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Sadie's Heatstroke


I’ve had dogs for almost all of the 44 years I’ve been married and I’ve never had one that managed a heat stroke.  Back at the beginning of August I realized we had sand burrs coming up and spent some time digging up the plants and spraying the fence lines with Round-Up.  I added this horrible task to the morning feeding ritual that goes something like this…

Make Sadie stop and WAIT at the door before she can go outside….

Crank up the mule and head for the barn…

Measure out the feed, load it into the mule…

Drive up to the llama pasture…

Add water to the horses feed buckets…

Feed the llamas and alpacas…

Drive to the horses pasture…

Feed the horses…

Drive to the goat’s pasture…

Let Sadie in the pasture so she can jump into the water troughs…

Get Sadie out of the pastures and let the goats in…

Feed the goats…

Return to the barn and put the buckets away

For a couple of days I stopped at the arena on my way back to the barn and dug up sand burrs and sprayed the fence line.  During the time I was working on the sand burrs, Sadie was doing her thing.  She chased a rabbit or two and sat in the shade.  She is a black dog so sitting in the shade makes perfect sense.

On the second day she came back into the house with me after the feeding and sand burr work and threw herself on the wooded floor in the kitchen.  She was panting but it was fast and deep – almost a growling pant.  We were worried about her so took her out in the back yard and encouraged her to stand/sit in the shallow plastic watering trough that is currently sitting on the back deck.  In about 5 minutes her breathing was back pretty close to normal and the crisis seemed over.  She spent the next four hours under the couch in the living room and couldn’t be enticed out even for treats.

We had an Australian Shepherd years ago that died of a lung condition.  I noticed he was a bit off and took him to the vet.  He was dead within 24 hours.  The telltale symptom for the vet was grey gums.  Remembering this episode, I checked Sadie’s gums and they didn’t look grey but I was worried none the less.  She seemed to bounce back from her episode very quickly but I really wanted to talk to the vet about it.  I was envisioning tranquilizers and chest x-rays and a bad outcome.

The next morning when we walked into the vet’s office, Sadie was her normal out of control self.  She wanted to sniff everyone, get up on everyone’s lap and her tail wouldn’t stop wagging.  It was all I could do to get her to stand on the scale without bouncing on and off.  No, she didn’t look sick at all.  I had barely gotten the story half told when Dr. Ridlen told me it was heat stroke.  Well, maybe not all the way to heat stroke since she did seem to bounce back pretty quickly but undoubtedly heat exhaustion.

So the new regime includes at least 4 inches of water in something Sadie can easily get in and out of.  We have our little black plastic goat-sized water trough in the back yard and an old metal water trough out behind my studio.  Whether she is in the back yard or out with me when I feed, there is water she can get to easily.  And the next time it happens she is to stay a minimum of 20 minutes in the water but preferably 30 minutes.  And any time her temperature is over 105 degrees she should go in the water.

I was thrilled it wasn't the worst case scenario I had feared and very pleased I know the signs and the point where action is needed.  Fortunately, since then we haven't had any heat stoke or heat exhaustion symptoms.  Sadie almost always stops by the water trough behind my studio to get her feet wet.  On the hottest of days she spends time playing in the water,but, like I said before, I’ve never had a dog with heat stroke before.  Odd.