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Heat Stroke - Keeping Your Cool

Heat Stroke or Hyperthermia in Pets

Heatstroke can be a life-threatening condition, and requires immediate treatment. A dog's normWilleford_Window_Watchers.JPGal body temperature is 100.5 - 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit, and cat's normal body temperature is 101.0 - 103.0 and if the body temperature is higher than 105°F, a true emergency exists. Heatstroke generally occurs in hot summer weather when pets are left with inadequate ventilation in vehicles, but can also occur in other conditions.

(It looks wayyyyyy too hot out there....glad Mom didn't want to go for a jog!)


Heatstroke may also occur in other conditions, including:
1. When an animal is left outdoors in hot/humid conditions without adequate shade.
2. When an animal is exercised in hot/humid weather in the sun or shade and on hard surfaces that are hot or reflect heat, such as sidewalks or pavement.
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 (even on cooler days). On warmer days the temperature inside a vehicle can rise rapidly.

Other predisposing factors may be obesity or diseases affecting a pet's airway. Prolonged seizures, eclampsia (milk fever), poisonings, and many other conditions may also cause hyperthermia. Brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds (Pekingese, Pug, Lhasa Apso, Boston Terrier, French Bulldog, etc.) may suffer from ineffective panting body temperature regulation that can result in an increased body temperature that may be fatal.

Initially the pet appears distressed, and will pant excessively and become restless. As heatstroke progresses, the pet may drool large amounts of saliva from the nose and/or mouth. The pet may become unsteady on his feet or seem uncoordinated. The pet's gums may turn blue/purple or bright red in color due to inadequate oxygen.

CKVC_Angelica_Maisano_1.jpg What to Do
• Remove your pet from the environment where the hyperthermia occurred, to a shaded and cool environment, and direct a fan on him/her.
• If possible, determine rectal temperature and record it.
• Begin to cool the body by placing cool, wet towels over the back of the neck, in the armpits, and in the groin region. You may also wet the ear flaps and paws with cool water. Directing a fan on these wetted areas will help to speed evaporative cooling. Transport to the closest veterinary facility immediately.

What NOT to Do
• Do not use cold water or ice for cooling. Do not overcool the pet.
• Most pets with hyperthermia have body temperatures greater than 105°F, and a reasonable goal of cooling is to reduce your pet's body temperature to 102.5-103°F while transporting him/her to the closest veterinary facility.
• Do not attempt to force water into your pet's mouth, but you may have fresh cool water (not ice water) ready to offer should your pet be alert and show an interest in drinking.

Rapidly cooling the pet is extremely important. But, while ice or cold water may seem logical, its use is not advised. Cooling of the innermost structures of the body will actually be delayed, as ice or cold water will cause superficial blood vessels to shrink, effectively forming an insulating layer of tissue to hold the heat inside. Tap water is more suitable for effective cooling.

Severe hyperthermia can affect nearly every system in the body. Simply lowering the body temperature does not address the potentially catastrophic events that can accompany this disorder. A pet suffering from hyperthermia should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Your veterinarian will continue measures to lower the pet's body temperature to a safe level and monitor the pet for any signs of complications that can be associated with heat stroke.


You arrive home from a long flight from a wonderful, two-week vacation. As you drive home, you remind yourself the boarding kennel is already closed and you have to wait until tomorrow to pick up your dog, Max. You finally walk in the front door, happy to be home. As you walk across the carpet you feel a tingling sensation on your legs and when you look down, you see your white socks now look gray. FLEAS!!   

Some people's reaction to the above would be to banish the dog from the house and to call the exterminator. Both reactions would be wrong - neither would help to rid the house of fleas. Why? In order to appreciate, you must have a basic understanding of the different stages of fleas, such as their life cycle, and know which chemicals kills which stages, if any!

There are four stages of a flea's life: egg, larva, pupa, adult. Only adult fleas are on the pet, the other stages are in the environment. The female fleas on the dog lay eggs that roll off onto the carpet, bedding, floors, grass, etc. In one to six days, the eggs hatch to larvae that can crawl. In five to 11 days, the larvae change to pupae. Unfortunately, there is no chemical or substance that can kill flea pupae other than fire. Even worse, the pupae have the ability to go into "suspended animation" and just stay in this state until a host appears. We know this state can last at least one year. Once a host comes close, certain stimuli cause the pupae to hatch to adults that immediately hop onto the host, which in this case, is either your pet or you!

Should you banish "Max" to the backyard? No!! If there is no pet in the house, the fleas in the house will simply go to you to live and feed. You need Max to act as "bait". A good adult flea treatment should be used on Max. Your veterinarian can advise you on such products. Since you have been gone for two weeks, all the fleas in the house (before you entered) were in the pupae stage. Therefore, any chemical an exterminator would use would be useless. Once a host enters the area, the fleas immediately hatch and go to the host, so any residual chemical in the carpet is also useless, the fleas aren't exposed long enough to be killed. Premise sprays take 36 to 48 hours to kill fleas. You have to treat adult fleas by treating the pet. The best flea control involves treating all the stages possible and stopping egg production. Drugs that kill eggs and larvae are added to some adult topical treatments or are available separately. Your veterinarian is the best source of information on integrated flea treatment.

Since we in the south didn't really have cold enough temperatures this past winter, it's predicted we will have a higher than usual insect problem, including those persistent fleas. A comprehensive control program may be the only way to effectively manage fleas and keep you and your pets pest-free. This may need to include indoor and outdoor treatments and regular flea control products for your pets, including all pets in the home even if they do not all go outside. Contact us if you need advice on battling these nasty little pests.