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"What is also very scary is that some of the symptoms of heat stroke could be deceiving and can be easily mistaken for other medical conditions leading to a wrong approach in treatment."

Evolution is a very powerful force that has ensured the sustenance of life for millions of years on planet earth. An excellent example of evolution and adaptation is the physical characteristics of animals from different climatic zones.

For example, the Saint Bernard is a breed of dog that was bred to guard the hospice of "Saint Bernard" in Switzerland, and also to rescue people in thick and treacherous snowy environments. This means that the breed thrives in cold environments and has a very low capacity to tolerate heat.

However, in the modern times, thanks to the pop-culture and the extremely gentle nature of the breed, Saint Bernard has become a very popular pet across the globe. India obviously is no exception.

Given the fact that India is a hot tropical country, Saint Bernard is extremely susceptible to heat stroke if not properly cared for. Same is the case for countless other dog breeds, particularly the long haired ones.

What is also very scary is that some of the symptoms of heat stroke could be deceiving and can be easily mistaken for other medical conditions leading to a wrong approach in treatment.

Many of you must have noticed reddish rashes and swellings on the belly and under the skin of your dogs. Sometimes, you may also notice a white tip on the top of those swellings, which is nothing but pus, a clear indication of bacterial infection. This is very common among dogs during summer in India, especially when the home environment of the dog is very hot. While this is a very manageable condition that goes away with regular bathing and specific medications, there are other serious heat stroke-related complications that could also be life-threatening.

Following are some of the most critical symptoms of heatstroke that must be attended to immediately by a veterinarian.

  • Excessive panting is an initial sign of heat stroke as your dog tries to dissipate the excess heat as much as it can. Keep him or her under observation if that is the case and watch out for accompanying symptoms such as drooling and a deep reddish tinge on the gum and tongue.

  • Hyperactivity is another sign of heat stroke that can appear in a dog that has been panting excessively for a while. This kind of hyperactivity is not like the 'super-excited' kind that you see when you get back home from work or when they are about to get treats. Heat stroke-mediated hyperactivity can actually cause a loss of balance and disorientation.

  • As the condition progresses further you may notice a very dull mucous membrane and even cyanosis of the gums (gums turning blue), tachycardia (rapid heartbeat) and hypotension (low blood pressure). Eventually, conditions such as extreme lethargy and tremors may appear accompanied by diarrhea (sometimes with blood), urinary incontinence (uncontrolled urination) and finally comma.

While the conditions mentioned above can rightly be characterized as serious medical emergencies, they can be easily prevented if you take some very simple precautions during summer. Some tips are as follows :

  • If you are leaving your dog in your car, even for a short while, crack the window. In India it is better to leave the AC on and have someone sit with the dog.

  • While exercise is important, it’s better to skip it when the weather is very hot.

  • Make sure that your dog has continuous access to cool drinking water. Add one or two ice cubes if you want. If you can get dog ice popsicles, it is even better.

  • If the environment where your dog lives is not air-cooled, it’s a good idea to provide him a cooling mat to lie on.

  • Try to avoid the muzzle if you use one because the attachment could be an obstruction to panting that allows your dog to lose heat.

Heat stroke is easily preventable, even in a hot country like ours by taking some very simple measures and I hope you all find these tips helpful.


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