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Animal Medical Care Heat Stroke

What is heat stroke?

Heat stroke, or hyperthermia, is defined as a body temperature of >105 degrees Fahrenheit as a result of environmental heat exposure and lack of normal thermoregulation. Severe hyperthermia affects every system in the body and can have catastrophic results. Therefore, just decreasing your animal's temperature to a normal range is only the beginning of the battle. If your animal is found to be suffering from heat stroke, IMMEDIATE veterinary attention is needed!

What can cause heat stroke?
  1. Being left in the car in hot weather
  2. Being confined to a concrete run or being chained up without shade
  3. Being exercised in hot/humid weather
  4. Being muzzled in warm weather
Did you know: When left in a car on a relatively cool day (70 degrees F) the temperature within a vehicle may increase by an average of 40 degrees Fahrenheit within ONE HOUR regardless of the outside temperature!!

Also, it is important to know some of the predisposing factors that lead to the development of heat stroke in our furry friends. Overweight animals are more prone to the development of hyperthermia in warm weather, as are brachecephalic (short-nosed) dogs that are prone to breathing issues such as Boston terriers, Bulldogs, Pugs, Lhasa apsos, etc.

What do the signs of heat stroke look like? The clinical signs are progressive and are not limited to:
  1. Rapid, frantic, noisy breathing
  2. Restlessness, wobbliness/unsteadiness Excessive, thick, ropey saliva Bright red mucous membranes (gums) Vomiting Collapse Death
What can I do about it if my dog is affected?
  1. Remove your pet from the warm environment.
  2. If possible, get a rectal temperature (a dog's normal temp is 99-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit)
  3. Use room temperature water to cool your pet. You can use wet towels or a hose if available.
  4. Do NOT try to force your dog to drink, but provide it with plenty of fresh, cool water.
  5. Bring your pet immediately to a veterinary hospital!
Note: It is important NOT to overcool your pet! It may seem logical to use ice or cold water to rapidly address the situation but this is NOT in the best interest of your animal as it can lead to more problems!! As you are transporting your animal to the nearest veterinary hospital, the target temperature you should strive to reach is 102.5-103 degrees Fahrenheit!

Emergency recognition, rapid intervention and ongoing veterinary care are absolutely necessary in the treatment of animals suffering from heat stroke. Be aware of this disease and have a happy and safe summer with your pets!


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