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What is Heatstroke?

Heat stroke, also known as heat exhaustion or by its medical term hyperthermia, refers to the condition of having a body temperature above normal. The normal body temperature range for a dog is between 38 - 39°C (100.5 - 102.5°F). Hyperthermia is characterized by a body temperature greater than 41°C (105.8°F). Hyperthermia feels excessively hot and uncomfortable for the dog and can lead to physiological dysfunction of various organ systems including the central nervous system. Hyperthermia usually occurs in hot humid weather without adequate shade or ventilation (such as being confined in a hot car). It results from an impaired ability to dissipate or expel heat from the body.

Heat stroke, or hyperthermia, refers to an abnormally high core body temperature caused by insufficient ability to dissipate heat from the body. It can be fatal if left untreated.

Heatstroke Average Cost

From 22 quotes ranging from $1,500 - $14,000

Average Cost

$5,000

Symptoms of Heatstroke in Dogs

The risk of heat stroke in dogs is increased on hot, humid days in the peak of summer. It is important to closely monitor your furry companion in such conditions. Signs of dog overheating include:

  • Excessive panting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Excessive salivation
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Nose bleeds
  • Bright red gum color
  • Skin that feels hot to the touch
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Weakness
  • Head tremors
  • Seizures
  • Collapse

Symptoms of dog heat stroke can quickly lead to death if veterinary treatment is not sought. Wrap your pet in towels soaked in lukewarm water (not cold) and contact the vet immediately.

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Causes of Heatstroke in Dogs

Hyperthermia results from an impaired ability to dissipate heat from the body. The main method for dogs to decrease their own body heat is evaporative cooling by panting. Dogs will also cool themselves via convection by laying on a cooler surface to transfer body heat.

There are several factors that contribute to the inability to dissipate heat efficiently; these can be categorized into endogenous (originating from within the body) and exogenous (originating outside the body) factors.

  • Endogenous factors:
    • Obesity
    • Brachycephalic airways (breed predisposition, such as Pug heat stroke)
    • Upper airway obstruction
    • Laryngeal paralysis or collapsing trachea
    • Cardiovascular or respiratory disease
    • Abnormal calcium metabolism
    • Previous incidence of hyperthermia
    • Genetic predisposition combined with other factors
  • Exogenous factors:
    • Hot humid climate
    • Lack of shade
    • Being kept in an area with poor ventilation
    • Inadequate cooling-off after exercise
    • Excessive exercise in a hot climate
    • No access to water
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Diagnosis of Heatstroke in Dogs

To diagnose heat stroke, the veterinarian will perform a complete physical assessment of your dog, including a rectal temperature. The presence of clinical signs as well as an elevated body temperature (greater than 41°C or 105.8°F) is indicative of heat stroke. Even if the body temperature is normal or hypothermic (abnormally low), this does not rule out the occurrence of heat stroke as the lower body temperature may be a result of cooling measures implemented at home by the owner. It is important as an owner to be transparent regarding any treatments attempted before arrival at the veterinary hospital.

Ancillary blood tests and urinalysis are also performed. There are several physiologic changes in the blood and urine that a veterinarian will look for to determine the presence of heat stroke and assess the extent of any internal organ damage. Values that are commonly seen with laboratory testing include increased enzyme activity, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar content), and packed red blood cell volumes indicative of dehydration. Assessment of blood under a microscope may reveal nucleated red blood cells. The presence of such cells and cell count has been associated with the relative prognosis.

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Treatment of Heatstroke in Dogs

Treatment is aimed at restoring the normal body temperature via cooling methods to prevent organ failure. Intravenous fluid therapy is administered to restore circulating blood volume and antibiotics are sometimes given to decrease the risk of bacterial spread.

Cooling methods are implemented in a controlled manner. Intense cooling methods (such as plunging the dog into an ice bath) are contraindicated because they can cause peripheral blood vessels to constrict, causing the body temperature to rise further. Appropriate cooling is accomplished via evaporation and heat conduction methods such as placing your dog on a wet towel, wetting the paws and fur, and placing a fan in front of your dog. They will be observed by trained veterinary professionals, with body temperature monitored every five minutes during the implementation of cooling.

Fluid therapy is important in order to restore an adequate circulating volume of blood, as heat stroke is associated with dehydration and hypovolemic shock. Fluid is usually given as a bolus and decreased to maintenance rates once peripheral perfusion and blood pressure values are within normal range. The administration of room temperature fluids can also help with decreasing core body temperature.

Medications may be indicated to assist in the restoration of function to damaged organs or to pre-emptively decrease the risk of damage. Antibiotics are commonly used to decrease the risk of translocation of bacteria that could lead to sepsis.

Depending on the severity of heat stroke, a combination of cooling methods, fluid therapy, and medications are likely to be used for treatment. Your dog will usually require hospitalization for 24 - 48 hours until deemed stable for discharge. If your pet is presented early during the onset of heat stroke, there is a good prognosis.

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Recovery of Heatstroke in Dogs

Once the patient is recovered and discharged from the veterinary hospital, the veterinarian will usually conduct a follow-up call the following day. They may or may not request a follow-up appointment, including a recheck of blood parameters. After the heat stroke is initially managed, the veterinarian may suggest supportive tests to assess the extent of any suspected organ damage. Home observation of your dog for any adverse signs is vital.

After a dog has suffered from hyperthermia, they will be at an increased risk for developing heat stroke again in the future. It is important to watch for factors that may contribute to heat stroke such as heat, lack of shade, excessive exercise, and dehydration.

Preventative measures that can be taken include not leaving dogs in areas of excessive heat and poor ventilation, not subjecting dogs to strenuous exercise in hot weather, and providing sufficient shade and water on hot days.

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Heatstroke Average Cost

From 22 quotes ranging from $1,500 - $14,000

Average Cost

$5,000

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Heatstroke Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Boxer

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Twelve Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Noisy Breathing

How do I know if he’s getting better

July 31, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Hello, So sorry to hear about your dog. When dogs start to recover from heatstroke, they are no longer panting. They are eating and drinking and back to their normal self. If your dog is not acting normal, it would be best for a vet to look at your dog. Many dogs with heat stroke will need IV fluids.

July 31, 2020

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Labrador Retriever

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Twelve Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Panting

panting, loss of appetite, collapsing, hard to breathe, can’t walk,

July 13, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

I'm sorry your dog is having problems. What you're describing is an emergency, and you need to take your dog to the closest ER immediately. I hope that they are okay.

July 13, 2020

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Kane

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Pit bull

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3 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy

Yesterday our pitbull was outside for a total of minutes running around. He had access to shade and water, but was running around the yard very playfully as we were outside of the fence on four-wheelers. When we got done, I walked to the deck and he was laying down panting very hard. He wouldn’t move to go inside to cool down, so I brought a fan out and started cooling him down by pouring water on him. We also got him to drink water. He would yelp in pain if we tried touching him and he was very disoriented. For a moment, we thought he couldn’t see us anymore. After a couple of hours, he moved from where he was laying but struggled walking. We got him inside and in our back room, where he proceeded to throw up all the water we gave him and he doesn’t seem to be able to control his bowel movements. We monitored him all night and all day today. He’s not eating, and we are giving him water through a syringe which he eagerly takes. He has been laying down, and won’t move from his spot. Is there anything else we can do?

Aug. 29, 2018

Kane's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

I think it would be a good idea to have Kane seen by a veterinarian today. He may have had a non-heat related injury, and he may need treatment so that he feels better and is able to walk. I hope that he is okay.

Aug. 29, 2018

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Romeo

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Boxer mastive

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3 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Heat Stroke

We found out dog in the truck floor board awake but not very able to respond. We cooled him gave him water but he is now unable to really stand and often shakes. Is this normal.....he appears to b having muscle spasms is there anything I can do besides vet. Can not afford one

Aug. 11, 2018

Romeo's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Without examining Romeo it is difficult to say what the specific course of action would be, if he is dehydrated fluid therapy would be required to stabilise him. You should think about visiting a charity clinic or dropping him off at a shelter if you just found him so that he can get the care he needs. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 12, 2018

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Romeo

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Boxer mastive

dog-age-icon

3 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Heat Stroke

We found out dog in the truck floor board awake but not very able to respond. We cooled him gave him water but he is now unable to really stand and often shakes. Is this normal.....he appears to b having muscle spasms is there anything I can do besides vet. Can not afford one

Aug. 11, 2018

Romeo's Owner

answer-icon

recommendation-ribbon

0 Recommendations

Without examining Romeo it is difficult to say what the specific course of action would be, if he is dehydrated fluid therapy would be required to stabilise him. You should think about visiting a charity clinic or dropping him off at a shelter if you just found him so that he can get the care he needs. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 12, 2018

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Bella

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Japanese Spitz

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5 Months

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Vomiting
Not Moving

Hello I took my puppy of 5 months old yesterday night for a 20 minutes walk, the temperature was high and it was humid, usually I take her for 10 to 15 mn and everything is ok, but yesterday after coming back home she started vomiting excessively and her stool was loose. I put some water on her feet gave her water to drink and took her to the vet. The vet said her body temperature was ok and gave her antibiotics vitamins and a medicine for vomiting. The problem is that she won’t eat at all only drink water, and she’s laying down all the time, I guess suffering from lethargyshes not playing or doing any movement only laying down. I’m so worried about her as she’s so energetic usually and now no movement and seems unresponsive. Is there anything else I should be doing? Will she regain her energy back? And after how long?

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Cola

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Pomeranian

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5 Years

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting

Hi, I have a mini pomeranian named Cola. He got a heatstroke three days ago, and I have already brought him to the vet in my area. So far, he's still eating and drinking very well, and he still could bark and "complain" too. He also wants to play.. But, something really concerns me. In the last two days, he has vomited blood twice. He also couldn't walk yet, as something is wrong with his left leg (My local vet has also mentioned this problem). But, everytime I tried to hold or move or pinch his left leg, he'd try to kick my hand with his right leg. Should I worry? Should I visit the vet again?

Heatstroke Average Cost

From 22 quotes ranging from $1,500 - $14,000

Average Cost

$5,000

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