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Education in the Heat of the Moment

by | Jun 4, 2021

We know that summertime can be stressful for veterinarians because of the heat. Pet owners are oftentimes unaware that pets get heat stroke just like humans do. This is why as veterinary professionals, it is important to educate in the heat of the moment. Heatstroke is something that you should be ready to educate about at any time.  

Heatstroke Factors to Educate About: 

While it is important to know what the signs are, it is first important to know what could be contributing to your client being susceptible.

Can Affect All Ages and Breeds:

It does not affect just one breed or a certain age range BUT there are certain breeds that are more susceptible than others. Long-haired breeds and breeds that have a shortened nose have a higher chance of heatstroke than short-haired breeds or long nose breeds. It is also known that younger-aged (puppies) and older-aged (senior dogs) are more likely to have a heatstroke as well. 

Higher Average Temperature and Humidity:

If your client just recently moved, and you live in a place that has higher humidity than what they are used to, they should be made aware of that. This could also be a contributing factor as well as a higher average temperature. Temperature is something that your client should be aware of at all times, especially in a vehicle. While they may think that it is a low enough temperature to have the car off, the temperature rises above what the outside temperature is making it dangerous for their pet. 

Exercise, Access to Water, Obesity:

If your client has a pet, they often think that it’s nice to get their animal outside while it is warm. This is fine, as long as the pet has an adequate water supply. Letting the client know that trying to reduce an obese dog’s weight can also be dangerous during the heat. Helping them design a safe and healthy plan for their dog is important to endure the heat. 

Educating about Different Types: 

Making yourself aware of the different types of heatstroke can better prepare your clients. Exertional heatstroke occurs when the animal is exercising and is more common to dogs that have not adjusted properly to their environment. If the dog is allowed to have time to become acclimated, they are less likely to heatstroke. To the surprise of some, it is less common in working dogs because the owners often take more caution and have knowledge of the subject. 

Nonexertional is the second type of heatstroke. This results in prolonged exposure to increased environmental temperature without adequate cooling. This could mean that a dog was kept somewhere without proper airflow causing it to heatstroke. Examples of this are in a yard without shelter/shade and water or in a car with the windows up in the summer. 

Effects on the Body: 

Educating about what effects heatstroke has on their dog’s body is important. It could save the life of one of your patients. 

Central Nervous:

Could cause the death of neurons throughout the body. Hemorrhage is also a possibility when talking about effects. 

Cardiovascular:

Initially, the output on the heart is increased.  It quickly goes from increasing to decreasing as the blood within the body is unable to circulate adequately. This then can and will result in electrolyte derangements. 

These are just two of the direct effects that heat stroke can have on the body of a dog. Informing your client about these effects is important. 

Guidance on treating Heatstroke: 

Instruct clients to start treatment as soon as possible is important. This means if a client is asking when to start treatment or that they are bringing the patient to your clinic, they need to start treating the patient. This is proven to help the patient drastically. 

Make sure that your client is cooling the patient. While it may not prevent the effects of heatstroke it could make them go from fatal to severe or better. A study done showed that the dog being cooled before they got to the clinic had a 19% lower mortality rate than dogs who weren’t cooled before. 

Teaching What to Avoid During Treatment: 

Ice:

It causes peripheral vasoconstriction. This means that it doesn’t allow heat to travel from the core of the body to the skin layer. The ice could also cause damage to the skin which would make the patient even more uncomfortable than they already were. 

Shivering:

It does not contribute to hyperthermia because it produces heat that is minor relative to the cooling that is achieved during treatment for heatstroke. 

Monitoring Heatstroke: 

While it is unlikely that screens will catch it, MODS or multiple organ dysfunction syndromes may develop during hospitalization. This is when two or more of the body’s organs begin to fail simultaneously. 

There are a plethora of ways to increase the monitoring of heatstroke. As we have moved to a more “tech-friendly” world, especially this year, we look at our phones, tablets, and computers more than ever before. So why not look at them for the purpose of helping your business become more efficient and saving more animals? MeasureON! smart harness is a technology that could help with doing just that. To learn more about the smart harness technology that MeasureON! has to offer for your clinic click here

Heatstroke is something that no one wishes on animals or humans alike. If you enjoyed this article and find its tips handy, click the infographic to download to help educate clients.