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Heatstroke in Dogs and Cats

The word stroke comes from “strike,” and, predictably perhaps, heatstroke means “to be struck down by heat.” A pet can suffer heatstroke whenever he or she becomes severely overheated. Signs can include heavy panting, loud breathing, vomiting, disorientation, collapse, coma, and death. Heatstroke can come on quickly and is a dire emergency so it is something pet owners must work to prevent. After cooling a dog down, a veterinarian may need to administer IV fluids and possibly medications. Without prompt treatment a pet is likely to die from heatstroke.


Heatstroke is a life-threatening condition suffered when a pet is unable to lower its body temperature. Cells in the body become damaged when the core body temperature reaches anywhere between 106°F and 109°F. Heatstroke is most common in dogs but can also occur in cats and can happen whenever a pet gets severely overheated.

Among the most common causes of heatstroke in dogs happens when dogs are left in parked cars. One test performed on a partly cloudy, 93°F day found that cars can heat up to 120°F in just 15 minutes. But even cooler days can be deadly. In another test, conducted on a 71°F day, the temperature inside a car parked in the sun with the windows open a crack went up to 116°F in one hour.

Exercising in warm weather or being left outside in high temperatures (especially if the animal doesn’t have access to fresh water or shade) are also common causes.

Factors that may make some animals particularly at risk for heatstroke include obesity and a decreased ability to circulate air through the lungs due to a compromised respiratory tract. Animals with narrow airways, such as those with laryngeal paralysis, or a brachycephalic (short) head, such as Bulldogs and Pugs, are less able to cool themselves efficiently and are particularly at risk.

Heatstroke affects almost every system in the body. Under normal conditions, dogs (and even cats under extreme conditions) will pant to cool themselves as their bodies heat up. Another way they cool themselves down is to send more blood to dilated blood vessels near the skin. Heat radiates off the body, and cooler blood returns to the body’s core.

If an unduly hot environment prevents the normal cooling process, blood is diverted away from important organs such as the brain, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, and liver. When these organs do not receive enough blood, they begin to fail.

Death is common with heatstroke. It should be underscored here that heatstroke is a medical emergency that must be addressed immediately to give the patient the best chance of survival.

Signs and Identification

Signs of heatstroke include:

  • Panting
  • Loud, rasping breaths
  • Bright red gums
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting/diarrhea
  • Disorientation
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

The dog’s body temperature will be checked immediately upon arrival to a veterinary facility. For those whose severe exposure requires hospitalization, blood testing is typically undertaken frequently throughout the treatment process to continually assess and correct the systems that may have been damaged by the heatstroke.

Affected Breeds

All dogs are susceptible to heatstroke. Heat exhaustion and heatstroke occur more commonly in breeds predisposed to laryngeal paralysis, brachycephalic syndrome, and other diseases that might impede normal respiration.


Immediate action must be taken when a pet is found to be suffering from heatstroke since death occurs within minutes of the body’s core temperature reaching 110°F. In a study of 54 dogs with heatstroke, 50 percent of the dogs died. However, 100 percent of the dogs that were given first aid at home and arrived at the veterinary hospital within 90 minutes of being found survived.

Cooling a pet at home by using a cool bath or the garden hose is strongly recommended before transport, as it begins the process of bringing down the body temperature. Never immerse a pet in cold water or ice water!

As soon as a pet with heatstroke arrives at the veterinary hospital, a rectal temperature will be taken and further cooling will begin. If at-home cooling was successful, measures will be taken to reverse the effects of heat, dehydration, and low blood pressure. An IV catheter will be placed, and fluids will be given to help get blood flowing to major organs again.

Treatment is aimed at supporting these organs in the hope that the damage they’ve sustained isn’t permanent. Unfortunately, it will often take days to know which organs have been affected. Specific treatments may include antibiotics, blood pressure medications, and blood transfusions.


In hot weather, it is best to exercise pets during the coolest part of the day (early morning and evening) and always provide plenty of fresh water and rest. It is also helpful to cool your pet with a hose or a swim after exercising and to limit exercise entirely during high temperatures.

Never leave a pet in a car during warm weather – not even for a few minutes with the windows cracked.

Brachycephalic dogs’ owners should be extra vigilant, keeping their dogs inside in air conditioning on hot days.

All geriatric, obese, and respiratorily compromised pets should be exercised with caution in hot weather.


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Soft Doggie Cookies

Soft Doggie Cookies

Great for older dogs with teeth issues.softcookies
  • 3 (2 1/2oz. each) jars of baby food; either beef or chicken
  • 1/4th cup dry milk powder
  • 1/4th cup wheat germ or cream of wheat

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Roll into small balls and place on a well-greased cookie sheet.  Flatten softly with a fork.  Bake in preheated 350f oven for 15 minutes until brown.  Cool o wire rack.  Refrigerate to keep fresh or freeze.

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Medial Patella Luxation


Medial patella luxation, or kneecap luxation, may be congenital (present at birth) or acquired. The congenital form is most common in the toy and miniature breeds such as the Miniature Poodle, Yorkshire Terrier, Toy Poodle, Chihuahua, Pomeranian, and Pekingese, and may occur simultaneously with other pelvic limb deformities. While the definitive sequence of events which leads to or allows these deformities has not yet been established, the age at which the syndrome occurs does play an important role in the severity of the degenerative changes in the joint. more…

A Safe Halloween for you & your pets

A Safe Halloweencat-halloween

Halloween can be a frightening time for pet owners across the country. It can be scary for our furry friends too. Desert Care Animal Hospital encourages pet owners to protect their four-legged family members this October by being mindful of their F.E.A.R. – food, environment, attire, and recovery.


Halloween means candy and tasty treats are plentiful and easily accessible to young children and pets. Candy, especially chocolate, is toxic to animals and can cause vomiting, restlessness, heart disturbances, and even death. Although grapes and raisins are a healthy alternative snack for humans, they can be potentially deadly for dogs. These fruits contain an unknown toxin that can damage dogs’ kidneys and cause kidney failure.

Candy wrappers can also cause health problems. Animals may eat the wrapper, causing obstruction or irritation to the pet’s digestive system. Candy and wrappers should be kept out of pets’ reach and young children should be taught not to share Halloween goodies with their pet. Seasonal foods such as pumpkins and corn may cause minor stomach irritation; however, they are relatively safe for Fluffy and Fido. Pumpkin seeds may cause digestive system obstruction if consumed by smaller animals.


Due to the increased foot traffic and commotion in your neighborhood, outdoor pets should be kept indoors during the days surrounding Halloween. Unsupervised outdoor animals are susceptible to stress, inhumane practical jokes or theft. Providing a safe, stress free environment reduces the probability of your beloved friend injuring himself or others. Loud and excessive noise created by trick-or-treaters can frighten your cat or dog. Animals should be kept away from the door and out of hearing range of a constantly ringing doorbell and excited children. Fluffy or Fido should be put in a room where they will not be disturbed by noise and activity. A frightened or upset pet may run out the door at the first opportunity and could harm the children in its way.

Be sure decorations are safe from the paws and teeth of curious pets. Crepe paper streamers, fake cobwebs, glow sticks, plastic spiders and cardboard wall hangings can easily be chewed and swallowed, damaging your pet’s digestive tract. Animals can also tip over the candle in a jack-o-lantern and burn themselves or start a fire. Keep decorations out of animals’ reach, and maintain supervision if they play nearby.


Transforming your pet into a superhero, witch, ghost, or goblin can be a stressful and unpleasant experience. Some animals love to dress up, but others dread it. If your furry friend doesn’t mind dressing up, make sure that you select a costume that doesn’t restrict his normal movements, breathing or vision. Costumes that interfere with these things can cause ligament or joint injuries, and animals are more likely to bite if their vision is impaired. Pets are better off left at home during trick-or-treating excursions. However, if they do tag along, it is best to keep them on a very short leash and harness to keep them from fighting with other animals, eating the treats, becoming victims of practical jokes – as black cats often do – or biting strangers they encounter.


It is important to have a plan if your pet becomes sick, injured or lost this Halloween season. Since time is critical during any unfortunate incident, pet parents should always have contact information for their veterinarian and local animal shelters easily accessible. Also, pet owners need to be aware that not all veterinarians are available 24 hours.  It is also important to update your pet’s identification tags and micro chip information each time you move or change phone numbers so that current contact information is always available on your pet.

Desert Care Animal Hospital wishes you a safe and Happy Halloween for you and your pets!



The Truth About Rabies

Rabies-Vaccine-generic-from-rabiesvaccinefordogsdotcom1-040313Rabies! It’s a potent word that demands an exclamation mark.

Our reactions are primal, colored by myths, modern movies and novels such as“Rage,” “Cujo,” “Old Yeller” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.” You may have heard the popular warning: Beware of bats or raccoons in the daytime. They carry rabies!

But the truth is such a raccoon might be a mother taking a break from caring for her babies, one that has distemper or another disease, or one dazed after being injured by a passing car.

A bat in the daytime might be a juvenile learning to fly but “driving” erratically and without parental consent to be out and about, according to Charles Rupprecht, VMD, PhD, chief of Rabies Program, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

No signs can tell you if an animal is rabid, he says. That’s why there are diagnostic tests.

Wild animals acting oddly—perhaps approaching people—may indicate they have rabies. But nonrabid wild animals also may do that because they are used to humans, says Rupprecht.

Another myth is that certain animals “carry” the disease. Any mammal infected with the virus is its victim as well. Some species are better hosts. Those that lick, suck and bite in their social interactions allow the virus to spread through saliva or brain/nervous system tissue. Hosts that live in large and dense social groups help maintain the virus’ success. more…

Dog & Cat Abscess

catbite diagramPets have a way of getting into trouble with one another. And when the seemingly inevitable altercations ensue, fangs and fur can fly. Unfortunately, a great many of these cases end in abscesses. A bite-wound abscess forms when the body can’t remove infection, inflammation, and damaged cells fast enough after one cat bites another, but there are other kinds of abscesses. An abscess causes a painful lump at the bite site, fever, and tiredness until the infection is cleared up, which will require antibiotics and possibly surgery, depending on the size and severity of the infection. more…

Canine Parvovirus

Canine Parvovirus

Dr. Lila Miller, D.V.M., Sr. Director, Animal Sciences and Vet Advisor, ASPCA


Canine Parvovirus is a highly contagious viral disease that is one of the most common causes of diarrhea in dogs under 6 months of age. It first appeared in the late 1970s, and is now one of the most common serious dog disease problems encountered in animal shelters, displacing distemper for that distinction. It is reported in coyotes, foxes, and wolves and probably affects most, if not all, members of the canine family. Puppies are the most susceptible, especially if they have roundworms or other internal intestinal parasites, protozoa (such as Coccidia) or bacteria. Despite aggressive therapy, parvo may have a high fatality rate. On the other hand, many adult dogs that become infected never actually show clinical signs of disease. Rottweilers, Dobermans, Pit Bulls, German shepherds and Labrador retrievers seem to be at higher risk for the disease.


Foxtails and Pets

Foreign Body Is an Outdoor Threat

Jennifer Hawkins, DVM

What Is a Foxtail?

Foxtails are grass awns, or seeds, that are prevalent in the Western United States. These awns look like barley and have tiny spikes on them such that they easily stick to fur and then migrate in one direction only. Thus, once they get caught in the fur of an animal, they often wind their way deeper into the fur coat and penetrate the skin.