Dog Heat Stroke: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Brendan Timmons / Flickr

Hyperthermia – an increase in the body temperature of an animal above the generally accepted norm. Although normal values ​​vary slightly from breed to dog, it is generally accepted that body temperatures above 39.5 ° C are elevated.

Heatstroke occurs when the body’s normal mechanisms are unable to maintain body temperature within a safe range. Dogs do not have effective cooling systems and overheat easily. An animal with moderate hyperthermia (body temperature from 40.0 to 41.0) can be restored within an hour if immediate first aid and veterinary assistance are provided. Severe hyperthermia (body temperature above 41.0) can be fatal and urgent veterinary attention is needed.

Heatstroke in a dog

Ana Wiesenberger / Flickr

Heatstroke in a dog is a very dangerous condition that often leads to the death of the animal or serious complications for its health. According to statistics, heatstroke most often occurs in dogs left in a closed car or on a glassed-in loggia in the summer. Dogs of brachycephalic breeds especially suffer from heatstrokes (dogs with a shortened muzzle – bulldogs, pugs, Pekingese, etc.), it is enough for them to spend a few minutes in an enclosed space in the heat to get dangerous overheating of the body.

Hyperthermia is overheating, a violation of thermoregulation. Hypothermia is different, but now we are interested in just exogenous – caused by external causes.

Heatstroke and heat exhaustion

If you, a bad person, locked a dog in a car and it felt bad there, this is heatstroke. By the way, the consequence of heatstroke in a dog can be death. It can come within an hour – even at a relatively low temperature (24 degrees).

If you, not a very smart owner, have intensively trained the dog in a warm room without ventilation, this is a stress heat stroke.

If the dog became ill during a long walk in the heat, this is heat exhaustion (exhaustion).

Heatstroke = short-term exposure to high ambient temperatures + confined space + lack of ventilation (the animal was left in the car in the sun)

Load heatstroke = short-term exposure to high ambient temperatures + confined space + lack of ventilation + physical activity (the animal played in a well-heated stuffy room)

Heat exhaustion = prolonged exposure to high ambient temperatures + physical activity (the animal played in the heat for a long time)

brenmil / Flickr

Pathophysiologically, the former differs from the latter by the involvement of the central nervous system in the pathological process, i.e. heatstroke is more severe than heat exhaustion.

Important to remember:

  • It is strictly forbidden to leave the animal in the heat in a confined space
  • Physical activity in hot weather, even on the street, should be dosed, and in a room without ventilation, it should be minimized.

Heat exhaustion symptoms:

As mentioned above, heat fatigue is the “light version”:

  • oppression
  • weakness
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • severe shortness of breath.

Symptoms of heatstroke in a dog:

  • massive hypovolemic shock (condition – a cloth at death)
  • ataxia (lack of coordination)
  • arrhythmia
  • cortical blindness (blindness resulting from poor circulation in the brain)
  • stupor
  • coma
  • collapse
  • convulsions
  • vomiting and bloody diarrhea
  • hemorrhages on the skin and mucous membranes
    and etc.

Treating heatstroke in a dog

Karon Elliott Edleson / Flickr

If you experience the above symptoms, it is important to immediately contact your veterinarian. It is advisable to leave the animal in the hospital for observation. Time “H” with heatstroke – 48 hours. This means that animals usually die from heatstroke within two days.

If, for some reason, the clinic cannot be reached quickly …

First aid for heatstroke in a dog:

  • move the animal to the shadow
  • provide fresh air
  • cool: moisten wool and leather with cool water; blowing with a fan; ice packs – on the area of large vessels (neck, groin, armpit); wetting the paw pads with alcohol or vodka.

Not recommended:

  • cool the animal with ice water – reflexively narrowed vessels will complicate further cooling
  • cold water/ice baths – due to the rapid narrowing of peripheral vessels, warm blood will go directly to vital organs, which is contrary to the main goal
  • cold water enemas – will make monitoring difficult.

Be sure to measure the temperature! We cool to a rectral temperature of 39.4-40 degrees C, then only monitoring. Because when cooling to normal values ​​(38-39 degrees C), a phenomenon called rebound hypothermia begins, i.e. the temperature will continue to fall uncontrollably and you will have to start the reverse process, that is, heat.

In the first 12-24 hours, the temperature is measured hourly – until the thermometer three times in a row shows normal and at the same time the same indicators. Next – a thermometer in the ass every 4 hours.

First aid provided does not cancel a visit to the doctor!

Heatstroke/heat exhaustion effects:

  • death
  • multiple organ failure
  • renal failure.

What to do to prevent heat stroke in a dog:

bboy B.Z monster / Flickr
  1. If it’s hot outside and your dog is very active, take plenty of water with you for a walk and control your pet’s well-being.
  2. All active rest, in which your animal keeps you company – bicycle, running, roller skates, etc. – transfer to a cooler time of the day. This also applies to training with a dog handler.
  3. Regularly ventilate the room where the animal is, do not allow active games where there is no ventilation and it is too hot.
  4. I don’t think I need to tell you that it is absolutely forbidden to leave an animal in a closed car?
  5. Owners of brachycephalic breeds (bulldogs, Pekingese, pugs, etc.) are strongly advised to talk to their doctor about “why brachycephalic syndrome is dangerous.”


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