As the weather warms up, our dogs (and cats as well) can overheat. Although heat stress is more common in the warmer months, it can occur at any time of the year, even when the weather is mild.
Dogs do not react to high temperatures like we humans do. For us, sweat glands network our entire body, but in dogs, the sweat glands are limited to the nasal mirror and the dog paw pads. When the dogs have warm, they can normalize their body temperature primarily by panting. Secondly, bydrinking, to cool down themselves, although the cooling effect of drinking water is negligible compared to evaporation by panting. Their thick fur and the fact, that they don’t sweat like we humans make their lives harder in the summer heat and make them susceptible to hyperthermia and heat stroke.
Before we get to our main theme, let’s first look at the numbers associated with changes in body temperature in dogs, expressed in Celsius.
Body temperature parameters of the dogs
Normal body temperature: 38 °C to 39 °C.
Hypothermia: Very low body temperature below 36.5 °C.
Hyperthermia: Very high body temperature between 39 °C and 42 °C.
Heat stroke: If the body temperature exceeds 41 °C with nervous system disorders.
Regulation of the body temperature
The organ system responsible for regulating body temperature, the hypothalamus located in the central nervous system, which affects all important physiological functions of the body, contributes to the promotion of food too and water intake.
Hyperthermia indicates an elevated body temperature above the generally accepted normal range. Although normal values may vary, body temperatures above 39 ° C are already abnormal in the dogs.
Classification of the hyperthermia
- Fever-inducing: Febrile state of the body, body temperature not rises above 40 ° C or just rarely. This is how the body responds to viral or bacterial infections and inflammatory conditions. In this case, the set baseline body temperature in the hypothalamus is abnormally high. Fever-causing hyperthermia definitely requires a quick medical examination and further treatment to regain health! All other elevated body temperatures are classified as fever-free hyperthermia.
- Non fever-inducing: in ordinary language heat stroke. Occurs when a dog’s thermoregulatory ability becomes overloaded and its is unable to keep the body temperature within the normal range, i.e., when the heat production exceeds the heat loss. The internal temperature of the body rises high above the normal range of 38 °C to 39 °C in a matter of seconds. The external, environmental factors are responsible for non fever inducing hyperthermia, in which case the hypotalamus adjustment point remains at normal value, but the ability to regulate body temperature is lost. When the body temperature rises high very quickly, it is a real medical emergency and requires urgent treatment in order to avoid disability or death.
The heat stroke
The heat stroke occurs when the body is unable to get rid of excessive heat. In this case, the body’s ability to absorb heat becomes overloaded and unable to cope with high external temperatures. Body temperature is typically above 41 ° C without any inflammation.In the case of heat stroke, unlike feverish hyperthermia, the basic value of the hypothalamus remains on the set normal value.
The heat stroke can occur in any breed of dog, but is much more common in breeds with longer hair and short-nosed and flat-faced, i.e., brachycephalic-type breeds.
Types of the heat stroke
The classic heat stroke: This type develops under the influence of ambient heat. The reasons are: prolonged high temperature and high humidity. For example, if your dog is in an enclosed space for a long time that is poorly ventilated, such as a car or a smaller room where the heat gets stuck and the dog cannot cool down properly.
Heat stroke during heavy exercise: This type occurs during intense work or training and can occur at any ambient temperature. As a result of work or training, muscle contractions produce heat, and about 75-80% of the energy used is converted into heat. The dogs can get rid of excess heat with panting. If the heat production is greater than the heat loss, the body temperature rises. If this condition persists, the heat stroke will inevitably occur.
The symptoms of fever-inducing and non fever-inducing hyperthermia (heat stroke) are almost identical:
- Quick panting, wheezing
- Elevated body temperature (above 39 °C)
- Excessive thirst, accompanied by excessive drinking of water
- Light gums, dark red or purple tongue (ecept for purple-tongued dog breeds)
- Excessive salivatio
- Increased heart rate
- Fast, irregular heartbea
- Rapid breathin
- Vomiting of blood
- Black tarry stools
- Muscle tremor
- Unstable gait
- Glassy eyes
- Nervous system disorders
- Collapse, faint
Causes of the hyperthermia and the heat stroke
The fever-induced hyperthermia is caused by an infection of viral or bacterial origin or by inflammation in the body.
Non-fever induced hyperthermia, or the heat stroke occurs, when the dog overheats and is unable to cool down properly.
Factors, that contribute to heat stroke
- Ambient conditions – high temperature and humidity.
- Age – more common in the very young and the very old dogs.
- Obesity, overweight – statistics show that 80% of obese dogs die from heat stroke.
- Excessive physical activity – training or working in warm weather
- Underlying diseases that increase the likelihood of developing hyperthermia, such as cardiovascular disease, nervous system disease.
- Upper respiratory diseases that inhibit breathing – chronic diseases of the nose, nasal passages, throat and trachea.
- Thick, long coat – such as long haired dog breeds.
- Black or dark coat – which absorbs the heat of the sun.
- Brachycephalic anatomy – flat-faced breeds such as the Pug, the English Bulldog, the French Bulldog, the Persian and the Himalayan cat, among others.
- Weak heart and lung condition – with it underlying heart and lung disease, vascular diseases.
- Poisoning – Some toxic compounds such as strychnine and snail venom can lead to seizures that result in a rise in body temperature.
- Increased thyroid function.
- Anesthesia complications.
- Insufficient water consumption – dehydration.
There is a risk of developing the heat stroke in any dog that is unable to cool down. By following these guidelines, you can help prevent serious problems:
- Dogs with predisposing factors, such as heart disease, obesity, old age, or breathing problems, always keep in a cool and shady place.
- Keep your dog in the apartment, when the air is cooler! As the temperature rises, your dog may feel more comfortable indoors than outside.
- Always have fresh drinking water in front of your dog.
- Never leave your pet, dog, kitten in a closed, hot car, never for a single minute. The temperature in a closed, parked car can become hot in seconds.
- On a hot day, schedule exercise and walking early in the morning or late at night. In the heat increased exercise and work avoid with your dog.
- Avoid it the shadowless, completely paved areas. Constant sunlight causes the concrete or asphalt to heat up quickly, and if your dog steps on it, you can burn your soles in no time.
- Use refrigeration equipment to prevent overheating. There are now a number of products available for cooling pets, such as cooling mattresses, vests made specifically for dog, pools for dogs, and air conditioners. If none of these are available to you, you can make your own to cool your dog in a very simple way. Fill a plastic bottle with cold water and put it in the freezer for a few hours. When the water is frozen in it, take it out and wrap it in a thin towel. Put it in your dog’s favorite place and you will see, that he will rest beside him.
- For many dogs, trimming the coat in high heat may be beneficial, but not for all breeds. The coat of some dogs, if properly groomed, can effectively handle the sun’s rays despite being long and double coat (such as herding dogs and northern dog breeds). Their fur provides protection from the sun’s rays in the summer, and if you cut the coat, your dog’s skin will be exposed to sunburn.
Heat stroke is one of the most frightening emergencies a dog owner can ever face! Understanding the risk factors and preventing this serious medical condition and treating it quickly can be life-saving!
Make sure you always keep your pet in the right conditions, don’t expose him irresponsibly to heat stroke caused by warm weather, especially if your dog is one of the higher risk breeds!
And remember, by the time the dog shows signs of heat stroke, unfortunately, it’s often too late to save!
Let’s take care of our dogs, we all dog friendly, as we love them and the most important thing is to stay, that they with us for a long time to come!
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