Service dog dies after heat stroke; SPCA warns of similar cases

Service dog dies after heat stroke; SPCA warns of similar cases

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - With warmer temperatures and more humidity, vets are warning that more dogs could suffer heat stroke.

On Sunday, Jason Powers was taking a typical walk with his dog around Belle Isle.

"It wasn't too hot at the time, we were walking around, he was doing fine, I was giving him water," recalled Powers, as he paced the hallway of the Richmond SPCA.

His canine companion -- a service dog named Mr. Mack -- would soon suffer a heat stroke.

"When we got to the water, he would not get back up. He was foaming from the mouth, breathing real hard," explained Powers.

Bystanders helped cool off the canine with river water, said Powers, and a firefighter helped get him back across the bridge. But when Powers started calling emergency vets, he says no one would take the dog unless he could pay for half the medical cost up front, which wasn't financially feasible.

"He saved me quite a few times," he expressed. He wanted to return the favor by saving his pup, but he needed a place that would accept a payment plan. He was able to get in touch with the Richmond SPCA.

"One of the most important things the Richmond SPCA does is provide services to keep pets in the homes they have. We want to support loving owners so they can keep their companion animal," said Robin Starr, the CEO of the Richmond SPCA.

The veterinary clinic opened up in January of last year with the mission to provide affordable care for pet owners of modest means. It allows the organization to create a "no-kill" community by keeping animals healthy and keeping them in their homes.

"It is supported by donations by wonderful people in this community who love animals and want to see them taken care of," said Starr.

"They took him directly back. Within 5 minutes, they had him hooked up to IVs, pulling blood work, whatever else they do to save lives," Powers expressed, with gratitude.

Vets worry more animals could suffer a similar fate.

"The humidity is a big factor. Dogs don't sweat like us, but [with the humidity] that evaporative cooling can't happen when their breathing in," explained Dr. Courtney Bowers, a vet with the Richmond SPCA.

The humidity and heat can cause dogs to suffer a heat stroke. Dr. Bowers explained some of the signs to look out for, including your dog panting excessively, their tongues turning bright red, their bodies radiating heat, and their attitude becoming listless or non-responsive.

"You need to cool them gradually. Give them lukewarm to cool water, not ice water as you can cool them too quickly and the body responds by trying to elevate the temperature. So, you'd be fighting a losing battle," said Dr. Bowers.

She added you need to get them inside, preferably in front of a fan, with access to water. Pour some water on their paws, or areas where they don't have a lot of fur, and call a vet.

"Mild symptoms can quickly progress, including organ failure," she warned.

Also, pay attention to the temperature of the pavement where the dog is walking. Dr. Bowers points out if the asphalt is too hot for you to walk on barefoot, it is too hot for the dog.

Sadly, Powers told NBC12 early Tuesday that his dog died after the incident.

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