What is Heat Stroke?
Heat Stroke (also known as hyperthermia) is an elevation of body temperature above the normal range for your animal. For dogs, the generally accepted rule is that temperatures above 103°F (39°C) are too high. Heat strokes occur when heat-dissipating mechanisms of the body cannot accommodate excessive external heat. This condition can lead to more serious conditions such as multiple organ dysfunction.
Certain breeds of dogs and cats are prone to difficult, obstructive breathing because of the shape of their head, muzzle and throat. The most common dogs affected are the “brachycephalic” breeds. Brachycephalic means “short-headed". Common examples of brachycephalic dog breeds include the English bulldog, French bulldog, Pug, Pekingese, and Boston terrier. These dogs have been bred to have relatively short muzzles and noses and, because of this, the throat and breathing passages in these dogs are frequently undersized or flattened. Persian cats also have a brachycephalic conformation. These breeds are more prone to heat strokes than other breeds, so the following prevention measures are especially important for brachycephalic pet owners to be aware of.
How do You Prevent Heat Stroke?
Heatstroke can be prevented if you are prepared with the knowledge to do so. The following are all great options for keeping your pet's temperature down while enjoying those hot summer days.
What are the Symptoms of Heat Stroke?
What Should You do if Your Pet Displays these Symptoms?
The most important thing to do if your pet is displaying symptoms of heat stroke is to bring them to a veterinarian as soon as possible! In the mean time, remove them from the hot area immediately. To lower their body temperature, place cool towels over the back of their neck, under the forelimbs, and in the groin area. If possible, try to increase air movement around them with a fan or air conditioning. While cooling your pet, be careful! You are at risk of cooling them off too fast which can cause other dangerous conditions. Their temperature should be checked about every five minutes. Once the body temperature is at 103ºF, immediately stop the cooling process and maintain their current body temperature by making sure they are completely dry and cover them with a blanket or towel. Even if your animal keeps a low temperature and loses symptoms, take them to your veterinarian as soon as possible! They may be dehydrated or have other complications.
What Will Your Veterinarian Do?
If you bring your pet to the veterinarian while in the midst of their heat stroke, the first thing will be lowering their body temperature safely. Your pet will be given fluids and possibly oxygen if it is deemed necessary. The most important thing that a veterinarian will do is monitor for other conditions associated with a heat stroke, such as shock, respiratory distress, and dehydration along with more severe reactions like kidney failure and heart abnormalities.
What do You do When Your Pet Comes Home?
Heat stroke is a risk to any pet owner on hot days, but when you're armed with preventative measures, it is nothing to be afraid of. Now go out and enjoy that beautiful summer weather with your furry best friend!
Sources: Dr's Foster and Smith. Pet Education. Pet MD. ACVS.