So let’s talk about heat stroke. There are two main scenarios when it comes to heat stroke that we see here at the veterinary clinic. The first is the all too familiar scenario that Facebook posts, the humane society and everyone rallies behind and it is easy to market. The scenario in which dogs are left out in the heat with no shade, no water or in a hot car with the windows cracked. Everyone KNOWS these are emergencies but the ones that everyone else doesn’t think about are the geriatric, large breed dogs.
The most common breeds are Labradors, Greyhounds, Weimaraners and other large breeds. Smooshed nosed dogs have owner’s who know about heat stroke. They are taught from the time their dogs were wee pups about signs to watch for and the surgeries they need to avoid looking Like California Chrome with nasal strips. The least educated owners are the the large breed owners they are ones that go for a walk on the first warm day of summer and end up going to the emergency room. Their beloved pet has collapsed from heat stroke because their dog was having trouble breathing. It didn’t have this problem last year. It is a slowly progressive disease that is called laryngeal paralysis. To the owners it is a complete surprise. I have seen it time and time again. When I tell the owner’s the diagnosis they can’t believe it. Usually it isn’t very hot outside and the owner is warm but not sweaty so they didn’t see the signs as heat stroke. They usually thought he was just slowing down because he is old. (A very common myth)
Why? because a dog doesn’t sweat! They cool down by using their mouth and panting to cool down. I have heard one vet describe it as the sweating through their mouth. Although over simplistic this description is very characteristic of how dogs keep cool. The air rushes over their saliva soaked mouth cooling their body temperature. Think of it as a slow Brain freeze except it doesn’t hurt. (You know the one you get after drinking a slushy to fast. Yeah that one.) But for dogs this is their only mechanism of cooling down. If they get COPD or laryngeal paralysis this makes breathing difficult and then they can’t cool down via panting.
Laryngeal paralysis is a gradual change most owner do NOT notice until they see us on emergency. It takes place over years and most owner think their dog is just loud when they breath. If your dog sounds like this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVpLXeBp5CQor this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7OoBXFFPeU. Then they could have laryngeal paralysis.
There is hope. Since the laryngeal folds do not open easily to allow air in and out we recommend a way to “tie” the folds open. A procedure called a laryngeal tie back surgery In its most over simplistic form we go in and tie the laryngeal folds back so that the laryngeal door is always open making air flow unrestricted.
This is a u-tube video showing a before and after surgery http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USCEv_6uk6k. Notice how quiet the dog is while breathing after surgery. It is truly amazing how much we can help these older dogs live a longer quality life for years to come.