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Beating the Heat - How to Recognize Signs of Heat Stroke and Heat Stress in Your Animal

Posted by Winnie's Cookies on

Whether you are spending the summer riding your horse on the area trails, enjoying some friendly competition at the horse shows or just hanging out with your equine buddy in the back yard or at the barn, it is important to keep an eye out for heat stroke and heat stress. Heat stroke and heat stress can strike quickly, and when they do time is of the essence. The faster you get help and take the right steps the easier it will be for your four-legged companion to recover.

Of course horses are not the only animals that are prone to heat stroke. All of our companion animals, including our faithful dogs, can be affected by excessive heat. In fact dogs can be particularly prone to heat stroke and heat stress, since they are unable to sweat through their pores the way humans and horses do.

Listen to the Heart

Any time you are out in the summer heat, it is important to watch out for the telltale signs of heat stress and heat stroke. Whether you are riding your horse or just hanging around the barn, be on the alert for the early warning signs that indicate your horse is succumbing to the heat. Horses in the early stages of heat stress or heat stroke may exhibit an elevated heart rate that does not return to normal after exercise has stopped.

Sweat and Temperature

Horses suffering from the heat may sweat excessively, but they may also not sweat at all. If it is hot and your horse is not sweating at all, he could be feeling the effects of excessive heat. If you suspect heat stress or heat stroke in your horse, take his temperature at once. A temperature that registers above 103F and stays elevated is cause for alarm - and reason to call the vet.

Behavior Changes

A horse who is suffering heat stress or heat stroke may also appear lethargic or depressed. An animal that is dehydrated will exhibit poor capillary refill rates. You can check the capillary refill rate by pinching the skin on the nose and waiting for the blood to refill. Call the vet if the skin color does not return to normal after a few seconds.

First Steps

If you suspect heat stroke or heat stress in your horse, your first call should be to the vet. In the meantime, you can try to get the horse to drink, but sometimes a dehydrated animal will refuse water. Try offering warm water - paradoxically horses suffering in the heat may be more likely to drink heated water than cold water.

Move to Shade

Move the horse to a shady spot or cool area while you wait for the vet. If a hose is available, you can lower the animal's body temperature by hosing the legs or applying cold packs to the extremities.

Dogs and Heat

Heat stroke and heat stress can be just as dangerous for your dog, and some of the signs are similar to the ones for horses. Dogs suffering in the heat may appear lethargic and depressed, and they may pant excessively or have red or inflamed gums.

Dogs suffering from heat stress or heat stroke may also exhibit gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. If you see any of these symptoms while walking or playing with your dog, it is important to seek veterinary help as soon as possible. Heat stroke and heat stress can be fatal to dogs, and the symptoms can escalate in a surprisingly short period of time.

While you are going to the vet, you can try to lower the dog's body temperature by running the air conditioner in the car and applying cold compresses to the body and legs. Offer the dog water, although some animals will refuse to drink even when dehydrated. The most important thing is to seek veterinary care as soon as possible.

Animals suffer in the heat as much as (if not more than) we do. As pet owners, it is up to us to watch out for them and get them the help they need when the summer temperature starts to soar. If you suspect your horse or dog is suffering from heat related causes, get them to shade and get them water while you call their vet for help.