What is Heat Stroke?

  • Very high body temperature usually secondary to prolonged exposure to heat/humidity causing shock and organ dysfunction. This can also occur secondary to strenuous exercise in warmer weather.
  • Dogs do not sweat like humans do, they have a more limited capacity to cool off. They sweat through their nose (panting) and footpads.
  • Here in Louisiana not only is it hot we also have very high humidity levels which are just as dangerous and can lead to heat strokes
  • Temperature >85 and Humidity >70% are known risk levels however if a pet is very active heat stroke can occur in cooler temps/ lower humidity

Watch Dr. McNair explains the danger of heat stroke this time of year (Click Photo):

What happens to the body during heat stroke?

  • As the body temperature rises a dog will become severely dehydrated and the high temperature damages cells within the body leading to a syndrome called multiple organ dysfunction (MODs). Everything from the brain, heart, liver, kidneys and gastrointestinal tract is at risk for severe damage that may not be reversible.

What are the signs of heat stroke?

  • Restlessness, panting, difficulty breathing, profuse drooling, collapse, vomiting or diarrhea

What can an owner due if their dog has heat stroke?

  • Call you veterinarian immediately and let them know you are on your way. Heat Stroke quickly becomes fatal and this is an absolute emergency! They will also give you recommendations for what to do to treat your pet on the way.
  • Owners can start cooling their pets down by providing cool water foot baths, using fans and applying rubbing alcohol to the footpads. We want to bring the temperature down but not too fast – do not place your pet in cold water/cold water baths.
  • It is imperative that even if your pet is looking better that they are evaluated by a veterinarian.

What can an owner do to prevent heatstroke?

  • Keep pets with predisposing conditions like heart disease, obesity, older age, or breathing problems cool and in the shade. Even normal activity for these pets can be harmful. Especially for brachycephalic breeds such as boxers, pugs, bulldogs, etc.
  • Provide access to fresh water at all times.
  • Do not leave your pet in a hot parked car even if you’re in the shade or will only be gone a short time. On an 85-degree day, for example, the temperature inside a car with the windows opened slightly can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, the temperature will reach 120 degrees…WOW!!!
  • Make sure outside dogs have access to shade.
  • On hot or humid days restrict exercise! Especially as concrete and asphalt quickly becomes too hot for your dog’s paws and can cause painful burns.
  • Keep your dog indoors whenever possible during the hot summer months. If outdoors make sure they had access to a shaded spot, water and fans. You can also provide a kiddie pool for them to lay in to cool off.

Do not hesitate to call UVH with any questions about how to prevent heatstrokes with your animals!!