PET WELLNESS: Heat injury prevention guidelines for working dogs, pets

By Sgt. SHARIFA NEWTONApril 3, 2019

PET WELLNESS: Heat injury prevention guidelines for working dogs, pets
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Specialist Sean Nestrick, a military working dog handler assigned to the 510th Military Police Company, 716th Military Police Battalion, 101st Sustainment Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, demonstrates part of the ice sheet cooling process with his w... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
PET WELLNESS: Heat injury prevention guidelines for working dogs, pets
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Captain Sarah Gregory, the officer in charge of the Fort Campbell Veterinary Center, and Pfc. Josephine Owens, an animal care specialist, assigned to the Fort Campbell Veterinary Services, perform lifesaving measures for heat stroke on their training... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

The heat of the summer can cause injury to pets just like it can to their owners.

With temperatures often soaring into the 90s during the summer months, Fort Campbell can get pretty hot.

It is important for pet owners to make sure that their pets have access to shade, shelter and plenty of water when left outside, said Capt. Sarah Gregory, the officer-in-charge of the Fort Campbell Veterinary Center, assigned to the Public Health Activity, Fort Knox-Fort Campbell branch, Fort Campbell Veterinary Services.

Just like people, animals can experience dehydration and heat stroke. For animals such as cats and dogs, heat is released through their paws and by panting. An animal's body conducts heat from the environment much faster than it can dissipate that heat, thus making high temperatures and humidity detrimental to its health.

Pets that have short noses including boxers, pugs, Boston terriers and Persian cats are more susceptible to heat stroke, Gregory said. These animals' panting is not as effective because of their snub-noses.

Conditions that can make a pet more susceptible to heat injury are being overweight or having a medical condition like lung or heart disease.

"Heat stroke prevention is a big thing," Gregory said. "Pets are not to be [left] in cars when the weather is warm for any amount of time because [a car] can easily heat up into an inferno."

According to the Animal Medical Center of Southern California website at, the "initial symptoms of heat stroke in dogs are characterized by unanticipated restlessness. Signs of heat exhaustion include excessive or heavy panting, hyperventilation (deep breathing), increased salivation early and then eventual drying of the gums and mucous membranes as the condition progresses, weakness, confusion or inattention, vomiting or diarrhea and, sometimes bleeding. Among common behavioral changes are agitation, whining, barking and other signs of anxiety. Progressing from heat exhaustion towards heat stroke, there may be obvious paleness or graying to the gums, more shallow respiratory efforts and eventually slowed or absent breathing efforts, vomiting and diarrhea that may be bloody and finally seizures or coma" leading to death.

Military dogs also can sustain heat injuries, but their handlers take extensive precautions to prevent them.

Military working dogs differ from house pets because they are trained to work in harsh weather conditions.

The dog handlers of 510th Military Police Detachment (Military Working Dog), 716th Military Police Battalion, 101st Sustainment Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, care for their dogs by continuously monitoring them. During any training, handlers are required to have a thermometer to monitor their dog's working and resting temperatures.

Each dog's temperature is different, so handlers take precautions individualized for each dog, said Staff Sgt. Nicholas Iafelice, a military working dog handler.

When a handler notices his or her dog's temperature is approaching an abnormal level a mandatory rest period is enforced.

During that time, the dog rehydrates in the shade and handlers conduct heat injury prevention measures if needed.

"If it's truly severe we use ice sheets, kind of like what we do for a Soldier," Iafelice said. "When it's less severe, we take cold water and put it under their arms and along their undercarriage and paws to cool them down."

The ice sheet process is used to prevent further injury.

During hot weather, the handler has access to a cooler filled with water, ice and bed sheets.

The sheets are used to pack the dog's groin, armpit and neck area, which are considered hotspots.

Lastly, the dog is wrapped with sheets. This ice sheet process can cool a dog down quickly and is used to prevent further injury. Once wrapped in the ice sheet, the dog is given intravenous fluids before being transported to a veterinarian.

Military dog handlers are trained to react quickly in an emergency situation, but pet owners should take a different approach if a heat injury is suspected.

"If a pet owner suspects their animal to be suffering from possible heat stroke, the cooling process can be done in different ways," Gregory said. "Owners can take towels soaked in lukewarm water and put them on their dog or cat, or they can spray them down with lukewarm water and then put a fan on them. The reason we don't use cold water is because we don't want to drop their body temperature too rapidly."

Dunking a pet in a pool of cold water can cause their blood vessels to constrict and send them into shock. Cold water can cause more harm than good, so it is recommended that owners use lukewarm water.

Heat injury can be detrimental to an animal's health in some cases it can even cause the pet's demise. Being able to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat injury and taking appropriate action can save an animal's life.

"[Pets] can deteriorate rapidly," Gregory said. "Having the owner start the cooling process before bringing the pet to the vet reduces the mortality rate, so long as they can get to a vet quickly."


•Pet is overweight

•Pet has a medical conditions including lung or heart disease

•Lack of shade

•Lack of water