With Burnsville residents experiencing a scorcher of a summer, Patch sat down with local medical professionals to find out how community members can recognize and stop early symptoms of heat stroke in both people and pets.
According to Dr. Jun Liang, a family physician at Fairview Savage Clinic, symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke include weakness, tiredness, heightened heart rate, low blood pressure, dizziness, headache, muscle cramps, diarrhea, sweating, paleness, confusion and disorientation.
The best way to prevent these symptoms is to stay in a cool, shady place, drink water and fluids with minerals, such electrolyte-rich sports drinks, and avoid outdoor physical exertion.
However, should symptoms strike, there are ways to beat the heat.
“The most important thing is, of course, cooling down,” said Liang.
Early symptoms, such as cramps and sweating, can be treated simply by moving somewhere cool and rehydrating your body.
If you’re confused or disoriented or your entire body is experiencing symptoms, it’s best to go to the emergency room to seek IV rehydration and have your electrolyte balance and body temperature regulated.
The risk of developing heat exhaustion or heat stroke is highest when the weather rises above 98 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature of a normal human body. Young children, elderly adults and anyone with a chronic illness should be especially cautious during high-risk weather.
Four legged family members are also particularly susceptible to heat stroke, or hyperthermia, according to Dr. Stephen Skilling, a veterinarian at the Burnsville Animal Clinic. While cats can experience symptoms, heat stroke is much more common in dogs.
It is significantly harder for dogs to keep cool than it is for humans, because dogs only sweat through their feet.
Pets experiencing heat stroke present with excessive panting, drooling, labored breathing, weakness, collapse, seizures, and, eventually, death.
Skilling recommends that pet owners avoid exercising their dogs when the temperature is higher than 80 degrees or the humidity is above 60 percent. He also advises that people refrain from leaving their pets in the car, even for a brief period of time. Sunny weather can be dangerous for dogs in cars, even if it’s not particularly hot, and dogs left in cars can die in less than 20 minutes.
“It’s just like sticking your dog in an oven,” said Skilling.
Skilling once treated two Yorkshire terriers that had been briefly left in their owner’s car. The animals each had a body temperature of 108 degrees, seven degrees higher than normal for dogs. Both dogs died within half an hour of entering the clinic due to major organ failure.
“It was just a sad, sad thing to see,” said Skilling. “It could have been totally avoided.”
If your dog is exhibiting symptoms of heat stroke, Skilling recommends moving it to the shade and pouring water directly onto it. Skilling specified that pouring water on your dog is a much more efficient method of cooling than giving it water to drink.
For more information about keeping your pet healthy in the heat, visit mydogiscool.com.