Heat Stroke in Pets

With the hot weather coming in hard and fast again this week, overheating in pets is a big concern for pet owners and vets.
The syndrome ‘Heat stroke’ is caused by an inability for the body to dissipate heat. Heat stroke is commonly seen in pets often as a result from being left in a hot car. Young, old and pets with health conditions are often the individuals hardest hit. Unfortunately, heat stroke can be fatal within minutes. Unlike us dogs don’t have sweat glands (with the exception of on their paws) and instead cool themselves via panting. As their body temperature rise, they start to pant in an effort to dissipate heat. Blood is channelled to the extremities such as the membranes in the mouth which will appear red (rather than pink). Dehydration and low blood pressure develop quickly and this leads to compromised delivery of oxygen to the body. As the body temperature continues to increase the blood begins to clot and inflammatory factors are released causing a cascade of damage to multiple organs throughout the body. Quickly, multiple organ dysfunction and failure occurs with damage to the kidneys, lungs, muscle, gut, nerves, and blood all occurring within minutes. As you can imagine heat stroke is incredibly stressful, painful and life threating for our companion animals. If you dog is overweight, has difficulty breathing or has a heart murmur it is at a greater risk of developing heat stroke. To decrease the risk of heat stroke, exercise in the early morning or evening and avoid strenuous exercise if it is humid. Always have fresh water available and under no circumstances leave your pet in a car or a cage in the sun. If you are concerned your pet has heat stroke, seek veterinary attention immediately. Avoid using ice for cooling and do not resort to putting your pet in a cool room or freezer as rapid cooling can lead to further complications. Wet towels and a fan are best used while transporting your pet to the Vet Hospital.