Labrador almost dies of heatstroke – even though it was overcast weather

Nala
Thomas knew something was wrong when Nala started foaming at the mouth. (Picture: My Family Vet/Thomas Richmond)
A Labrador almost didn’t make it after suffering from a potentially fatal case of heatstroke in cloudy conditions. Nala was lucky to avoid irreversible damage, and was only saved thanks to her owner’s quick thinking. Thomas Richmond, Nala’s owner, is now warning other dog owners to do their research before taking their dogs out on warmer days to avoid possibly deadly heatstroke incidents – even if the sun isn’t shining. ‘I was playing football in the park with some friends on my lunch break,’ says Thomas. ‘Usually, I can’t play because I have to walk Nala, but it was 20-degrees and overcast, so I went home to get her so that she could join in.’

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Nala was having such a great time in the park that Thomas found it tricky to get her to stop playing.

‘After about 10 minutes of playing, we had a break,’ he says. ‘She took some convincing and I had to go over to get her to make sure that she would stop chasing after the ball.

‘She was panting heavily but I didn’t think that it was anything overly concerning. I went to my car to go and get her some water.’

Nala
Nala was only playing with the ball for around 15 minutes. (Picture: My Family Vet/Thomas Richmond)

But it was when Thomas arrived home a few minutes later that he realised something was wrong with Nala.

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‘We drove home, which is only five minutes around the corner, but when we got there her condition started to worsen. She was panting heavily and foaming at the mouth.

‘I hadn’t seen her like that before, so I took her straight into the back garden and hosed her down to cool her off and offered her lots of water.

‘She started to go really limp, almost like she was drunk and I knew something was seriously wrong. I called the vets for advice, and they told me to bring her in right away so that they could check her over.’

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The 20-month-old Labrador was rushed to Hook Vets, a My Family Vets practice. Due to the cloudy conditions, Thomas didn’t think the weather would cause problems for Nala. Natasja Turner, a Veterinary Nurse from Hook vets, was part of the team that cared for Nala. ‘Nala presented to us panting, lethargic and with purple gums after playing with a ball outside for 15 mins,’ says Natasja. ‘Her temperature was at a whopping 41.3⁰c. A dog’s normal temperature range is 38 – 39⁰c. ‘Heatstroke can cause irreversible damage or even death. Thankfully, her owner noticed and reacted quickly and Nala is doing well. His quick actions saved her life.’

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Nala
‘ She started to go really limp, almost like she was drunk.’ (Picture: My Family Vet)
Speaking about the dangers of heatstroke, Natasja said: ‘Nala’s case shows regardless of age, weight and size that heatstroke is a dangerous thing and can affect any of our pets. ‘Nala’s owners did the best thing with their suspicions of heatstroke and contacted us ASAP. Their actions meant that Nala had no long-lasting damage to her physical and mental wellbeing.’

Now that Nala is fully recovered and is back to being herself, Thomas has adopted a much more cautious approach to exercising in the warmer months.

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‘I was really worried about Nala, it was really scary.’ he says. ‘It wasn’t overly hot, Nala is young and fit and it happened so quickly. We went from having a great time playing in the park to suffering from heatstroke in the space of a few minutes.

‘From this experience, I’ve learnt to be a lot more cautious. I’ve been reading up about how easy it for dogs to suffer from heatstroke. I’m always really aware of the temperature and how energetic she is.’

How to spot heatstroke in dogs

  • Faster, heavier breathing
  • Excessive thirst and drooling
  • Increased heart rate and pulse rate
  • Dark coloured gums/ tongue (red/purple)
  • Glassy eyes
  • Staggering or weakness
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness

Use a Front Clip Harness to Prevent Pulling on Leash. If your dog pulls on his leash get a harness that clips in the front. The harnesses that clip on the back promote more pulling. And when you’re working on leash manners ditch the retractable leash for a regular 6 foot one so your dog can get the feeling of what loose leash walking means.

Dogs that are more prone to heatstroke are old dogs, overweight dogs, flat-faced breeds and puppies. However, any dog of any age or breed or fitness can get heatstroke.

If you think your dog has heatstroke, do not throw cold water on them as this can cause the body to go into shock.

The team at Hook Vets advice that on warm days you can help your dogs by:
  • Restricting exercise
  • Make sure they have access to cool, shaded areas
  • Give them access to freshwater
  • Walking them first thing in the morning or last thing at night when it’s cooler
  • If your pet is overweight start them on a weight loss journey

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INTERESTING FACT ABOUT YOUR PET: Dogs have wet noses because it helps to absorb scent chemicals.

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