Identifying & Treating Heat Stroke in Dogs

With the weather improving and summer around the corner, it is a wonderful time to get your dog out for exercise and hikes. Although this is a great time to be outside, dog owners need to take extra precautions against heat stroke during the early summer months, and hot days.  It is during these days that dogs are at most risk of developing a heat stroke. 

What is a heat stroke?

Heat stroke is a condition in which the body’s core temperature is so high that cells and proteins start to break down, and cause multi organ failure. It is life threatening.

How does my dog get a heat stroke?

Dogs may suffer a heat stroke from sustained exposure to high temperatures in their environment (being out on a hot day without access to shade/water, or left in a car), or from strenuous activity outside. Dogs do not dissipate heat the same way humans do. Unlike humans, dogs do not rely on sweat glands, they rely on panting. There are some conditions that may predispose dogs to a heat stroke:

Signs of a heat stroke:

I am concerned that my dog had a heat stroke, what should I do?

COOL THEM DOWN AND CALL A VETERINARIAN! The initial goal of therapy is to lower your dog’s core body temperature. There are several ways to do this. 

What should I do now?

Seek emergency veterinary medical attention immediately. Although your dog may seem better after you cool them down, the damage to their body may have already been done. Clinical changes caused by a heat stroke may not be evident until hours after the event. Even if you think your dog appears fine, they should still be assessed by a veterinarian.

What will happen at the hospital?

A veterinarian will perform an initial assessment on your dog. Recommendations of diagnostics and care will be based on the clinical assessment and history. Some initial diagnostics that may be performed are bloodwork which would include clotting factors, a blood pressure, and a point of care ultrasound. Treatment will vary greatly depending on the severity of the heat stroke, but may include IV fluids, plasma transfusions, and different medications. Prognosis will depend on the severity of the signs, but heat stroke can be fatal. At PetMedic we can provide most of the initial diagnostics and treatments for suspected heat strokes, but your dog will need to eventually be transferred to a veterinary ICU.

Pearls of wisdom:

To sum it all up:

Enjoy your summer and just remember to use good judgement when outside with your dog!

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