Heat Stroke

Applicable For:
  • Dogs

Heat stroke, also called non-pyrogenic hyperthermia, occurs when a dog's body temperature gets above a safe range. Different than a fever, heat stroke is brought on when the dog is exposed to high environmental temperatures and gets overheated. A dog's normal body temperature is between 100°F and 102.5°F. A moderate case of heat stroke brings the dog's temperature to between 104°F and 106°F, while severe heat stroke brings the dog's body to over 106°F. A dog with moderate heat stroke usually recovers nicely within an hour or so if he receives immediate treatment and veterinarian care, while severe heat stroke can be fatal, even with immediate medical treatment.

Heat stroke happens because a dog's body absorbs more heat from his environment than he is able to dispel via panting. Once the dog's body reaches a certain temperature, his regular body functions are affected, and damage to his metabolic processes, organs, and muscles begins.

Dogs left in vehicles during the summer or warm months, or confined in other hot spaces are particularly at risk, although there are other causes. Dogs who are overworked or overplayed in the heat without rest or adequate water, or dogs that are exposed to hot and/or humid climates that they are unused to are also at risk. Very young dogs and very old dogs, brachycephalic breeds (dogs with flat faces such as Pugs, Boxers, English and French Bulldogs, etc), obese dogs, thick and/or long-haired breeds, dogs with dark-colored coats, and dogs with cardiopulmonary disease are all at higher risk.

Testing and Detection
The first sign of heat stroke in dogs is unexplained restlessness. Excessive panting, or panting that comes and goes, excessive drooling, dry gums, foaming at the mouth, and difficulty breathing are all symptoms of heat stroke. Temperature readings should be taken. Temperature over 103°F, exposure to hot and/or humid environment, in addition to the above-mentioned symptoms is fairly indicative of heatstroke

If any of these symptoms occur and the dog is in or has been in a hot and/or humid environment, it is likely the dog has heat stroke. Call your veterinarian immediately for advice. Remove the dog from the hot environment if possible, or offer shade, a fan, and fresh water. If you cannot get the dog to a veterinarian, spray the dog with cool water or immerse it in cool water. Apply rubbing alcohol to the foot pads, groin, and front armpits to aid in evaporative cooling. Do not use ice water, since that can actually cause the dog to hold onto more heat. Monitor his temperature regularly and stop these treatments when his temperature drops to 103°F. Your dog could still suffer effects from the heat stroke so all attempts should be made to get him medical care as soon as possible.

If you are able to get to the veterinarians immediately upon noticing symptoms, the veterinarian team will lower the dog's temperature, usually with IV fluid and cooling packs or cool water. Affected dogs will be kept at rest until stable. Most dogs will be kept for a day or two to make sure no ill effects are suffered.

There are no medications used specifically in the treatment of heat stroke.