Health and Safety Information
Hyperthermia and Heat Stroke
As summer sizzles in Southern California, we have to be extra vigilant about preventing our dogs from over-heating. Hyperthermia, or abnormally elevated body temperature, occurs when a dog's body temperature reaches 103 degrees F, or higher. Heath stroke, a potentially lethal condition, occurs when dogs body temperature reaches 106 degrees.
- Don't EVER leave your dog in a hot car. When it is 74 degrees outside, a car can reach 120 degrees within minutes.
- Keep your dog in a cool place with access to shade. Avoid garages, and keep a fan or the air conditioning going inside.
- Dogs that have had hyperthermia before are at increased risk for it to happen again.
- The best prevention is not to expose your dog to high temperatures and to be aware of the signs of hyperthermia and heat stroke.
Signs of Hyperthermia
- Excessive drooling (ptyalism)
- Increased body temperature - above 103° F (39° C)
- Reddened gums and moist tissues of the body
- Production of only small amounts of urine or no urine
- Rapid heart rate
- Irregular heart beats
- Muscle tremors
- Wobbly, incoordinated or drunken gait or movement (ataxia)
- Changes in mental status
Other Serious Consequences
- Stoppage of the heart and breathing (cardiopulmonary arrest)
- Fluid build-up in the lungs; sudden breathing distress (tachypnea)
- Blood-clotting disorder(s)
- Vomiting blood (hematemesis)
- Passage of blood in the bowel movement or stool (black, tarry stools)
- Small, pinpoint areas of bleeding
- Generalized (systemic) inflammatory response syndrome
- Disease characterized by the breakdown of red-muscle tissue
- Death of liver cells
- Unconsciousness in which the dog cannot be stimulated to be awakened
- Cool your dog down by applying cold damp towels to the armpits, groion, ear area.
- Don't put your dog in ice or offer ice. This can excessively lower body temperature and cause shock.
- Offer water, but do not force water, as it can go into the lungs.
- Get your dog to the vet ASAP, and call ahead, letting them know you are on the way.
Click here for more information about hyperthermia.
Wild Fire Safety
In California wild fires are a fact of life. Even when we are safe from the direct effects of fire, smoke from distant fires still poses a health hazard. Animals with cardiovascular or respiratory disease are especially at risk from smoke and should be closely watched during all periods of poor air quality. The American Veterinary Association provides tips for keeping animals safe from smoke. https://www.avma.org/public/EmergencyCare/Pages/Wildfire-Smoke-and-Animals.aspx
Look for the following signs of possible smoke or dust irritation in animals. If any of your animals are experiencing any of these signs, please consult your veterinarian.
- Coughing or gagging
- Difficulty breathing, including open mouth breathing and increased noise when breathing
- Eye irritation and excessive watering
- Inflammation of throat or mouth
- Nasal discharge
- Asthma-like symptoms
- Increased breathing rate
- Fatigue or weakness
- Disorientation or stumbling
- Reduced appetite and/or thirst
Tips to Protect Pets
- Keep pets indoors as much as possible, and keep windows closed.
- Birds are particularly susceptible and should not be allowed outside when smoke or particulate matter are present.
- Let dogs and cats outside only for brief bathroom breaks if air quality alerts are in effect.
- Avoid intense outdoor exercise during periods of poor air quality. Exercise pets when dust and smoke have settled.
- Have a pet disaster plan and evacuation kit ready.
Tips to Protect Livestock
- Limit exercise when smoke is visible. No activities that cause heavy breathing.
- Provide plenty of fresh water near feeding areas.
- Limit dust exposure by feeding low-dust or dust-free feeds. Sprinkle or mist livestock holding areas.
- Plan to give livestock 4 to 6 weeks to recuperate after the air quality returns to normal. Attempting to handle, move, or transport livestock may delay healing and compromise your animals’ performance.
- Have a livestock evacuation plan ready in advance.
- If you don't have enough trailers to quickly transport all of your animals, contact neighbors, local haulers, farmers, producers, or other transportation providers to establish a network of reliable resources that can provide transportation
- Good barn and field maintenance can reduce fire danger for horses and other livestock. Make sure barns and other structures are stable, promptly remove dead trees, clear away brush, and maintain a defensible space around structures.
- For more information go the Cal Fire website at:
Many GWPs are working dogs--field, show, athletics and more. Be aware of two conditions, exertion hypoglycemia and exertional rhabdomyolysis, that can cause adverse effects, including death, in dogs.
Exertion hypoglycemia occurs when a dog’s blood sugar drops below 50 mg/dL (the normal range is 70 to 140 mg/dL) during exertion. This can happen to any dog, regardless of age or conditioning
- Extreme lethargy, muscle weakness and twitching, incoordination, trembling, dilated pupils and in most instances seizures; extreme cases--coma and death.
Emergency treatment in the field
- Give a highly digestible form of glucose on the oral mucous membranes. Examples of digestible glucose are Karo syrup, jelly/jam, honey, Gatorade, maple syrup, fruit juice, cola drinks, or Nutri-Cal.
- IV administration 100-200 milliliters of a 50% dextrose solution.
- Once dogs recover, get them to eat and rest them for the remainder of the day.
- Be careful with excessive sugars in their food because they can trigger a large release of insulin that can drive blood sugars back down into the low range.
- Take your dog to the vet afterwards to have a thorough examination and blood work done to rule out other causes of the hypoglycemia (e.g. Addison’s Disease, Epilepsy, Exercise-Induced Collapse).
Prevention is the best medicine
- Carb loading 30 to 60 minutes prior to exercise using complex carbohydrates such as pastas or bread can help but do not overload the dog’s stomach.
- Feeding a calorically dense, high energy diet (low carbs and higher protein ~ 30%/fat ~20% ratios) is a good way to condition your dog physiologically to utilize fats and proteins and not rely so much on sugars.
- Try feeding dogs 10% of their calculated diet every 2 hours during strenuous exercise with good success.
- Try maltodextrin (made from corn or potato starch) products (try giving 1 g/kg of body weight (or 0.5 g/pound of body weight) in the am prior to exercise and then repeat 2 to 3 hours after strenuous exercise.
Exertional rhabdomyolysis(aka tying up, Monday morning sickness, azoturia, or muscle cramps).
occurs when damaged muscle tissues release high levels of myoglobin proteins into the bloodstream during exercise, resulting intense pain, stiffness, dark colored urine, kidney damage, and even death.
This can occur in dogs and horses.
Signs and symptoms in dogs
- Generalized muscle pain (mostly in the back and rear legs), stiff gait, ataxia (incoordination), distress, and collapse. There can be swelling, and the muscles can be very painful to the touch.
- Nephropathy or acute renal failure (due to excessive level of proteins released by damaged muscles into the bloodstream) can result in death.
- Lack of conditioning, excessive frequency of workouts, excessive hard work
- Heat stress
- Excessive excitement
Emergency field treatment
- Stop exercise or work, cool the dog if overheated, muscle massage.
- Transport dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible to treat the subsequent kidney problems.