Heat Stroke is not a Joke

It’s finally summer! I know I always look forward to long days in the sun and spending more time with my friends and loved ones, especially my furry family members. On the Peninsula we are blessed with a fairly temperate summer. Although we may hit a heat wave here and there, for the most part we feel that our pets are safe from soaring summer temps. This is not always the case though. Even on a 78° day the temperature in a car with the windows cracked can be upwards to 120° in a few minutes. You can only imagine that on a much warmer 90° days that the inside of your car can be more than 160° in less than 10 minutes!

In college I lived in Washington DC, a swamp town known for its muggy, hot summers. One day my little Chihuahua, Pablo, and I went for a drive on one of the notoriously hot days to find some relief from the heat in the wonderful car air conditioning. A few blocks from my apartment I realized that I had left something at home. I pulled up to the curb out front of my building and parked illegally so I could run up quick and grab my forgotten item. I made the mistake of leaving poor little Pablo in the car. I was only gone for five minutes tops. I had left all four windows open a few inches and I was parked in the shade; Pablo should have been nice and comfy during his wait for me to return. WRONG! When I came back his eyes were bulging more than they normally do, he was panting like I’d never seen him pant before, drooling everywhere, and stressed beyond belief. In those few minutes the car had heated up and began to cook my poor little guy. I couldn’t believe it. I gave him some cool water and turned the A/C on high. I immediately took him to the vet to be evaluated. Luckily, Pablo was okay and did not suffer any lasting effects, but my oversight nearly cost me my best friend.

What I did not realize at the time was that animals in a hot car can sustain brain damage or even die from heat stroke in just 15 minutes! Heatstroke symptoms include excessive panting, restlessness, thick saliva, lethargy, dark/bright red tongue and/or gums that are dry or sticky, rapid heartbeat, body temperatures above 104°, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, seizures and lack of coordination. These symptoms should be taken very seriously.

If you notice an animal with any of these symptoms, getting them out of the heat is critical and can save their life. The next step is to get the dog to a veterinarian to be assessed for heat stroke. If the dog is large and you are unable to transport them yourself, the Peninsula Humane Society Animal Control or your local animal control office can help. Contact them and let them know that it’s an emergency. If the dog is not yours, but is locked in a car on a hot summer day, contact animal control right away and let them know of the situation. If the animal is unresponsive or in bad shape, call 9-1-1 immediately. While waiting for the authorities to respond, you may choose to get the animal out of the car by any means necessary. If this is the case, find a witness who can corroborate that the dog’s life was at risk and find a way to get the dog out of the car.

While waiting for help or on the way to the veterinary hospital, begin to cool the animal down. Provide water for the animal to drink, put the A/C on high, and use cool water (not ice water) to help bring the dogs temperature down gradually. Drenching the pads of the feet and well as the abdomen, groin and chest with cool water can help bring down a high temperature. It is very easy to think that once you’ve cooled down the dog that he or she will be fine and recover from this experience, but that is not usually the case. When heat stroke occurs, the dog’s internal organs including the brain are greatly compromised. Many dogs, cats, and other animals that suffer heat stroke end up dying hours later due to organ failure, brain damage, and blood coagulation disturbances from sustaining elevated temperatures. Always be on the safe side and have your pet checked out by a veterinarian as soon as possible to ensure that your furry family member stays healthy and safe.




 Even on a 70° day your car can get too hot for your dog!!


 For more information check out: www.mydogiscool.com


All original content copyright Caitlin Vaughn, 2013












Is Your Dog Stoned?

Marijuana Toxicity

Over the past 10 years we have seen an increase in Marijuana toxicity in dogs here at NPVEC.

Dogs have a superior sense of smell compared to humans. Dogs will readily sniff out and find marijuana if it is in an area that the dog has access to. Marijuana toxicity is not very common in cats.

Veterinarians are NOT obligated to report marijuana ingestion to the local police. If you suspect your dog may have eaten some, then bring him or her to your veterinarian or emergency clinic. Veterinarians have seen marijuana ingestion in dogs, they are non judgemental, and their concern is for your pet’s well-being. In addition, this will save you considerable cost in diagnostic testing for other possible causes of the signs your dog is exhibiting. It will also save time and allow immediate treatment for your pet.



The signs usually start 30-90 minutes following ingestion. The signs seen are: lack of coordination, listlessness, unresponsiveness, urine dribbling, slow heart rate, head shy or appearing spooked, head or muscle twitching, seizure, coma and death.



If the dog has ingested marijuana within thirty minutes and is not showing signs then it may be possible for the veterinarian to induce vomiting. However, after signs have started inducing vomit is less effective because the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, tends to inhibit nausea and vomiting. It is also not advised to induce vomiting in a sedated dog because of the danger the dog may aspirate or inhale the vomit into the lungs.

Dogs are generally given IV fluids to help eliminate the toxin from the body and maintain blood pressure. Fluids also help prevent dehydration from occurring in the sedated patient.

The dog may also be given activated charcoal to help absorb any toxin in the intestinal tract and prevent it from being absorbed into the body.

The dog’s heart rate and body temperature are also monitored. If the patient has lost consciousness, more intensive care and treatment are required. The chance of death is very small, but possible.

Most dogs recover within 12-24 hours with treatment depending on the amount of marijuana ingested and the concentration of the THC. These facts are usually not known, so each patient is treated individually depending on the severity of the signs the patient is exhibiting and the response to treatment.

Sylvia Graham, DVM

Staff Veterinarian at NPVEC




All original content copyright Sylvia Graham, 2013

Pet First Aid

Since April marks Pet First Aid month, I thought this would be an appropriate time to share some quick tips on what to do if an emergency occurs with your pet. When something unexpected and traumatic happens it can become increasingly difficult to think calmly and logically. Remembering this short list of things can make the situation a bit less stressful and safer for everyone involved.

  • Your veterinarians phone number and address
  • NPVEC’s phone number: (650) 348-2575 
  • Directions to North Peninsula Veterinary Emergency Clinic @ 227  North Amphlett Blvd, San Mateo
  • Poison Control number: (888) 426-4435
  • How to stop bleeding/apply a basic pressure wrap
  • How to perform basic CPR on your pet
  • How to transport your pet safely

How to Stop Bleeding

If your pet is bleeding these important steps can help control blood loss and the risks associated with blood loss such as shock and/or death.

1) Cover the wound

          – Use gauze, a towel, or any type of cotton fabric

          – Keep adding layers, don’t remove orignal gauze/fabric

2) Apply Direct Pressure

          – Use your hand to apply pressure to the wound

          – This pressure will help clotting proteins form and help to control blood loss

3) Layer dressing and continue to apply direct pressure

          – Don’t remove the original fabric used to cover the wound. Important clotting proteins begin to form and removing this first layer will only remove these proteins.

          – Just keep adding layers of gauze or towels if they continue to bleed through.

          – Keep applying pressure

4) Transport

          – As soon as possible to NPVEC or local emergency veterinary hospital

          – See below for how to transport safely.

Performing CPR

Starting CPR immediately can increase the success of CPR. As soon as you notice your pet becoming unresponsive, follow these steps to perform CPR. If/when your pet regains consciousness, immediately transport to your veterinarian or North Peninsula Veterinary Emergency Clinic.

1) Check for Responsiveness

          – Ensure that your pet is unresponsive. Check for breathing by placing your hand in front of mouth and nose. Check for a heartbeat by placing your ear on your pet’s chest by where the left elbow meets the chest of the body. If you cannot feel any breath or hear a heartbeat, move on to step 2.

2) Secure an Airway

          – Carefully pull the tongue forward out of the mouth. Please take care as an unresponsive pet can still bite!

          – Look in the throat for any foreign object or material.

          – Move the head until the neck is straight unless you suspect a neck injury.

3) Rescue Breathing

          – Close your pets mouth and give breaths through the nose. You should see the chest rise and fall with the breaths. If you don’t see the chest moving, recheck to make sure the airway is open.

          – Give 1 breath every 4-5 seconds.

4) Chest Compressions

          – Lay your pet on its right side if possible

          – The heart is located on the lower half of the left chest just behind the elbow.

          – Press down 80-150 times per minute. It is good to apply light to moderate pressure… too hard and you can do more damage than good. Smaller animals require much less pressure than larger pets. For example, on a medium-sized dog you want to compress the chest approximately 1 inch with each push. For a larger dog you would want to compress a little deeper with fewer chest compressions and for a smaller animal you want to compress shallower with more chest compressions.

          – Alternate between chest compressions and rescue breaths.

5) Transport

          – As soon as possible to NPVEC or local emergency veterinary hospital

          – You may choose to rapidly place your pet in the car and perform CPR while on the way to the hospital.

          – See below for how to transport safely.

How to Transport Safely

Your pets health and safety will be at the forefront of your brain, making it difficult to remember that your personal safety and the safety of those around you is paramount. You want to ensure that you are not injured while getting your pet prepared for transport. Even though Spot may not have a mean bone in his body, if he has suffered a trauma he may quickly react to your touch with a snap or bite to your face or hands. You can protect yourself in a few easy ways. The best way is to muzzle your pet. This will ensure that you are not bitten while moving your painful pooch or crying cat. The only problem with this is… who carries a muzzle around!!

You may need to make a homemade muzzle for temporary use while lifting Spot into the car. A shoelace or leash can be fashioned into a muzzle by wrapping it around the snout. Begin by tying a loose knot in it with a large loop to slip over the dog’s nose. Once slipped about half way up the nose, tighten the knot until the dog’s mouth closes… you don’t have to make it too tight, just tight enough to prevent the dog’s mouth from opening.  Add a second loop by crossing the ends under the dogs chin. Lastly, tie the ends behind the dog’s head to secure the muzzle into place. Remember, until the muzzle is secure, the dog can bite, so be careful and pay attention!

For a cat, the muzzle will be a nearly impossible task and the risk of getting bit is too high to make this a viable option. Your best option for a cat is to take a blanket, towel or jacket and place it over the cat, especially taking care to place it well over their heads. You can now attempt to lift the cat by tucking the excess fabric around the cat and wrapping them in a kitty burrito. It is important to keep the cat’s head under the cover. You can still get bit this way, but this method greatly reduces risks of bites and will also put a barrier between their teeth and your skin.

If the pet is not yours and/or is becoming aggressive or showing signs of fear and aggression, call the Peninsula Humane Society @ 650.340.7022 or your local animal control office. They are trained to keep you safe while helping to transport the pet to North Peninsula Veterinary Emergency Clinic or a local emergency veterinary hospital if you’re outside San Mateo County.

This site and its contents do not constitute the practice of any veterinary medical health care advice, diagnosis or treatment.
All original content copyright Caitlin Vaughn, 2013