Heatstroke in Darwin Pets
With the recent very hot weather in Darwin, we have treated a significant number of dogs with heatstroke. Heatstroke occurs when the pet’s body temperature increases to a point where they cannot cool down, and it can be a life threatening condition. Immediate treatment is required for heatstroke. Some breeds, such as bracycephalic (short-nosed) breeds are more prone to heat stroke, but it can occur in any breed.
If early signs of heat stress such as panting and agitation are observed and managed, heatstroke can be prevented. Normal body temperature for dogs and cats is approximately 38.7 degrees celsius. If body temperature rises to 41 degrees or above, severe problems can start to occur.
Common signs of heatstroke include:
- Excessive panting
- Bright pink gums and tongue, or blue/purple gums
- Move your pet to shaded and cool environment (eg. into airconditioning), and direct a fan on her.
- Begin to cool the body by hosing down with water and then placing cool, wet towels over the back of the neck, in the armpits, and in the groin region. Change the towels as soon as they become warm. 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.
- Do not overcool your pet – get them to a vet so they can monitor body temperature and determine when to stop active cooling.
- Offer fresh water but do not attempt to force it down.
- Do not leave your pet unattended.
Tips to prevent heatstroke:
- Do not leave your pet in direct sunlight Always ensure there is adequate shade
- Do not leave your pet in the car
- Ensure adequate water in multiple shady places
- Change water every few hours to keep it cool
- Offer bedding in a cool and shaded environment
- Offer iceblocks
- Consider a shallow wading pool for your pet to walk through
- Avoid exercise/walks during the day. Aim for early morning or late evening walks only, and watch for signs of heat stress
Severe heatstroke (hyperthermia) is a disease that affects nearly every system in the body. Heatstroke can cause serious damage to the kidneys, liver, gastrointestinal tract and brain. Simply lowering the body temperature is not enough to address the potentially catastrophic events that often accompany this disorder. A pet suffering from heatstroke should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Even with intensive treatment, some pets unfortunately will die from heatstroke.