Heat related illness in dogs is much more than just heat stroke, as it also includes heat exhaustion as well as heat cramps.
These illnesses can occur very rapidly in your dog and if it becomes severe enough, your dog’s vital organs begin to fail.
Once this occurs, death can happen very rapidly.
Heat related illness is a life threatening situation, and it helpful to understand some of the basics about these illnesses.
The normal body temperature of dogs is slightly higher than it is in humans, which automatically places than at a greater risk of heat.
The normal body temperature of a human is 98.6 degrees and in dogs it will range between 99.5 to 102.5 degrees.
If your dog’s temperature reaches 105 degrees, it has become a serious condition.
If this does occur, you should immediately remove your dog from the heat and contact your veterinarian as quickly as possible.
However, heat stroke and heat related illness can rapidly develop once your dog’s temperature goes above the 105 degree range.
If it reaches 110 degrees, it is now what is considered hypothermia and has become life threatening.
Normal dogs can easily dissipate heat easily form their skin as well as by panting.
The panting process in your dog allows evaporation to occur from their respiratory tract and is usually extremely effective.
However, when either of these systems becomes overwhelmed, it becomes serious.
If they both become overwhelmed at the same time, it takes the next step and becomes a situation that your dog may never recover from as their internal organs begin to shut down very quickly.
But what is not well known or understood, is that there are some dogs that are naturally at a higher risk than others, and contrary to some misconception, it is not always related to the breed.
Heat related illness in dogs does affect some breeds more than others, but it is certainly not the most determining factor.
The list starts with puppies that are six months or younger as their immune and overall systems have not yet fully developed.
As a result of this, they are extremely susceptible to any type of heat illness.
Next on the list are overweight dogs, for all of the obvious reasons.
The amount of extra weight your dog is carrying makes it much more difficult for them to shed heat from their skin because of the fat layers.
Extra weight also places more stress on your dog’s respiratory system making it more difficult for the evaporation process to function properly.
Dogs that are on certain medications are also at a greater risk as well as those that may become overexerted during some type of exercise.
Breeds that have short, wide heads such as English bulldogs, Pugs, and Boston terriers are also at a higher risk, as well as dogs that may have some type of a disease that partially obstructs their airways.
Heart disease as well as any type of a circulatory challenged dog is also at a higher risk, as well as older dogs.
Large breeds that are older than seven years and small breeds that are older than 14 years are also in the high risk category. However, perhaps the most dangerous form of risk involves seizures.
If your dog has any history at all with seizures, even the 105 degree mark can be very dangerous.
The symptoms of heat related illness in dogs usually begins with nosy breathing as well as excessive panting.
Noisy breathing may indicate an upper airway obstruction that is usually followed by your dog’s gums or their eyes turning bright red.
Once these symptoms occur in your dog, they will than become very weak, collapse, and go into a coma, or what is called an altered mentation state.
This is a condition where your dog is basically in an altered state of consciousness and is just as serious as a coma.
Heat related illness in dogs can very rapidly develop into several complications.
Depending on the severity of the heat stroke, it can become much more than just complications.
It can cause your dog’s muscles to breakdown, hypotension, which is low blood pressure, or hypoglycemia, which is low blood sugar. It can also cause what is referred to as DIC in dogs.
DIC or Disseminated intravascular coagulation is a pathological activation of the blood clotting mechanisms in your dog.
It is the result of a variety of other conditions that may be triggered by the excessive heat.
It leads to the formation of small blood clots inside the blood vessels throughout their body and is a very serious condition.
However, the list does not end there. It can also cause liver as well as kidney failure.
Preventing heat related illness in dogs all starts with what is considered the most common cause; leaving your dog in a car when it is hot.
This is really the same thing as signing a death warrant for your dog, but there are other preventative measures you can take.
If it is very hot, minimize your dog’s activity and try to limit their exposure between 11 AM and 3PM, as these are typically the hottest hours of the day.
Make sure your dog has plenty of fresh water available as well as shade if they are an outside dog. If your dog lacks water in severe heat, they can die with 24 hours with no water.
But perhaps the most important thing you can do is to slowly introduce your dog back into hot temperature.
The greatest number of heat related cases comes in the spring, not the summer months.
Heat related illness in dogs can very rapidly take your dog’s life, but in most all cases it is very easy to prevent.
Monitoring your dog carefully, making sure they have plenty of water, and never leaving them in a hot car can prevent this deadly situation.
If they are on the list of candidates, you will need to be even more diligent.