Saturday, April 25, 2009

welcome to spring in the south...

spring is here in the south. the past few days have been very warm, temperatures in the mid-80s.

the husky before me weighed about 80lbs. his coat was incredibly dense, as any good nordic coat will be. his gums were blue, he was open-mouthed breathing, his rectal temperature was 108 degrees (normal dog 99.5-101.5) my techs leapt into motion when i said 'heat stroke' and began the typical triage - IV catheter, bolused fluids, slow cooling methods (cold towels, a fan), mannitol to help prevent / combat cerebral edema, and heparin to stave off the almost inevitable DIC (disseminated intravascular coagulation).

i went to talk to the owners. the man, a well-dressed, very slim, tall, elderly man (early 80s) offered his hand and introduced himself by saying "i'm a physician." i had to resist the urge to ask him if he'd heard of heat stroke.

we stepped into a room, and i went over the history. they'd been in town for a doctor's appointment. they'd driven up the interstate with the husky in the back of their SUV. he'd always ridden there, he'd never had problems. they went to the doctor's appointment after parking in the shade and leaving the windows down. when they came back out "45 minutes" later, he was laterally recumbent, gums were purple, and he was non-responsive. they rushed him to us.

the doctor looks at me and says "he's never had a problem before. he's been healthy all his life. we've done this many, many times before. this can't be a heatstroke." i try to gently explain that their husky is FIFTEEN years old, that he is a nordic/arctic breed, perfectly suited to inhospitable, freezing climes but not to the south in spring and summer, and that his advanced age for a dog of his size might be contributing to his intolerance of the heat.

his wife turns to him and screams "we killed our dog. we did this to him. we hurt him" and collapses in hysteria.

it takes them a while to accept that i am - indeed - right. the gentlemen wants to insist that there is some underlying cause until i show him the bloodwork. it's surprisingly good considering the dog's condition. xrays of the chest and abdomen are unremarkable. it seems that no underlying disease is contributing to the husky's condition.

he can't make eye contact with me, seems profoundly stunned, and keeps mumbling about underlying causes. in the end, i am right...

just plain old southern heat stroke.

i felt very sorry for these people. it was truly an accident. bad judgment - yes but not malice. but they'd done this for years with this dog with no problems. and they were elderly, grandparent age, and seemed so stunned and broken by what had happened. i wanted to protect them from the painful knowledge.

amazingly, the husky is recovering. it's been about 24 hours, but he is stable without evidence of GI sloughing or DIC ... yet. keep your fingers tightly crossed!

this is an important reminder folks: DOGS HAVE POOR THERMOREGULATORY ABILITIES. they have to pant to blow off heat, because they only sweat a very little through their footpads. never leave your dog or cat in a car during the spring and summer. even if it feels cool to you, remember - your pet has fur, doesn't sweat, and can generally tolerate less heat stress. also, they can't open car doors and get out when it gets too hot.


Nicki said...

A few summers ago we had some "old enough to know better" young adults leave their 2 dogs in the car while they went shopping. One was DOA. The other died a few days later. Sad, but dumb.

Tachyon said...

when is a dog out of the woods for DIC? Our little miniature dachshund suffered one 72 hours ago exactly. We couldn't get a vet to come in, so I cooled him with running water. Temp dropped too fast, and I didn't manage to turn the water off before his temp was down to 100.5, so I know he got cooler than that. gave water via oral syringe at about 10 mL every 15 minutes until he expressed an interest in food and water again. His behavior was completely back to normal within 5 hours. He seems a bit more sensitive to heat now, but I've noticed nothing else, so far.

I love your blog.