Hyperthermia (Heat Stroke, Heat Prostration)
***** NOTE: In the Bend area, if you see a dog locked in a hot car, the proper protocol to follow is to call 541.693.6911, then follow the prompts to contact Animal Control; record the car's license plate information and the make/model/color of the car; notify the nearest retailer to see if they can find the car's owners by store intercom, and WAIT. Oregon does not have a Good Samaritan Law regarding pets, so if you choose to break a car window to save a pet's life, you may be arrested or held liable for damages to the vehicle. *****
The VIN emergency medicine folder staff
Body temperature may be elevated because of an infection (fever),
but it may also increase because of hot and/or humid conditions
outside. An increased body temperature caused by environmental
conditions is commonly referred to as hyperthermia, heatstroke, and heat
Hyperthermia may be a life-threatening condition,
and does require immediate treatment. A dog's normal body temperature
is 101.5 F plus or minus 1 degree Fahrenheit, and any time the body temperature is higher than 105 F,
a true emergency exists. Heatstroke generally occurs in hot summer
weather when dogs are left with inadequate ventilation in hot vehicles.
However, heatstroke may also occur in other conditions, including:
- When an animal is left outdoors in hot/humid conditions without adequate shade.
- When exercised in hot/humid weather.
- When left in a car on a relatively cool (70 F)
day; a recent study from Stanford University Medical Center found the
temperature within a vehicle may increase by an average of 40
degrees Fahrenheit within one (!) hour regardless of outside
Other predisposing factors may be obesity
and/or diseases affecting a pet's airway. Keep in mind that prolonged
seizures, eclampsia (milk fever), poisonings, and many other conditions
may cause hyperthermia. Also, brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds
(Pekingese, Pug, Lhasa apso, Boston terrier, etc.) may suffer from
ineffectual panter syndrome that results in an increased body
temperature that may be fatal.
Initially the pet appears
distressed, and will pant excessively and become restless. As the
hyperthermia progresses, the pet may drool large amounts of saliva from
the nose and/or mouth. The pet may become unsteady on his feet. You
may notice the gums turning blue/purple or bright red in color, which is
due to inadequate oxygen.
What to Do
- Remove your pet from the environment where the hyperthermia occurred.
- Move your pet to shaded and cool environment, and direct a fan on her.
- If possible, determine rectal temperature and record it.
to cool the body by placing cool, wet towels over the back of the neck,
in the armpits, and in the groin region. You may also wet the ear
flaps and paws with cool water. Do not immerse the pet directly in a cold water bath! Directing a fan on these wetted areas
will help to speed evaporative cooling. Transport to the closest
veterinary facility immediately.
What NOT to Do
Rapidly cooling the pet is extremely important. While
ice or cold water may seem logical, its use is not advised. Cooling the
innermost structures of the body will actually be delayed, as ice or
cold water will cause superficial blood vessels to shrink, effectively
forming an insulating layer of tissue to hold the heat inside. Tap water
is more suitable for effective cooling.
- Do not use very cold water or ice for cooling.
- Do not over-cool the pet.
- Most pets with hyperthermia have body temperatures greater than 105 F, and a reasonable goal of cooling is to reduce your pet's body temperature to 102.5-103 F while transporting her to the closest veterinary facility.
not attempt to force water into your pet's mouth, but you may have
fresh cool water ready to offer should your pet be alert and show an
interest in drinking.
- Do not leave your pet unattended for any length of time.
Severe hyperthermia is a
disease that affects nearly every system in the body. Simply lowering
the body temperature fails to address the potentially catastrophic
events that often accompany this disorder. A pet suffering from
hyperthermia should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.