Heat stroke, also known as hyperthermia, or the elevation of body temperature. Hyperthermia is when a pet’s temperature exceeds 103oF. Frequently this occurs when dogs are left in a car without adequate ventilation or are left outside on a hot day without appropriate access to shade or water. Differently than humans, dogs are unable to control their body temperature by sweating. Primarily, dogs control body temperature by panting, since only a few sweat glands are present among their footpads. This is why these situations can cause rapid elevation of a dog’s body temperature, which can be life-threatening.
A dog suffering from heat stroke will have an elevated body temperature, can display rapid panting, red or a pale gums, depression, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive drooling, muscle tremors, seizures, which can progress to shock, coma, or death. Treatment of heat stroke requires rapid reduction of body temperature via cooling measures such as cool water baths, fans, intravenous fluids and management of all secondary complications is very important.
Certain risk factors among dogs can make a heat stroke episode more likely. For example, brachycephalic breeds (flat faced dogs) like pugs, boxers, and bulldogs are at a greater risk due to a restricted respiratory apparatus. In addition, dogs with underlying heart or lung disease, thicker hair coats, or obesity are more prone to experience heat stroke.
Heat stroke is an immediate life-threatening emergency. Prognosis depends on the level of temperature elevation, the duration of temperature elevation, and the pet’s prior clinical status. If heat stroke is suspected, it is important to seek veterinary care immediately.