"MAX is having a HEART ATTACK … Ian … come quickly!!!"
I looked up from the water's edge at Cactus Beach to see several people frantically waving their arms at me. You see, Max is a 17 year old camping companion of friends, Uwe ( "Ooo-vay") & Susan and he had just passed a small vomit and then collapsed onto his side.
… "Where is he?" I asked as I reached the top of the steps above the beach … "Up at their campsite still" … This was another 250 m uphill and I was already puffed from running up the beach and steps, and half way up the hill I was only managing a shuffle in the extreme heat and pondered the fate of my own heart !!!
During the heat Max had been kept cool under their caravan and also inside which was airconditioned (kept running for Max's sake) but he had followed Uwe down to the central campsite and back - 200m - and with his black coat absorbing the sun's heat as well as the reflected and radiated heat from the ground. The air temp was 35 degrees but the ground temp was nearer 50 degrees !!
When I reached Max, he was in a bad way, his pulse was thin and thready and his mouth's gum colour was a muddy pale grey colour - he was in severe shock and struggling to breathe. I suspected Heat Stroke and noted the temperature inside his gums was very VERY Hot.
There was no doubt that Max would die soon unless we reduced his body temperature - ideally he should also be on an Intravenous drip (to improve the blood pressure and circulation) and have IV medications to counter the body's shock and prevent irreversible damage to the internal organs - especially the brain and kidneys. Within a minute I was dousing Max with water - soaking him to the skin, and applying it to his under-belly and legs. The only suitable container to act like a bath was Uwe's wetsuit basket which we placed Max in and half filled.
Susan fortunately had some Gastrolyte which was mixed in water and I dribbled into the side of Max's mouth. Eventually, as his temperature dropped, he was able to drink by himself (But ONLY when we offered a tasty chicken broth with crumbled liver treat in it !!!)
At this point I noted that his pulse was much stronger and regular, and his gum colour was pinker - I accepted a warm cuppa of a lovely mildly spicy Thai tea as I could now relax a little. Max continued to improve but the body's shock had affected his intestines and he then suffered bad diarrhoea which I was able to manage with a couple of medications I had on hand.
Within 2 days there was a spring back in his step as he would half bound - half waddle over for a cuddle, with his tail happily wagging.
WITH ADELAIDE'S HEAT upon us, we must all be vigilant as heat stress, leading to heat stroke and death, can happen very quickly. We all know the risk in cars, but just exercising a dog in the open sun is a risk, and age and other health factors greatly increase the risk. Max now has a plastic low pool to laze in !
Oh, and the surf was excellent ! Uwe and I shared a few pre-dawn surf's and I cannot begin to explain the joy of the beautiful colours reflected in the glassy water and then the burst of sunlight as it rises over the dunes. And knowing Max will be back at camp waiting for Uwe's return.
Dr Ian. 🙂