Prevent Your Pets from Getting Heat Stroke
Spring is here and summer is just around the corner. Heat stroke does not happen just in the summertime. It is commonly seen even in the spring.
What is heat stroke?
Heat stroke is not a stroke as we know it, but a term used to describe elevated body temperature generally over 106 degrees Fahrenheit. When a pet’s internal temperature rises above 106 degrees F and climbs to (107 – 109), multiple organ dysfunction occurs and can be life threatening.
How does a pet get heat stroke?
The most common causes of heat stroke are when a pet is left in a car without proper ventilation or jogging with pets in warm or hot weather. As you will see, heat stroke can happen even in cooler temperatures. Just to give you an idea of how hot your car can get in a short amount of time:
- At 70 degrees outside temperature, your car temperature will be 104 degrees in just 30 minutes, and 113 degrees in an hour.
- At 80 degrees outside temperature, your car temperature will be 114 degrees in just 30 minutes and 125 degrees in an hour.
- At 90 degrees outside temperature, in just 10 minutes, your car will be 109 degrees.
Dogs cannot regulate body temperature by sweating as we do. The have a small number of sweat glands on their paws, but this is not enough to help regulate their body temperature. They primarily manage their body temperature by panting. Therefore, they have to have cool air to decrease their body temperature. If they are trapped in a car and they are panting hot air, they will become hyperthermic.
Another cause of heat stroke is leaving your pet outside without proper shade and water. When temperature rises during the day, your pets must have shelter away from direct sunlight to keep their body cool. Fresh cool water must be available away from sunlight. Leave more than one bowl of fresh water just in case one gets accidentally knocked over by your pet.
Another cause of heat stroke is excessive or vigorous exercise during hot temperatures. When the temperature is warm outside, make sure your pet is given proper rest and fresh water when exercising or playing outside. Brachycephalic breeds (Bulldogs, Pugs, Boxers, etc.) have an increased risk of heat stroke because they have a flat face, which restricts proper airflow. Your pet may not show any signs of being overheated until it is too late so take all necessary precautions. On a hot day, if you need to exercise your pet, do it early morning before it gets too hot or evening after the sun sets.
What are the symptoms of heat stroke?
There are a wide variety of signs to look out for if you suspect your pet has heat stroke:
- weakness or anxiousness
- less responsive to commands than usual
- pants excessively, drooling
- vomiting or diarrhea
How is heat stroke treated?
If you suspect that your pet has heat stroke, seek immediate veterinary care. Your veterinarian may instruct you to begin cooling your pet before arriving in the hospital. This is done by using tepid water baths and fans. Never use cold water or ice baths because this can cause the peripheral blood vessels to constrict that can impair heat dissipation. Do not start cooling measures without consulting your veterinarian first.
Your veterinarian will begin treatment by safely lowering your pet’s core body temperature until temperature reaches 103 degrees F. An IV catheter will be placed and your pet will receive IV fluids. Because heat stroke can affect virtually every part of the body, your veterinarian may provide a wide variety of supportive therapy for the body system affected: lungs, heart, intestines, kidneys, neurologic, and vascular system.
What is the prognosis for heat stroke?
The prognosis depends on the severity of the hyperthermia, the length of time hyperthermia persisted, and the physical condition of the pet prior to the heat stroke. If the hyperthermia is mild, healthy pets may recover completely with prompt treatment. On the other hand, if the hyperthermia is severe, some pets may develop multi-organ failure and may die.
Don’t let your pets get heat stroke! Best practice is to never leave them in the car unattended and taking precautions by keeping your pets cool during warm weather. Read our Vetsavers Pet Hospital blog from more pet parent tips.