Ask a Vet About Overheating in Dogs
As the weather warms up and the southern states are already reaching temperatures in the 90s, it is important to brush up on your knowledge of heat stroke in pets.
Ask a vet what are some signs that your dog is overheated?
Panting is one of the most early and common signs, followed by the dog appearing dull or disoriented. Breathing is usually fast and noisy. They may even collapse or convulse. Their gums may either be bright red or blue. Vomiting, diarrhea, and internal bleeding (manifesting as red/purple spots on the gums, skin, urine, or feces) may occur. Sudden death from cardiac arrhythmias is even a possibility.
If your dog is just panting and you aren’t sure if they are in danger for overheating, you can attempt to take their temperature. Heat stroke usually occurs at a temperature of 104 F and over . Keep in mind, rectal temperatures are the most accurate way to take your dog’s temperature, however, if they have stool in their rectum, it will be artificially lowered.
What should you do if you suspect your dog is overheated?
Grab your dog – wet him or her with cool tap water, and head to the veterinarian ASAP! Wrap your dog in a wet towel on the way to the hospital, as lowering the temperature (slowly, not rapidly) is of crucial and timely importance. Cool tap water, not ice, should be used. If you dog shows interest in drinking water, allow them by all means. If you dog is unconscious, make sure no water can get up their nose or mouth. Call your vet en route, so they can have a team prepared to act quickly!
What causes heat stroke?
Heat stroke is usually caused by high environmental temperatures, but can be precipitated by several factors, both external and internal within the pet themselves. Causes are usually divided into two categories: those that decrease the pet’s ability to disperse excess body heat, and those that increase body temperature.
A poorly ventilated space, sudden exposure to high temperatures, high humidity, and limited water access are all factors that may increase your pet’s chance for heat stroke. Other factors that increase your dog’s chance for overheating include obesity, respiratory disease, thick hair coats or jackets, and extensive periods of exercise, such as racing or sporting dogs. Breeds with shortened upper respiratory passageways, such as pugs, and English bulldogs, are also at increased risk. Certain hormonal problems or even a pet that is already suffering from a fever are also at increased risk.
What is the treatment for heat stroke?
As stated above, getting your pet to the vet is crucial and of timely importance. The goals of therapy are to safely lower the body temperature, treat shock or other negative consequences if they have occurred, and correct the contributing factors. While at the vet, applying alcohol to the ears, footpads, and groin are common tricks to safely lowering the temperature, as well as administering cool IV fluids. If your pet is suffering more serious side effects, a breathing tube may need to be placed and artificial ventilation began. Correcting electrolyte imbalances and controlling seizures are also of top importance. Depending on the severity of the heat stroke, hospitalization of multiple days may be required, especially if organ damage is suspected.
How likely or unlikely is my dog to survive heat stroke?
The prognosis again depends on how high the pet’s temperature was, and how long it was elevated. Survival is poor for comatose animals, animals with kidney or liver failure, internal and unresponsive bleeding. Also, please remember animals that survive heat stroke are more susceptible to repeat occurrences so proper care must be taken to avoid situations where your pet is at risk for hyperthermia.
If you have any questions about overheating or want to ask a vet about your pet’s health, VetLIVE.com provides 24/7 access to licensed veterinarians.
Dr. Laci Schaible, DVM is a veterinarian and writer. She works with her husband, also a veterinarian, in Pennsylvania.