Heat Stroke in Dogs

There are many reason dogs can become dangerously overheated.  Dogs have sweat glands only on the pads of their feet and cool themselves primarily by panting.  When the air is hot and humid, they cannot rid themselves of excess heat efficiently.


Common Causes of Heat Stroke

  1. Being left in a car in hot weather-even if it is only 70 degrees outside, the inside of a car can quickly rise to well over 100 degrees!
  2. Physical exertion during the heat of the day-this can include going for a run with the owner, playing outside, running along the backyard fence, etc.  Heat stroke can even occur inside if the house is warm and a dog becomes excited, especially in a predisposed breed.
  3. Being outdoors in hot weather without access to cool water and shade.  Dogs that are tied outside can sometimes get trapped out of reach of shade or water.
  4. Being a certain breed whose physical conformation makes them unable to cool themselves effectively.  For example, Bulldogs, Boxers, and Pugs have short noses, small airways, and excess tissue in the back of their throat that can make if difficult to get rid of excess heat.
  5. Confinement to a poorly ventilated cage or crate, especially under a cage dryer such as when a dog is groomed.
  6. A dog being overweight.
  7. Having medical ailments such as heart or airway disease, or any condition that impairs breathing.
  8. Being very old or very young

Symptoms of Heat Stroke

  1. Heavy panting-rapid or labored breathing
  2. Bright or brick red mucous membranes-the gums just above the teeth are a good place to check color.  The gums may also be dry to the touch.
  3. Weakness or collapse
  4. Elevated rectal temperature-seek immediate veterinary care if over 105 degrees.
  5. Vomiting
  6. Bloody diarrhea
  7. Dark urine
  8. Bruising on skin
  9. Bleeding from mouth
  10. Seizures or coma
  11. Death-can occur within 20 minutes, or in a couple of days from delayed complication such as kidney failure.

Emergency First Aid for Heat Stroke

  1. Immediately move the dog indoors or to a cool area.  If in an enclosed crate, remove the dog immediately.
  2. Wet the dog down with cool water-do not use ice water as that will make internal cooling more difficult by constricting blood vessels.
  3. Take the rectal temperature-if over 105 degrees, transport immediately for veterinary care.  Know where the nearest emergency clinic is located.  Call en route to let them know you are coming.
  4. Do not cover your dog during transport, even with a wet towel, as that can prevent heat from escaping.
  5. Offer water to drink during transport, though not to a vomiting patient. Only offer small amounts of water.
  6. Transport dog in an air-conditioned car or lower the windows so circulating air can help with evaporative cooling.
  7. If you are monitoring your dog’s rectal temperature during transport, stop cooling measures when it reaches 103 degrees.
  8. Even if your pet seems to respond to treatment, it is still best to have them evaluated by a veterinarian to check for internal problems.  Complications from heat stroke can develop several hours later due to organ damage caused by high internal temperatures.


  1. Do not leave your dog in the car when outdoor temperatures are over 70 degrees.
  2. Restrict activity during the heat of the day
  3. Provide access to shade and cool water when dogs are outside.
  4. Keep breeds at risk, very old or young dogs, or dogs with health conditions indoors.
  5. Ideally, keep all dogs inside when a heat advisory is issued.
  6. Use misters, fans or wading pools to provide extra cooling measures for outdoor dogs.

Fish Oil Supplements

Omega-3 Fatty Acids are an amazing and inexpensive supplement.  They benefit your pet’s skin, coat, heart, & joints.  They should be given daily LIFELONG to improve your pet’s health and comfort.

If you choose to use a human Omega-3/Fish Oil supplement, please check the back of the bottle for the “EPA” milligram dose.  For some conditions, the effective dose is MUCH higher than what is recommended on the bottle.  Please call Rita Ranch Pet Hospital to consult with a technician or veterinarian to determine your pet’s recommended dose.


What are fish oil supplements?

Most commercially available fish oils are derived from coldwater fish, primarily menhaden, but also salmon and trout.  These oils are rich in the Omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These two fatty acids, in conjuction with algea, hlep with inflammation.

Why recommend administration of fish oil to my pet?

Fish oil supplementation may be helpful for pets with inflammatory diseases including allergies, arthritis, kidney disease, heart disease, and cancers. Unfortunately, commercial dog foods tend to be very low in omega-3 fatty acid content, predisposing them to inflammatory conditions.

Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils also have other effects unrelated to their effects on controlling inflammation. For example, poly-unsaturated fatty acids including fish oil may help reduce the tendency to cardiac arrhythmias (heart rhythm abnormalities) and seizures.

Lastly, some diseases associated with a lower level of omega-3 fatty acids may respond well to fish oil supplementation. An example is peripheral neuropathy secondary to diabetes mellitus. DHA supplementation, but not EPA supplementation, entirely prevents the decreases in nerve conduction velocity and nerve blood flow associated with this nerve disease of diabetics.

How much experience is there with the use of fish oil in pets?

Fish oil supplements are among the most commonly used supplements in all of veterinary medicine, to the point that they are not even recognized as an alternative treatment. As a result, there is a large amount of clinical experience using fish oil in dogs and cats, especially in the treatment of allergies. Other emerging indications and uses include:

  • The promotion of cancer cell differentiation and tumor shrinkage by DHA
  • The prevention of diabetic neuropathy with DHA
  • Augmenting anti-convulsant drugs and herbs in the control of idiopathic epilepsy
  • Prevention and treatment of cardiac arrhythmias
  • Prevention and treatment of autoimmune disorders

Pets with any type of inflammatory disease may benefit from fish oil supplementation. In general, more severe disease requires doses higher than those commonly recommended.  In severe inflammatory diseases, fish oil will not suffice on its own, but may aid in increased effects of other therapeutics (pain medications, etc.).

How successful is fish oil?

Fish oil is readily absorbed as a dietary supplement. After one week of supplementation, increases in omega-3 fatty acids are detectable in the tissues. Tissue elevations in EPA and DHA persist for as long as one to two months after supplementation is discontinued.

Fish oil is very effective in some pets with allergic skin disease. The response is variable in other diseases (such as inflammatory kidney disease). In pets with some types of cancer, fish oil appears to slow down the growth of the cancer. While more studies are needed on other types of cancer, the general recommendation is to add fish oil to the diets of all pets with cancer.

How safe is fish oil?

While the temptation has existed to give fish oil supplements to all animals with inflammatory disorders, the reality is that some animals will respond better than others. Many will not appear to improve at all.

From a conventional medical perspective, some animals will tend to develop oily coats and large flakes of dander following omega-3 fatty acid supplementation. This condition, known as seborrhoea oleosa, resolves within one to two weeks of discontinuing the supplement.

Fish oil supplementation is otherwise very safe at recommended doses. The most common side effect is a fishy odor to the breath or the skin. Fish oil also does not appear to raise blood sugar levels in people or pets with diabetes, contrary to earlier reports.

Where do I obtain fish oil and do I need a prescription?

Your veterinarian may have preferred supplements that he or she will recommend. Pet owners are cautioned against buying supplements without knowledge of the manufacturer, as supplements vary widely in their content of the various omega-3 fatty acids. A prescription is not needed for fish oil.

    This client information sheet is based on material written by  Steve Marsden, DVM ND MSOM LAc DiplCH AHG, Shawn Messonnier, DVM and Cheryl Yuill, DVM, MSc, CVH.

Seizures Are Scary


What is a seizure?

Seizures are one of the most frequently seen neurological problems in dogs. A seizure is also known as a convulsion or fit. It may have all or any combination of the following:

1. Loss or derangement of consciousness

2. Contractions of all the muscles in the body

3. Changes in mental awareness from unresponsiveness to hallucinations

4. Involuntary urination, defecation, or salivation

5. Behavioral changes, including not recognizing the owner, viciousness, pacing, and running in circles

What are the three phases of a seizure?

Seizures consist of three components:

1) The pre-ictal phase, or aura, is a period of altered behavior in which the dog may hide, appear nervous, or seek out the owner. It may be restless, nervous, whining, shaking, or salivating. This may last a few seconds to a few hours.

2) The ictal phase is the seizure itself and lasts from a few seconds to about five minutes — in severe cases, seizures can last longer than five minjutes. During this period, all of the muscles of the body contract strongly. The dog usually falls on its side and seems paralyzed while shaking. The head will be drawn backward. Urination, defecation, and salivation often occur.  Other pets may have head tremors or even just arm extension.  Seizures look different in each pet. If it is not over within five minutes, the dog is said to be in status epilepticus or prolonged seizure.

3) During the post-ictal phase, there is confusion, disorientation, salivation, pacing, restlessness, or temporary blindness. There is no direct correlation between the severity of the seizure and the duration of the post-ictal phase.

Is the dog in trouble during a seizure?

Despite the dramatic signs of a seizure, the dog feels no pain, only bewilderment. Dogs do not swallow their tongues. If you put your fingers into its mouth, you will not help your pet and you run a high risk of being bitten very badly. The important thing is to keep the dog from falling and hurting itself. As long as it is on the floor or ground, there is little chance of harm occurring. If seizures continue for longer than a few minutes, the body temperature begins to rise. If hyperthermia (body temperature too high) develops secondary to a seizure, another set of problems may have to be addressed.

What causes seizures?

There are many, many causes of seizures. Epilepsy is the most common cause of seizures in the dog. Other causes include liver disease, kidney failure, poisoning and brain tumors.

In Arizona, particularly in Tucson, one of the most common causes of seizures in dogs is infection with Valley Fever.  Valley Fever is a fungal infection in the soil that is very prevalent in our area.  Pets and humans alike breathe in the spores and then they settle within the body and create issues.  Any patient that presents to Rita Ranch Pet Hospital with a history of seizures will most likely be tested for Valley Fever immediately.

Now that the seizure is over, can anything be done to understand why it happened?

After a dog has a seizure episode, your veterinarian will begin by taking a thorough history, concentrating on possible exposure to poisonous or hallucinogenic substances or history of head trauma. The veterinarian will also perform a physical examination, blood and urine tests and an electrocardiogram (ECG). These tests rule out disorders of the liver, kidneys, heart, electrolytes, and blood sugar level. A heartworm test is performed if your dog is not taking heartworm preventative monthly.

If these tests are normal and there is no exposure to poison or recent trauma, further diagnostics may be performed depending on the severity and frequency of the seizures. Occasional seizures are of less concern than when the seizures are becoming more severe and frequent. In this instance, a spinal fluid analysis may be performed. Depending on availability specialized imaging of the head with a CT scan or MRI might be performed.

In the case that advanced diagnostics are needed, the doctors at Rita Ranch Pet Hospital will offer to refer you and your pet to a veterinary neurologist (specialist).  The closest veterinary neurologist is located in Phoenix, Arizona.

What can be done to prevent future seizures?

Treatment is usually begun only after a pet has more than one seizure a month, clusters of seizures or grand mal seizures. Once anticonvulsant medication is started, it must be given for life. There is evidence that pets started on anticonvulsants which are then stopped may have a greater risk of developing more severe and dangerous seizures. Even normal dogs may be induced to seizure if placed on anticonvulsant medication and then abruptly withdrawn from it. Your veterinarian can outline a schedule for discontinuing the medication.

Once on the medication, we will monitor the level (concentration in the blood stream) once per year or if there are any changes in seizure activity.  The veterinarian may also recommend checking your pet’s liver enzymes regularly to make sure that the anticonvulsant medication is not causing any problems with the liver.

You mentioned status epilepticus. What does that mean?

Status epilepticus is a serious and life threatening situation. It is characterized by a seizure that lasts more than five minutes. When it occurs, the dog’s life is endangered. Unless intravenous medication is given promptly, the patient may die. If this occurs, you should seek treatment by a veterinarian immediately.

  This client information sheet is based on material written by Ernest Ward, DVM.

© Copyright 2005 Lifelearn Inc. Used with permission under license.

Why does my pet have to wear a “Cone of Shame”?


What is a surgical collar and when are they used?

Sometimes it is necessary to use a special type of collar to prevent your pet from attacking a particular area e.g. a wound or bandage dressing.  This is commonly called an  Elizabethan collar or an “e-collar” for short.

Elizabethan collars (also known as Buster Collars) are large plastic cone shaped structures placed around the pet’s neck and head.  They extend forward so the wider base is level with the end of the animal’s muzzle.  Thus when the animal turns its head it cannot touch any area of its body with its muzzle.  If your pet has had surgery on its ears these collars are often used because they also protect the head from being scratched by the paws.

The edge of the Elizabethan collar must be longer than the tip of the pet’s nose to adequately protect the rest of the body.  Sometimes, even with a long Elizabethan collar, the pet can still reach areas at the tip of the tail or back legs.


Are there any special precautions I need to take care of, when I use one of these collars?

You should always check that the collar is comfortable and not causing any soreness by rubbing.  It is also essential that your pet cannot slip the collar off.  It may take your pet a little time to adjust to wearing the collar and it may initially struggle.  Do not be alarmed by this but stay with him and try to encourage him to relax.  You should try to avoid taking the collar off when your pet is struggling as this teaches it to struggle in order to get its way and to get it off.  This will encourage your dog to continue struggling for longer when you try again.

With both types of collars it is easier to spook your pet, often times they cannot see as well on either side.

Elizabethan collars may have several effects on your pet’s behavior because the cone not only restricts the field of vision to the sides and above, but the shape of the cone amplifies any noise while eliminating the ability to locate its direction.  It may take your pet a little time to adjust to this.  In the meantime, they may be a little jumpy.  Anyone approaching your pet must be warned of this as a frightened dog may snap first and investigate later.

Some dogs, in particular, may learn to use the rim of the collar to rub against the area supposedly being protected, you should watch for this and notify your veterinarian if you spot him doing this.  A different sized collar may be required.

It is important to make sure that your dog can drink with the collar on. It is not normally necessary to take the collar off while your pet feeds.  You may need to raise the bowl up or fix it to a platform though to allow him to do this more easily.  Oftentimes, placing the food and water bowels a bit higher will help with this (stacking on phone books, etc.).

Are there any other alternatives to these collars?

Your veterinarian will have chosen to use the collar after carefully considering the potential for self-trauma to the wound or surgical site.  If you feel that the collar is not working or that another option would preferable for your pet then you should not be afraid to discuss this with your veterinarian.  Some pets do well with a protective t-shirt or even a bandage.


 This client information sheet is based on material written by Debra Horwitz, DVM, Diplomate ACVB & Gary Landsberg, DVM, Diplomate ACVB

© Copyright 2005 Lifelearn Inc. Used with permission under license. March 4, 2014