Heat stroke in dogs

Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency. It is a common condition affecting dogs much more than cats. Heat stroke in dogs is a serious disease.

Definition of heat stroke

Heat stroke in dogs is a serious condition resulting from severe hyperthermia. Hyperthermia is defined as an increase in body temperature above biological norms (> 39 ° C). Faced with hyperthermia, the body will set up, in order to keep its temperature within the norms, various processes such as polypnea (increased respiratory rate) and peripheral vasodilation. Dogs and cats hardly sweat unlike humans, so they cannot lower their temperature by this phenomenon. When the processes of regulating body temperature exceeds, it rises rapidly and serious consequences appear on different organs.

Causes and risk factors

Heat stroke is typically the result of exposure to an environment that is too hot. Different situations particularly describe:

  • animal left in a car.
  • Also, animal living outdoors with no means to cool off (shade, water).
  • animal performing significant physical exertion in excessively hot temperatures.

In some cases, a heat stroke is the consequence of the absorption of substances such as amphetamines, metaldehyde (anti slug), organophosphates (insecticide), halothane (anesthetic product) or even secondary to an attack of long epilepsy.

Each animal is more or less sensitive to a high outside temperature. Some animals are more at risk of developing heat stroke:

  • brachycephalic breeds (Bulldog, Pug, Boxer, etc.) which have reduced respiratory capacities and therefore have greater difficulty in lowering their temperature through the phenomenon of polypnea.
  • animals with certain diseases (laryngeal paralysis, heart disease)
  • obese animals
  • animals with black coats
  • old animals

Clinical signs and consequences of heat stroke in dogs

The first signs observed are:

  • a strong polypnea
  • congested oral mucous membranes: the oral cavity is unusually red
  • hypersalivation
  • dehydration

Then the general condition of the animal deteriorates with fatigue and significant depression.

Heat stroke in dogs

At the same time, rectal temperature increases, often exceeding 40.5 ° C / 41 ° C. Above 41 ° C, consequences on internal organs may appear:

  • The brain : Neurological signs such as convulsions, motor incoordination or decreased state of consciousness may be observed. In severe pain, cerebral edema may appear which may progress to intracranial hypertension.
  • Intestine : the digestive mucosa is very sensitive to hyperthermia and hemorrhagic diarrhea may appear.
  • Blood : a phenomenon called disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) can take place, first generating a state of hypercoagulability: thrombi (blood clots) form in the vessels, the platelet count drops. Then it progresses to a state of hypocoagulability where petechiae and suffusions are visible on the mucous membranes and the skin (small intradermal hemorrhages in the form of spots).
  • the heart and blood vessels : arrhythmias may appear. Blood pressure drops as a result of overall vasodilation, which generates a state of shock (itself aggravating organ damage.
  • muscle : muscle cells can die causing the release of pigments and potassium with serious consequences on various organs.
  • the lung : pulmonary edema can form.
  • the kidney : acute renal failure can result from hyperthermia but above all from all damage to other organs.

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Heat stroke treatment

The first thing to do, as quickly as possible, is to lower the animal’s body temperature. This decrease in temperature must not however be too sudden. Thus, if heat stroke is suspected, it is recommended to wet the animal with cool water immediately and then consult your veterinarian.

The vet will:

  • Normalize body temperature: repeated showers
  • Infuse the animal with the aim of stabilizing blood pressure, rehydrating it and helping to lower the temperature
  • Oxygenate the animal
  • Manage any consequences that may appear immediately or within 3 to 5 days of heat stroke. It is important to know that bleeding disorders may not occur until 3 to 5 days after the heat stroke. Various additional examinations are often necessary to ensure the absence of complications: blood tests, ECG (electrocardiogram), blood pressure measurement.

Prevention of heat stroke

Things not to do:

  • Never leave a dog in a car. The risk will be even greater if the temperature is high, if the car is in the sun and if the windows are closed. But it is not uncommon to see heatstroke on animals that have stayed only 15 minutes in a car in the shade with half-open windows.
  • Do not tie up a dog in a place without shade
  • Do not do intensive sports in scorching weather

Be particularly vigilant for brachycephalic breeds (French bulldog, English bulldog, etc.), obese, elderly or sick animals: leave them cool in hot weather and go out at the coolest times of the day.

To behave

  • Do not hesitate to wet the animals in hot weather
  • Keep them cool (house, fan, etc.)
  • Always leave water at will
  • For brachycephalic breeds, surgery to improve their breathing is strongly recommended in the event of heavy snoring. Their quality of life will be greatly improved and their risk of developing heat stroke less.
  • Weight loss of obese animals

Heat stroke in dogs is therefore as common as it is serious. The quicker it is taken care of, the greater the chances of total recovery. The vigilance of owners is fundamental to prevent risky situations