Heat stroke is most often seen in dogs that may be predisposed to overheating because of breed-related respiratory issues (such as brachycephalic or “flat-nosed” breeds such as bulldogs and pugs), or dogs with underlying respiratory diseases such as laryngeal paralysis. Any dog or cat may be at risk of heat stroke if exposed to excessive temperatures or humidity. Even healthy young dogs may quickly become overheated if they are exercised during times of high heat or humidity or left in a car during the summer months.
Signs of heat stroke include weakness or collapse, respiratory difficulty, pale or blue mucous membranes, diarrhea (sometimes with blood) and vomiting. In dogs that may be suffering from heat stroke, it may be helpful to start treatment at home or in the car by wetting the pet down with cool (not ice cold) water and placing a fan on the pet. Emergency veterinary care should be sought immediately.
Diagnostics other than monitoring the patient’s temperature include bloodwork and sometimes radiographs (x-rays).
Treatment for heat stroke involves aggressive & intensive supportive care to help maintain hydration and organ function and to identify and treat any secondary complications. Even with aggressive treatment, the prognosis for severe heat stroke is guarded but animals may make a full recovery if diagnosed and treated quickly.
Aftercare may involve recheck physical examinations and blood tests with your primary care veterinarian as well as treating any predisposing breathing problems. Dogs that have experienced heat stroke should avoid outdoor activity during times of excessive heat or humidity.
Dogs and cats should never be left in a car for any length of time during warmer months due to the risk of heat stroke.