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Posted on 07-26-2013

As we work our way through these dog days of summer, we should all be aware of the potential hazards this heat can have on our pets. Very hot conditions can result in an elevation of body temperature in our pets which can subsequently lead to severe illness or death. An increase in body temperature caused by weather conditions is often referred to as heat stroke.

Heat stroke is a potentially life threatening condition and requires immediate attention  your veterinarian. Your pet's body temperature should normally rest around 100-102.5 degrees F. Any time their body temperature rises above 105 degrees, a true emergency exists.

Heat stroke can be the result of overexertion on a hot day or being left outside without adequate shade. An unfortunate, and far too frequent cause of heat stroke results from leaving a pet in a car. Studies show that temperatures in a car can increase by an average of 40 degrees F within 1 hour regardless of outside temperature (ie - even if it is mild outside (70 degrees) it can become life threateningly hot in your car (110 degrees)). Some animals are especially sensitive to the heat (Bulldogs, Pugs, Boston Terriers, ect). These dogs do not adequately dissipate heat through panting as other dogs can.

Pets may not show severe (or even obvious) signs of illness until several hours after suffering a heat stroke episode. Initial signs could be anxiety/stress, excessive panting, or restlessness. As signs progress, the pet may begin to drool excessively. They may become ataxic, or appear "drunk". Mucous membranes (gums) may become blue or bright red  due to inadequate oxygen.

If your pet is suffering from heat stroke, quickly remove them from the environment that caused the problem. Move them to a cool environment and direct a fan at them. If possible, take your pet's temperature rectally. Begin to cool the body by placing cool, wet towels over your pet's back, arm pits, and groin. Wetting the ears and paws with cool water is also helpful. Once you have done this, take your pet to your veterinarian immediately.

It is very important to cool your pet slowly. Rapid cooling of a pet with heat stroke can significantly worsen their condition. Don't use cold or ice water. Do not fully submerge your pet in a cold water bath. Do not try to force food or water into your pet, but have cool water available if they should choose to drink.

Severe hyperthermia can affect every system of the body. Simply lowering the body temperature does not prevent, or address, the potentially life threatening sequelae that often accompany this event. Any pet suffering from heat stroke should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Please, contact our team here at Eagle Animal Hospital if you have any questions or concerns about heat stroke or the potential symptoms of this. We serve Chester Springs, Downingtown, Exton, Glenmoore and the surrounding area.

Written by David Matunis, VMD

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