Since we are truly into the hot days of summer, we are going to speak about heat stroke today. This condition occurs in dogs for a variety of reasons. An increased body temperature caused by environmental conditions is commonly referred to as hyperthermia or heatstroke.
Hyperthermia can be a life-threatening condition, and requires immediate treatment. A dog’s normal body temperature is 99-102.5 F, and any time the body temperature is higher than 105°F this is an emergency.
Heatstroke generally occurs in hot summer weather when dogs are left inside of vehicles.
However, heatstroke may also occur in other conditions, including: when an animal is left outdoors in hot/humid conditions without adequate shade, when exercised in hot/humid weather, or when left in a car on a relatively cool (70°F) day; a study from Stanford University Medical Center found the temperature within a vehicle may increase by an average of 40 degrees Fahrenheit within one (1) hour regardless of outside temperature.
Other predisposing factors can be obesity and/or diseases affecting a pet’s airway. Keep in mind that prolonged seizures and many other conditions can also cause hyperthermia. Brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds are unable to pant effectively and that can that result in an increased body temperature that may be fatal.
Initially the pet appears distressed, pants excessively and becomes restless. As the condition progresses, the pet may drool large amounts of saliva. The pet may become unsteady as the issue advances. You may notice the gums turning blue/purple or bright red in color.
Recommended first aid includes: removing the pet from the hot environment into a shaded, cool environment and placing a fan on your pet. If you can measure the rectal temperature – do so and make a note of it. Begin to cool your pet by placing wet, cool towels over the back of the neck, armpits, and groin region. Transport your pet to the nearest veterinary facility.
It is important to not overcool the pet as well. The goal temperature for cooling is 102.5-103 degrees F while arranging/transporting to the veterinarian. Do not try to force the pet to drink water- but cool water should be available in case the pet is interested.
Following up with the veterinarian is important, because severe hyperthermia can affect the entire body and can lead to multi-organ failure.