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How Hot is Too Hot?

  
 

Symptoms of Hyperthermia (overheating) in dogs:

  • Heavy panting
  • Excessive thirst
  • Glazed eyes
  • Bright or dark red tongue or gums
  • Excessive drooling
  • Staggering
  • Vomiting and bloody diarrhea
  • Elevated body temperature (104° and up)
  • Increased pulse and heartbeat
  • Weakness or collapse
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness

 

Hypertherrmia in dogs (body temperature greater than 103.5°F), is typically caused by EXTERNAL sources (not a fever)

Causes of hyperthermia in dogs

  • Not being able to pant efficiently to blow off heat. This may be seen secondary to airway problems.
  • Factors that predispose to heat stroke including obesity, airway breathing problems, inappropriate exercise (in excess, in hot or humid weather conditions), dark-colored fur, etc.
  • Toxin exposure. Certain toxins cause tremors that result in secondary hyperthermia such as compost, moldy food, snail and slug bait, antidepressants, ADD/ADHD medications, chocolate, etc. Other types of toxins cause the body to develop inappropriate hyperthermia without the tremors – this can be seen with used hops poisoning (from homemade brewing kits).
  • Certain drugs. Rarely, certain veterinary anesthetic drugs can cause malignant hyperthermia in dogs. Certain breeds such as greyhounds and Labrador retrievers may potentially be more at risk.

Treatment of hyperthermia in dogs

Prompt treatment for hyperthermia is necessary; if the body temperature exceeds 105-106°F (40.6—41.1°C), it can result in cellular injury to the body.

Treatment includes:

  • Aggressive cooling down to a temperature of 103.5°F (39.7°C)
  • Thermoregulation
  • Cool intravenous (IV) fluids
  • Blood work monitoring
  • Anti-vomiting medication
  • Anti-diarrheal medication
  • Plasma transfusions
  • Antibiotics
  • Blood pressure and heart rate monitoring
  • Symptomatic supportive care
  • Anti-seizure medication if needed

3 tips to prevent hyperthermia

  • If you notice any medical problems such as a change in bark, abnormal breathing or a raspy or snoring type of breathing, go in for a veterinary exam. The sooner a medical problem is diagnosed, the sooner it can be treated.
  • Prevent obesity. Over half our dogs are obese nowadays, and this contributes to hyperthermia. Keep your pet lean. When in doubt, talk to your veterinarian about a change in diet (e.g., less calories). More importantly, increase the amount of exercise your dog gets!
  • Exercise appropriately. Rollerblading with most dogs is a no-no. That’s because dogs have to increase their work of exercise (and breathing) to keep up with you. While I’m all for exercising your dog (for both weight loss and environmental enrichment), please make sure to avoid peak heat hours (i.e., 10am-4pm). Instead, when it’s hot out, exercise your dog early in the morning or early in the evening to avoid hyperthermia. Also, avoid exercise when it’s approaching 80°F (26.7°C) outside and/or is excessively humid.

(much of this information was cribbed from the Pet Health Network webpage)

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