Guest Post by: Dr. Lori Hehn from Canyon Animal Hospital
The heat of the summer is upon us! Heatstroke cases are on the rise and can be very dangerous to your pets. Let’s review the dangers of heatstroke.
What is Heat Stroke?
Heatstroke is the state of hyperthermia that leads to damage of the internal organs and death in some severe cases. It is most common in dogs that are overweight. The normal temperature of a dog is between 101 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit, according to WebMD. When they get to 106-109 they suffer heatstroke.
When the internal temperature rises above 107F for a prolonged time period, damage to the kidneys and gastrointestinal tract, or liver can occur. It may cause swelling of the brain and abnormal coagulation.
Causes of Heat Stroke in Dogs
Our canine friends can’t sweat like we do. Only a small amount of sweat gets through their paws, and so they have a difficult time cooling off in high temperatures. Heatstroke can happen very quickly because of this. Dogs are at a high risk when they are left outside without proper shade and water, are exercised in the heat, or left in the hot car. A dog’s body temperature can elevate quickly if left in a hot car.
Dogs with underlying breathing problems, such as with the larynx or have brachycephalic airway (like we see in Pugs or Bulldogs) are at a higher risk. Very young and very old dogs are also easily susceptible. Their bodies are either still developing defenses against heat or are deteriorating.
Other risk factors include:
- Heavy coated dogs in hot environment
- Poor heart and lung conditions or underlying diseases
- Hyperthyroidism (excess thyroid hormone production)
- Restricted access to shade and water
Dog Heat Stroke Symptoms
How can you know when your dog is having one of these episodes? Like any illness, there are symptoms you can watch out for. Dog heat stroke symptoms include:
- Dehydration (sunken eyes, dry gums, decreased urination)
- Heavy or labored panting
- Excessive drooling
- Dark red or bright red gums, and gums and tongue that seem dry
- Fast heart rate or bounding pulses
- Collapse, staggering walk or gait
- Depression or change in mood
- Vomiting or diarrhea, sometimes with blood
- Limited urine production or no urine at all
- Muscle tremors/spasms
If you are concerned your pet may have heat stroke, it is important to get them to your veterinarian as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the worse the prognosis will become.
Heat Stroke Treatment
Your vet will know exactly what to do to help your pet. But it can be scary giving your pet to their care without knowing what will happen. Major treatments should only be provided by a trained vet, but there are some things you can do as an owner.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
The best thing you can do is cool your pup until their temperature comes down to 104-105. The body will continue to cool after that point. Avoid the temperature dropping too fast and too quickly. You can use cool wet towels to the paws, groin, and underarm areas. Wet their fur and use a fan to help cool them down.
Call your vet office as soon as you head that way. This will help them get a team ready to intake your dog once you get there.
WHAT THE VET CAN DO
The veterinarian will likely immediately place an intravenous catheter and start IV fluids to treat dehydration and shock. The blood pressure, ECG, and vital signs will be monitored closely. If there are coagulation problems, sometimes blood products are needed (plasma transfusions). Medications for the gastrointestinal tract will be started.
The blood sugar will be monitored closely during hospitalization. Dogs with heat stroke are often in intensive care for multiple days, depending on the severity. It is expensive to treat and can be deadly.
Heat Stroke Prevention
The number one thing you can do is keep your pet out of situations where they may become overheated. Don’t let them outside when it’s too hot for you to endure. If they absolutely must be outside, give them plenty of access to water and shade.
You can get a kiddie pool and fill it with water to help them stay cool. There are many cooling mats on the market now and shade tents made specifically for dogs.
Keep water bowls filled, but don’t use ice. Your dog could choke on the pieces. Certain fruits like watermelon can be given as a snack. These fruits have a high level of moisture and dogs love the sweet flavor.
Never leave your dog in a hot car. The temperature inside the car can nearly double what the outside temperature is.