Grit Blogs > Waking up in Kansas

Dog Heat Stroke: It Could Happen to You

By K.C. Compton

Tags: CP, dog, heat,

KC ComptonI thought I was doing my cockapoodle pup a favor recently when I took him out for a nice jaunt through the orchard. I had been working long hours lately and hadn’t given him nearly as many walks as I usually do.

Often, during the day when I’ve gone to work, I leave CP outside and he runs around with the guy who works on the farm, helping him check the trees, feed the hens, trim the weeds and generally do useful things that require him to zip from place to place on one of the golf carts from the U-pick operation.

CP has become so finely tuned to the sound of a golf cart now, in fact, that he bolts to the door, certain the cart scrunching over the gravel road means it’s playtime in CPWorld.

CP investigates an apple

So, when I came home late that fateful evening, I jumped in the golf cart and made a quick tour of the orchard. It was a nice evening in late July and the sun was already fairly low in the sky, so I wasn’t particularly worried about the heat. Generally I figure if I, sun-sensitive soul that I am, can stand it, the dog’s OK.

That would be entirely wrong, as I now know. At first, CP galloped enthusiastically beside me. Then I became aware that I couldn’t hear his tags jingle anywhere near me.

Concerned, I headed back toward the house, and as I got close, I heard CP’s labored breathing and saw him gasping for breath with his tongue practically dragging the ground.

Instinct kicked in and I instantly reached for the garden hose, even as I noticed that the insides of his earflaps were bright red and his skin felt scorching. I hosed him down thoroughly and he began breathing a little easier, so I carried him into my house, put several inches of tepid water in the bathtub and just kept pouring the coolish water over him for what felt like half an hour.

I gave him a baby aspirin to help reduce his fever, patted him dry enough to take his rightful place at the foot of my bed, then called my vet, after hours and 30 miles away.

The doctor listened carefully, said it was certainly heat stress and that I had done the right things. It sounded as though the worst was over, and I should call back if his condition seemed to worsen during the night.

I felt so guilty, I told the vet. I thought I was doing the right thing, giving him a good run before bedtime.

“Goofy dog spirit,” Dr. Coles said ruefully. “Some of them will run themselves to death rather than stop having a good time with their people.”

Aww, ma-a-an. Now I really feel bad.

But now I know. Some dogs are more sensitive to heat than others: CP is one of those. Dogs with thick fur have a harder time of it than others: CP is also one of those. Dogs can’t sweat, so they use their tongues to cool down through evaporation. When the weather is too hot, or they exert themselves too much, their evaporation system is overwhelmed and it can get ugly very quickly. CP’s did.

Lucky dogs have people companions who will drop everything, grab the hose and cool them down, then learn their lesson and never, ever do anything that dumb again.

CP has one of those, too.

kc compton_2
8/31/2009 3:58:42 PM

I got heatstroke once when I lived in New Mexico and was riding my bike early in the season. Some friends suggested adding a 10-mile loop to our 20-mile ride and, because I was feeling pretty good at the time, I said, "Sure." However, I hadn't packed enough water for an additional 10 miles, and while that doesn't mean much in a car, 10 miles in the mountains on a bike is some pretty serious exertion. We had started fairly early in the morning, but it was June and by the time the sun got up high in the sky, we were baking. I ended up that night going to the E.R. with heat stroke and now I'm especially sensitive to heat. I also sunburned a strip on my upper arms and shoulders that hadn't been exposed to the sun at all (went from tee shirt to sleeveless jersey). Not one of my most successful outdoor adventures, but I certainly learned to pack on the water and sports drinks.

nebraska dave
8/30/2009 10:26:28 PM

K.C. I’m so glad to hear that CP has recovered from his close encounter and is OK. I would remind everyone that we too are vulnerable to the hot sun. Even though we as humans sweat, we can and do dehydrate through activity. My close encounter was with a lawn mowing job for a friend who was living out of town and trying to sell his house. With only a couple more rounds to finish the job I was tempted to push through the heat to complete the job. Thankfully, I correctly evaluated the situation and took a rest that lasted almost 90 minutes. Good thing too as I became a little light headed and most likely was extremely close to heat exhaustion. Heat stroke can come up fast and needs immediate action just as you performed on CP. I would advise anyone to take the needed rest if there is any doubt. I now work, drink, and rest often when I’m in the heat.

kc compton_2
8/24/2009 10:08:28 AM

I think they're probably fairly safe if they're just sunning themselves--particularly if they have a shady option. I believe it was the exertion that pushed him over the edge. --KC

8/22/2009 5:21:23 AM

I'm glad he is o.k. -my dog is getting old and he likes to sit out in the sun like he is sunbathing- I have to watch him-now I'll definetly keep a close eye on him vickie

brenda kipp_1
8/21/2009 4:56:09 PM

Poor, CP. Glad he's OK. He's blessed to have such a good "mom" like you!

kc compton_2
8/21/2009 12:22:19 PM

I think what made the difference is that he was trying to keep up with the golf cart. Probably if I had just been walking, he wouldn't have exerted himself so much. We live and learn! --KC

8/20/2009 12:46:47 PM

Good to know. My black lab, loves to play, and she could care less if it's 100 degrees. She likes to run around the fields and pastures, exploring the surroundings, but once she gets to the pond, she's done playing on land and instead becomes an olympic swimmer. At least swimming should keep her cooled down. My other dog, a yellow lab, would rather explore on land than swim. Luckily, he's a very smart little guy, so when he gets hot, he'll run to the pond and go for a quick dip to cool off before heading off on land again.