Deacon waiting for his waterSummer is finally here! A few of us recently went to the Atlantic Provinces Veterinary Conference and got updates on some issues we thought would be interesting to share with you! Today, we want to talk about heatstroke (hyperthermia).

Heatstroke can be a life threatening problem. It affects numerous systems in the body:

  • Central nervous system
  • Cardiovascular system
  • Renal system
  • Muscles
  • Gastro-intestinal tract
  • Liver
  • Blood
  • The longer the exposure, the more body systems fail and the higher chance for death. Once the core body temperature is above 41°C, it is considered heat stroke and damage to organs will occur.

There are typically 2 types of heatstroke:

  1. Where the pet is active in temperatures that is too hot for their body condition
    • I.E. brachycephalic breeds (pugs, bulldogs, etc), obesity, laryngeal paralysis and heart disease patients are more prone to this type of heatstroke
      • It is harder for them to regulate higher temperatures
  2. When the pet is unable to cool down in hot places (like a car, lack of shade or water)
    • Cats are smarter than dogs, they will go and find a cool place and lay down, where a dog does not know when to stop and will chase a ballMoe and Mack cooling down in the pool continuously

Treatment should be sought right away

  • Remove from the heat to a cooler temperature
  • Temperature needs to be brought down over 30-60 minutes (this will cause the least amount of stress on the body)
    • DO NOT submerge your pet in water, force water into their mouths or leave unattended for a long time
    • You can pour cool (not cold) water onto the pet
  • Seek veterinary care imediately
    • Lowering body temperature is not enough because heat stroke affects most systems in the body
    • Case depending, oxygen supplementation may be needed, intravenous (IV) fluid therapy, supportive nursing care may also be needed
    • With severe cases, once your pet is home, they can still be at risk of organ failure up to 5-7 days after the heatstroke

It is so important during the warm months to keep everyone cool. Do NOT leave pets or humans in cars. Do NOT run your dog in high temperatures for any length of time. If you are concerned your pet is suffering from heatstroke, please call us as soon as possible 389-2121.


* References: Amy Breton Newfield, CVT, VTS (ECC), & www.veterinarypartner.com

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