This super-spaniel, Bruce, is lucky to be alive after a scary experience last Saturday. Bruce’s owners have kindly allowed us to share his story.
18-month-old Bruce was indulging in the Exmouth holiday experience with his family. He was enjoying a play in the sea on a warm, sunny Saturday. Normally on a sunny day, we worry most about dogs overheating, but that wasn’t the case for Bruce.
Bruce seemed odd to his owners when he came out of the water after a short swim. Bruce’s owners did the right thing and called us straight away to explain his strange behaviour. We advised them to bring him directly to us at the practice - things didn’t sound right at all.
As Bruce made the short car journey from the beach to our practice, he became progressively weaker and more unwell. By the time he reached us Bruce was unable to get up and was cold to the touch.
Bruce was suffering from hypothermia; his body temperature had dropped a concerning 5 degrees centigrade below normal. Even a few degrees change in body temperature from a dog’s normal 38 degrees can be life-threatening.
Our team immediately set to work warming Bruce and giving him urgent support. You can see him in the pictures all wrapped up in blankets.
We have lots of safe and gentle ways of warming patients – it’s not as simple as it sounds. Excessively hot pads or wraps can be dangerous - we must avoid using anything too hot that a collapsed patient cannot move away from. Body temperature needs to return to normal gradually, and patients need to warm on the inside, not just on their skin.
Bruce received intensive nursing and veterinary care and luckily his temperature started to rise.
Blood tests performed shortly after Bruce arrived at the practice showed he had very low blood sugar, which can also be life-threatening. Bruce’s body didn’t have any accessible energy to keep warm. As part of his immediate care, Bruce was given some glucose to boost his blood sugar levels. This was given to Bruce via a catheter in his leg as he was too weak to swallow. He also received warm fluids from a drip. This all helped give Bruce’s body the necessary tools to warm up. He soon started to feel much better. After he became more stable, Bruce found the strength to eat and enjoyed some yummy food - very important for keeping his blood sugar levels where they should be.
After a short stay of a few hours in the practice, Bruce was warm, energised and wagging his excitable spaniel tail! He returned home on Saturday evening to his much-relieved family. You can see Bruce in the pictures, back with his owners but still wearing a little fleecy jumper to keep cosy. Bruce went home for a restful evening and some much-deserved fuss and cuddles.
Since Saturday, Bruce has been back to his normal bright and wiggly self!
Bruce’s case is scary but rare. Having a safe and gentle swim is usually a great way for a dog to keep cool on a warm day. It is unusual for a young, fit dog to become unwell in the way that Bruce did. No obvious reason for Bruce’s low blood sugar and low body temperature have been found from tests performed so far, and Bruce has been very well since.
The most important thing is that Bruce’s owners acted quickly. If your dog is acting strangely, please call us as soon as you notice something’s not right. Situations can deteriorate and become life-threatening in a short time, so prompt care is important. Even if you are some distance from the practice, call as soon as possible as we may be able to give life-saving advice over the phone.
Please don’t worry about taking your dogs to the beach and them enjoying a swim or paddle in the sea - but do remember to be as safe as possible. There’s nothing Bruce’s owners could have done to prevent his illness, but in some cases beach-related illness is avoidable. Dogs can become unwell if they drink excessive sea water, swim for too long, go under the waves unintentionally, eat debris on the beach, scavenge dead sea life or consume too much sand. Keep an eye on your dogs on beach trips to make sure they’re avoiding these potential hazards.
Dogs can be just as unwell from a low temperature as a high one, and whilst this is something we usually associate with cold weather, Bruce is proof that the unexpected can happen. Sometimes there is an underlying medical reason to be found on tests when something unusual happens, but not always, and this can take time to work out. Urgent first aid is vital either way.
Be sure to check your dog from time to time when they’re enjoying a swim in cold water, make sure they’re responding to you normally, and that they’re warm to touch - armpits are a good place to feel for warmth.
In Bruce’s case, his owners did everything right. Bruce had eaten breakfast so had taken-in energy. He had only been in the water a short time. Bruce’s owners contacted us as soon as he seemed unwell and that probably saved his life.
We’re so glad Bruce is back home and doing well, he’s a wonderful boy - after he was so poorly, it made our weekend to see his happy spaniel face heading homeward-bound!