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Dangers of Heat Stroke

 

Heat Stroke is a real and serious danger for our pets, especially here in Houston Texas.  This is a condition we see multiple times a year at Central Houston Animal Hospital and is one that is completely preventable. Published mortality rates for dogs with heatstroke reach up to 50%.  This means that half of our patients with heatstroke can die because of secondary complications. 


Heat stroke can occur even if pets have access to water and shade simply because of high temperatures and humidity.  Our pets can’t sweat, they can only decrease their body temperature by panting and by evaporation which is sometimes not enough.  Certain dogs that have narrowed airways like Boxers, Bulldogs, Pugs and Pekinese are at increased risk as well as older or overweight dogs.  As dogs age they lose their ability to handle hot days.  Dogs can take up to 60 days to acclimate to higher temperatures which is important to remember for those moving into the area or when the temperature swings drastically.
Symptoms of heatstroke include heavy, often loud breathing, anxiety/ restlessness, staggering and collapse.  


If you suspect your pet may be overheated, immediately begin cooling measures:

  1. RUN LUKE WARM OR TEPID WATER OVER YOUR PET
  2. PLACE HIM/HER IN FRONT OF A FAN WHILE YOU ARE COOLING YOUR CAR
  3. RUN AC ON PET WHILE DRIVING TO YOUR VETERINARY OFFICE
  4. IF YOU ARE MONITORING RECTAL BODY TEMPERATURE, COOLING EFFORTS SHOULD BE STOPPED AT 103 DEGREES AS YOUR PET’S TEMPERATURE WILL CONTINUE TO GO DOWN. 


Early intervention and cooling methods can vastly improve outcome as well as immediately taking your pet into the animal hospital.  Dogs that have presented to the clinic greater than 90minutes after heat stroke occurs have a much poorer prognosis for survival. Pets will often need to be hospitalized for a few to several days for further treatment of organ damage and for supportive care.


The most important thing to remember about heat stroke is to prevent it.  Never leave your dog in a car under any circumstance.   One study showed that even on a 70 degree day, a closed car can become 40 degrees warmer than outdoor temperatures.   Cracking the windows does almost nothing to alleviate the temperature rise.  Many experts recommend avoiding exercising your dog if the ambient temperature is higher than 80 degrees and if humidity levels are high.

 

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