- In cases of heat stroke, immediately remove your pet from the heat source or turn off the heat source and bring your pet to a well ventilated, cooler area.
- Place a towel wet with cool (not ice-cold) water on the body. Do not use ice cubes and do not place ice directly on the skin.
- Animals showing signs of vomiting, weakness, tremors, seizures, collapse or coma should be transported to the vet immediately.
- Other animals can be gradually cooled using cool water and by placing a fan – but don’t over-cool as this leads to shivering which in turn generates heat.
- For hyperthermia/fever not related to heat stroke, your pet will require further veterinary examination and diagnostic investigation to find out the cause of the fever. Take your animal to the vet to have it assessed and treated accordingly as it can be life threatening if left untreated. Do NOT administer any human pain relief or fever medications like aspirin or panadol as they can be toxic to pets.
WHAT IS IT?
Hyperthermia is a condition where the core body temperature rises above the normal range. The normal ranges for dogs are 37.5°C – 39.2 °C.
Heat stroke is a form of hyperthermia, which often presents as an emergency, due to prolonged exposure to hot, humid temperatures with poor ventilation. It can be fatal.
- Heat stroke can lead to multiple organ failure, but is most commonly associated with signs related to the central nervous system including seizures and coma.
- Panting or increased respiratory rate
- Loud noisy breathing, harsh airway sounds
- Initially, restlessless, followed by reluctance to move
- Bright red gums
- Weak pulses
- Initially, a rapid heart rate
- Irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia)
- Vomiting (with or without blood)
- Diarrhoea (with or without blood)
- Muscle tremors
- Blood in urine, vomit or stools, red splotches on mucous membranes or skin
- Hyperthermia can be thought of as a fever, which can occur due to a wide variety of different causes but is mainly caused by infectious, inflammatory, immune mediated or cancerous processes. These can be life threatening if left untreated and severity depends on the underlying cause.
- Heat stroke can be classified as exertional (overheating while exercising) and non-exertional (classic heat stroke). This is usually seen in warm, humid weather/environments, especially if there is poor ventilation (eg. dog being left in the car on a hot day with the windows up).
In cases of heat stroke, your vet will examine and assess your pet and help to stabilise it and get its body temperature back down to normal gradually using various cooling techniques. Treatment may include oxygen and intravenous fluids. Dogs with very thick coats may require a full body clip but most dogs can be cooled with water and a fan.
For cases of fever not related to heat stroke, your vet recommend blood tests or other diagnostic procedures to identify the cause. Medications may be used to treat the fever.
Drobatz KJ (2009) Heat Stroke. In: Small Animal Critical Care Medicine. Ed. Silverstein DC & Hopper K. Missouri, USA: Saunders Elsevier.
Miller JB (2009) Hyperthermia and Fever. In: Small Animal Critical Care Medicine. Ed. Silverstein DC & Hopper K. Missouri, USA: Saunders Elsevier.