effectively cool down. These breeds are profoundly fragile in the heat and humidity. They are best kept in an air conditioned home during the summer, with walks in the early morning and late evening, at the coolest times of the day.
Laryngeal Paralysis Heatstroke – This is the one you HAVEN’T heard of and is by far, the MOST COMMON CAUSE OF HEAT STROKE. It occurs primarily in older, large breed especially Labs, Golden Retrievers, Newfoundlands, Pitbulls. Their airway weakens and begins to function more like that of a Brachycephalic dog. More specifically, the larynx, which functions to control the opening of the airway loses it’s ability to open and close like it did before. With the hot air trapped inside the dog, these older big guys become just as fragile as a bulldog. BUT THEIR OWNERS AREN’T AWARE THIS HAS HAPPENED!!!
Does your dog sound like this when he/she breathes?
Here are the signs your dog may have laryngeal paralysis (lar par):
· Change in bark (more hoarse or high pitched)
· New sounds of snoring when sleeping
· Loud panting, even when it’s relatively cool outside
· Coughing/hacking after eating
There is a surgery to treat laryngeal paralysis. Discuss it with your veterinarian but click here to see a dramatic "Before and After" clip.
For every 1 "Hot Bulldog” or "Dog-Trapped-in-a-Hot -Car”, I see
10 dogs with Laryngeal Paralysis.
If you notice any of these signs above in your older, large breed dog, PLEASE take them to your vet so they can evaluate your dog’s airway. Until you’ve done that:
- Keep your dog in an air conditioned space
- Use a cooling mat indoors (Jasper LOVES his)
- Briefly exercise in the coolest times of the day
- NEVER EVER leave them in the car