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  • Writer's pictureThe Vet Experts

Heatstroke in Dogs - When You Need Your Emergency Vet

With temperatures on the rise in the summer months ahead, it's important to keep your furry friends safe by understanding the signs of heatstroke, how to prevent it, and when it might be time to take your pets to the emergency vet in Bradenton.

What is Heatstroke?

Heatstroke refers to hyperthermia, or an elevated body temperature. When a pet's body temperature is above 103°F (39.5°C) it is considered abnormal or hyperthermic.

Heat stroke is a condition where a pet's body temperature exceeds 106°F (41°F) even without any signs or symptoms. Between 107 degrees F and 109 degrees F is the critical temperature for multiple organs failing or impending death, and should be brought to your emergency vet before that point.

How Can I Tell if My Pet is Suffering from Heatstroke?

Dogs with heatstroke and who should be rushed to the emergency vet may experience increased breathing rates, dry gums, sticky gums, abnormal gum colors, bleeding in the gums, lethargic behavior, seizures, and even disorientation.

What Causes Heatstroke?

Heatstroke, or hyperthermia, can most commonly happen when a dog is left in a vehicle with poor ventilation. In this scenario, the dog's body temperature can rise rapidly, sometimes within minutes which would result in a trip to the emergency vet. Other situations might include being left outside in the heat for long periods of time, or exerting themselves on a run or playing too hard during the hottest part of the day.

Panting is a dog's primary method of controlling body temperature.

Dogs do not have the same ability to regulate their body temperature as humans. They only have a small number of sweat glands in their feet, with panting as their primary method of controlling body temperature.

Heatstroke can also be caused by heat exhaustion. Even if the outside temperatures and humidity is not high, dogs that are overexcited or exercised excessively can be at risk. This is especially true if the environment in which dogs live or are housed is not well ventilated.

Brachycephalic breeds (flat-faced dogs like bulldogs, pugs, and boxers) have a higher risk of developing heat stroke. Clinical signs of heatstroke can be seen in these breeds even if the outside temperature or humidity is only moderately high and cause a need to be seen by an emergency vet. Muzzled dogs can pose a greater risk too because their ability to pant is limited by the muzzle.

Hyperthermia can be caused by any infection that causes fever (or pyrexia). The increase in muscle activity can also cause severe muscle spasms or seizures that can raise the body temperature and result in an emergency vet situation.

What Are the Treatments for Heatstroke?

Hyperthermia can be an emergency. A controlled and safe reduction in body temperature is a priority to avoid an emergency vet situation. You can apply cool cloths to areas such as the stomach, armpits, and feet. Cool wet cloths should be replaced regularly if they are retaining heat. To bring down temperatures more quickly, ensure that air is continuously flowing across your dog until taking them to the emergency vet.

Additionally, rubbing alcohol may be used to dilate the pores and increase sweat production on the footpads. Ice packs are controversial because they can reduce blood flow to the skin's surface, where heat exchange may take place. Heatstroke is often treated with intravenous fluids, mild sedation, and low-concentration oxygen therapy with your local emergency vet in Bradenton.

Once the dog is showing signs of recovery, or the temperature drops to 103 degrees F (39.5 C), treatment will be stopped. If cooling is not stopped, the patient may develop hypothermia (dangerously low body temperature).

What's the Prognosis of Heatstroke?

The severity of the heatstroke is determined by the extent to which the body temperature rose, the duration of hyperthermia, and the physical state of the pet before heatstroke occurred will all impact the prognosis by your emergency vet.

Most pets are healthy and will recover quickly if their body temperature does not rise to dangerous levels. That said, hyperthermia can cause permanent organ damage, or even death in some pets, and hyperthermia can lead to heatstroke in pets that have already suffered from it.

If you recognize any of the symptoms listed above in your pet, don't hesitate to call us, your emergency vet in Bradenton at (941) 896-9420 - it's always better to be safe than sorry, so make sure you keep your pets safe this summer and avoid heatstroke in your furry friends. For more articles like this one, click here.

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