Body temperature may be elevated because of an infection (fever), but it may also increase because of hot conditions outside, especially in the Houston climate.  When the body overheats to the point where it can no longer do it’s correct physiological functions, a life-threatening condition called heatstroke occurs. 

Heatstroke is  a life-threatening condition, and requires immediate treatment.  A dog’s normal body temperature is typically between 100.5 and 102.5 usually averaging 101°F Fahrenheit. Any time the body temperature is higher than 105°F, a true emergency exists.  

Heatstroke generally occurs in our climate 9Houston) in hot summer weather when dogs are left outside for too long or even in vehicles, which may not initially seem hot but in the sun, inside temperatures rise rapidly. That said, heatstroke can occur in other conditions, including:

  1. When an animal is left outdoors in hot/humid conditions without adequate shade.
  2. When exercised too long in hot/humid weather.  
  3. 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 (1) hour regardless of outside temperature. 

dog suffering from heat stroke
Dog suffering from heatstroke

In addition, certain breeds as well as obesity make it harder for you pet to breath out heat – their way of sweating. Other disease such as long-lasting seizures and more may cause hyperthermia.

In terms of breeds, brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds (Pekingese, Pug, Lhasa Apso, Pugs, Bulldogs, Boston terrier, etc.) may not be able to effectively remove heat through panting.

This results in an increased body temperature that may be fatal if not caught and treated quickly

Initially the pet appears distressed, and will pant excessively and become restless.  ID you see this, bring your pet inside immediately. 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

Cooling a pet with a cool wet towel

cooling dog down from heatstroke

What NOT to Do 

Beginning the process of cooling the pet immediately is extremely important. Cool or cold tap water is suitable. 

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.

For instance, as the body overheats, the vessels dilate and fail to carry oxygenated blood throughout the body efficiently. As the heat continues, the intestinal tract vessels dilate and become leaky allowing bacteria to enter the blood stream.

The end result of these issues include circulatory collapse (shock) along long with bacteria in the bloodstream which can lead to sepsis. A pet suffering from hyperthermia should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

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