Summertime First Aid

    Summer brings to mind thoughts of watermelon, fresh cut grass and bare feet. It’s a time of picnics, campfires and lakes of blue water.

     I’m not a doomsdayer by any means but there are few things to keep in mind when considering our animal companions that can give you the time to get him or her to the vet should things go awry.

    We all know the dangers of heat exhaustion or heat stroke for our furry friends, but let’s talk about what to do if it occurs. Heat exhaustion is demonstrated by heavy panting, deep breathing, drooling which progresses to dry gums, weakness, confusion or ‘vacant’ expression and possibly vomiting.  Heat exhaustion can rapidly develop into heat stroke which requires immediate attention. Signs of heat stroke are dark red gums, then paling to grey, shallow or slowed breathing and possible bloody diarrhea and vomiting. In either case you have limited time to save your dog or cat and reducing the body temperature is paramount.

    Do not douse your pet with ice water. Ice water (or really cold) will cause the peripheral blood vessels (the smaller ones in the extremities and near the skin surface) to constrict, leaving the blood in the trunk of the body, trapping the heat exactly where you don’t want it. Use cool water on the points of the body where the blood is near the surface so the cool blood can circulate and reduce the  body temperature. These points are the groin, inner thighs, armpits and head. Also use towels soaked in cool water on the body and on the points and head, rewet them to keep them cool as they will heat up quickly as they remove the heat from the dog. I found it interesting that we unintentional bring the dog into Hypothermia by over cooling. If possible use a fan to help cool and also offer cool water but down not force him to drink. When the body temperature gets to around 103° F, stop the cooling efforts as the dog will continue to cool down. Since there can be internal damage from heat stroke for days afterward, always take your pup or cat to the vet for a complete exam.

    Something I hadn’t considered with heat exhaustion or stroke occurs when the dog has a lake or pool available to her. But if the water (whether backyard pool or lakeshore) is a temperature of 73°F or above, a dog that is playing hard can still be a victim of heat exhaustion or stroke.

    Another hazard of summer is insect bites or stings. First aid can range from an ice pack to an emergency vet visit depending on the size of the dog and his sensitivity to whatever ‘got’ him and the culprit itself. But we can talk in general terms.

     Most dogs react to bee and wasp stings quite obviously with generalized swelling and it is usually the muzzle area as they were investigating it. This becomes more of an issue in respiratory terms. Benedryl® is a common treatment for minor and moderate swelling. The dosage is 0.5 – 2 mg per pound of dog or cat. A better product for animals is the generic equivalent of Benedryl® called Diphenhydramine because it has no added compounds. Do not use Diphenhydramine if your dog or cat is pregnant, nursing, has glaucoma, an enlarged prostate or high blood pressure. Also do not use it if your companion is on a sinus or cold medication. Pay attention to the animal’s breathing always when they have been stung or bitten in the head area as not everyone reacts the same.

    There are some other first aid measures we can take for other unexpected emergencies but I think I’ll save that for another blog.

    For now, everyone have a safe and joyous summer and we’ll all try not to have to use any emergency first aid on our adventures!

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