Hyperthermia is an elevation in body temperature as a result of exposure to a hot environment or sometimes because of inflammation in the body. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are both conditions that result because of hyperthermia, but heat stroke requires immediate medical attention. Dogs suffering from heat stroke will display specific symptoms and may become very ill. In fact, heat stroke can cause permanent organ damage and may even lead to death.
Dogs do not sweat like humans. In fact, dogs dispel heat through the pads of their feat and by panting and this means it can be very difficult for them to stay cool. If a dog cannot efficiently expel heat, their internal body temperatures begin to rise. Once a dog’s body temperature rises to 106°F, cellular and organ damage occurs and may be irreversible.
Heat stroke can be identified by the following symptoms:
- Increased body temperature (more than 104°F indicates a serious problem)
- Extreme panting
- Dark red colored gums
- Dry mucus membranes
- Loss of consciousness
- Thick saliva
When you suspect heat stroke, it is necessary to take immediate action. First of all, take your dog out of the sun or away from heat and cool him with wet rags around his feet and head. Be careful not to use ice cold water as this can cause blood vessels to restrict and prevent natural cooling processes. Once his body temperature has dropped to 103°F you can stop cooling. Provide your dog with water but do not force him to drink it. Finally, visit your veterinarian immediately to ensure that there is no permanent damage. Even though your dog is cooling, there may be some more serious problems to consider. When heat stroke is suspected, it is always best to allow a vet to give a complete medical exam.