As we get into the summer months, heatstroke becomes a greater risk for many people's pets. The most common causes are pets left in a car in the sun, pets with short noses, pets with obstructed breathing conditions like long soft palates of the mouth or collapsing trachea, exercise, or confinement outdoors in the sun without adequate water.

Thanks to television news coverage, most pet owners are aware of the dangers of overheating cars. But some owners may not realize that a car can still be overly warm on cooler days if the sun is out, or on shady days if there is light cloud cover. The temperature in the car can get over 160 degrees, and the pet will overheat in 10 minutes or sometimes less. When a dog’s internal temperature goes over 106 degrees, it will begin to experience organ damage- especially the brain, the kidneys, and the liver. The heart will race, and the pet will drool until dehydration prevents the formation of saliva. 

Once it is realized the pet has overheated, it is very critical to get it to our office immediately. Measures will be taken to lower the pet's body temperature over 20-30 minutes and to try to protect vital organs, and to rehydrate the pet. If the pet regains or maintains consciousness, testing may be performed to determine if any organ damage has occurred. The pet will also be checked for other aspects of shock that must be dealt with, such as a hemorrhage disorder called DIC or fluid in the lungs. These tests may be repeated multiple times in the days following the heatstroke. The longer the pet was overheated, the more guarded the prognosis is for a full recovery, but each animal will be treated with the utmost effort to save its life.

The other heat stroke situations mentioned above can still raise the body temperature to dangerous levels. Any animal should also be seen immediately if they are panting very, very hard or ineffectively as if they can’t pull air in.

In addition to cooling measures, they may require supplemental oxygen and steroids to reduce tissue swelling of the mouth and throat. Bulldogs and related breeds are at increased risk of this condition.

Do your best to protect your beloved family member; don’t just run into the store or decide to take your buddy for a run when the day is overly warm. And we are here for you if you do find your animal is in trouble!

Dr. Sandy Stewart