Derek’s article on the Finchley Dog Walker website is a really excellent guide to how to reduce the chance of getting heat stroke and what to do if you notice it coming on. We should also be constantly aware that heat stroke is a rapidly fatal condition if it is sever and left untreated. It can also come on very quickly, with reports of dogs left in cars in hot and humid conditions for only 10mins needing lifesaving treatment after getting heatstroke.
Treatment immediately, using water, shade and fans is massively important and should be initiated immediately. Water should be cool, but not very cold. Cold water will cause the blood vessels to contract, reducing the amount of heat that they can lose. Mild symptoms include panting and quietness, but in severe cases, vomiting, diarrhoea, bleeding, collapse, seizures and even death can occur. All cases should be assessed by a vet ASAP upon noticing any of these signs, especially if your dog has been in a hot area or running around a lot.
The treatment of heat stoke absolutely centres on getting the patient’s body temperature down. In the clinic, one of the most effective ways to do that is with intravenous fluids (a drip). We may also use cool water enemas and clip a dog’s fur to increase their rate of heat loss and cooling. In severe cases, many problems can occur, all of which need very close management and treatment. Problems such as kidney failure, muscle breakdown, the gut wall dying off, reduced blood clotting ability and low sugar are all quite common and can be fatal if not treated effectively (and sometimes even if they are!) whilst a dog is recovering from an episode of heat stroke. Effective treatment can be complex and may involve many tests and medications to try to identify and control the problems that we encounter in these cases.
Heatstroke can be fatal and luckily we manage to save many of the dogs that suffer from it, however, it is a really good reason to keep your dog cool, hydrated and out of the midday sun. It is also a great reason to make sure that you have the number of a good vet programmed in your phone and ready to use at all times.