Thursday, August 27, 2015

missing gabe

Gabriel and Steve
Most of us take pictures everyday, not thinking much about anything but the moment captured. We file them away with all the other pictures we take and often don't think much about them after that. Until something happens.

Sunday, August 23, 2015, we lost a member of our family. I can't even call Gabe a furry member because he was as much a part of our family as any of us were. I still think if I go to the back door and open it I will hear him stir, grunt and peek around the end of the deck to say good morning.

Gabe at 10 weeks
I'm not telling you this just for sympathy, but also as a way to share some information. Gabe died from a heat stroke. Sunday was no different than any other day, and not that hot in the scheme of things. July had been much hotter than Sunday. It had rained at daylight for a long time, and it was overcast and humid, but the temperature was only in the mid 80's. Our morning routine was the same as it had been for years. Steve would go outside at some point during the morning, let the dogs out for some exercise, and then drive to town on his daily trip to "pick up a few things", leaving the dogs out. The dogs were just as predictable. They would watch Steve back out of the driveway, and then lay in the shade in the driveway or under the walnut tree in the shade and wait for Steve to come home.

Except yesterday was different. After Steve left, Gabe decided to take a walk out to the end of our road. When Deb left to get some things at a local store for her cat, she noticed him coming home. Then she noticed he had foamy saliva coming out of his mouth. She came back home and ran inside screaming for me.  I ran out and even though I am not a vet, I could see he was in respiratory distress. Gabe had made it back nearly to the front door before collapsing. He was struggling for air, and as I took his collar off, I could see in his mouth, all the way down his throat.  Jim had run to the house by then and checked to see if there was any obstruction. There wasn't. Gabe's tongue was blue by this point, and Jim and I checked him for snake bite, a common occurrence here in the south, and something both dogs had experienced in the past. I got a wet rag and wiped his mouth, stumped by his symptoms. Deb got another wet rag and started wiping his head. We had no idea that Gabe was having a heat stroke. If he had been human, I would have suspected it immediately. But we had never heat stroke in a dog, and we were baffled. I briefly considered hosing him down, and will always bitterly regret that I didn't, because it might have saved his life. But as I thought about hosing him with water, I thought I had better not, because it might stress him more to be sprayed. I wish now that I had. How I wish I had.

Gabe and Caesar
But I didn't, and Steve, who had been called by a panicked Deb, soon arrived home. Jim picked Gabe up, they loaded him in the truck, and took him to an emergency animal clinic in Birmingham. That was when we found out Gabe had a heat stroke. I was baffled, because he hadn't been out long, it was fairly early in the day, and it was overcast and a bit cooler than it had been for weeks. Our dogs always had plenty of water, and Steve even kept a kiddie pool full of water for them to get in when it was hot. So how did this happen?


It was Gabe's age. He was almost 13 years old, and I later learned life expectancy for a Lab was ten to twelve years. When I checked information on heat strokes, I saw the mistakes I had unknowingly made. I am going to share risks and symptoms with you here. It is important to know if you are a dog owner, and I hope you will share it with anyone you know who has dogs.

Very old or very young dogs are more susceptible to heat stroke. Breeds that are bred for cooler climates also do not do well in extreme heat.

Symptoms of heat stroke in dogs include:
  • Panting
  • Dehydration
  • Excessive drooling (ptyalism)
  • Increased body temperature - above 103° F (39° C)
  • Reddened gums and moist tissues of the body
  • Production of only small amounts of urine or no urine
  • Sudden (acute) kidney failure
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Irregular heart beats
  • Shock
  • Stoppage of the heart and breathing (cardiopulmonary arrest)
  • Fluid build-up in the lungs; sudden breathing distress (tachypnea)
  • Blood-clotting disorder(s)
  • Vomiting blood (hematemesis)
  • Passage of blood in the bowel movement or stool
  • Black, tarry stools
  • Small, pinpoint areas of bleeding
  • Generalized (systemic) inflammatory response syndrome
  • Disease characterized by the breakdown of red-muscle tissue
  • Death of liver cells
  • Changes in mental status
  • Seizures
  • Muscle tremors
  • Wobbly, uncoordinated or drunken gait or movement (ataxia)
  • Unconsciousness in which the dog cannot be stimulated to be awakened
Risk factors include:
  • Previous history of heat-related disease
  • Age extremes (very young, very old)
  • Heat intolerance due to poor acclimatization to the environment (such as a heavy coated dog in a hot geographical location)
  • Obesity
  • Poor heart/lung conditioning
  • Underlying heart/lung disease
  • Increased levels of thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism)
  • Short-nosed, flat-faced (brachycephalic) breeds
  • Thick hair coat
  • Dehydration, insufficient water intake, restricted access to water
Gabe didn't make it through the night, and I wanted to share the lesson we learned too late.
If you have dogs, make sure you learn how to deal with hot temperatures, and how to prevent heat stroke. We have brought Caesar, Gabe's constant companion and our other chocolate Lab, in the house now, and watch him closely to make sure he doesn't get too hot.
Caesar looking for Gabriel

Caesar is having a tough time. Since Sunday night, he has paced the floor every night, whimpering and unable to rest. We have had a hard time adjusting to Gabe being gone, but I think Caesar has suffered the most. We buried Gabe Monday. Tuesday, while Steve was doing yard work, Caesar spent most of the day lying on top of Gabe's grave. It's been a hard adjustment, and will take time. For now, none of us are getting much sleep as we miss Gabe, and try to help Caesar with his grief.

I know the hurt and sadness will eventually ease for all of us, but we will never stop missing Gabriel.

[For more information on heat stroke in dogs you can click here or here. There are also many other resources on the Internet for more information.]

...missing someone is part of loving...  cat
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