Heat Stroke- Prevention & Treatment

What is Heat Stroke?

Although a pet’s body temperature may become elevated due to infection (fever), it may also increase because of a warm and/or humid environment. Hyperthermia is a term used to describe an increased body temperature caused by warm environmental conditions. Severe Hyperthermia is commonly referred to as heat stroke.

• Hyperthermia can be a life-threatening condition and requires immediate treatment • All types of animals are susceptible to heat stroke, including humans

• We most commonly see dogs with heat stroke during the summer months, but outdoor cats can also be affected if they spend too much time lying in the sun

• A dog’s normal body temperature is 37.5-38.9 degrees Celsius, anything above this range requires immediate treatment.

Dog wearing green straw hat and sun glasses
How does Heatstroke happen?

The climate in the Okanagan Valley is generally very warm, especially from early April to late October. It is of the utmost importance during this period, that we take extra precautions to ensure our canine companions (and feline friends) don’t develop heat stroke.
Your Dog is at risk of developing heat stroke if ANY of the following conditions apply:
1. Warm/hot summer weather (this includes any temperature greater than 15°C, especially when the sun is out)

2. When an animal is left outdoors in warm conditions without adequate shade

3. When exercised in warm weather (this includes a short walk)

4. When left in a car on a relatively cool day (10-15°C); the temperature within a vehicle may increase by10-15°C within 15-30min. Never leave your pet unattended in a car!

5. Predisposing factors such as obesity or underlying disease, which can lead to a lower tolerance for warm weather

6. Certain dog breeds are at an even greater risk. These include brachycephalic or short nosed breeds (Pug, Pekingese, Lhasa Apso, Boston Terrier, French bull dog, English bull dog, Boxer, Mastiff) and Arctic breeds (Husky, Malamute) to name a few.
Humans are able to regulate body temperature through perspiration (sweating.)Because dogs and cats are unable to sweat, they cool themselves down by panting. If you notice your dog panting, take them to a cool place.

What are the symptoms of heat stroke?

Initial signs of heatstroke in your pet may include restlessness and excessive panting. As the hyperthermia progresses, your pet may secrete large quantities of saliva (drooling), vomit and/or have diarrhea. Your pet may also become unsteady on their feet, develop impaired neurological function and in severe cases, collapse. You may notice the gums turning blue/purple or bright red in color.
What to Do:

• Remove your pet from the environment where the hyperthermia occurred/is occurring

• Transport your pet to your veterinary clinic (or the closet emergency clinic) immediately.
Severe hyperthermia is a disease that affects nearly every organ in the body, and simply lowering the body temperature fails to address the potentially catastrophic events that accompany this disorder. Heat Stroke is a potentially fatal condition and prompt veterinary attention is required. Without veterinary attention, prognosis for recovery is guarded to poor.
If you have additional questions about heat stroke and what you can do to keep your canine companion safe please call the clinic for more information.

The Doctors and Staff at Fairfield Animal Hospital, Westbank Animal Care Hospital & Central Valley Vet Hospital.


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