Heatstroke in pets is a very serious disease that can affect nearly every system in the body, therefore making it a life-threatening condition requiring immediate medical treatment.
Heatstroke generally occurs in hot summer weather when pets are left in hot vehicles with inadequate ventilation. However, the first warm weather of spring can cause problems as our pets are not yet used to activity in warmer temperatures. Other conditions can also cause heatstroke, for example keeping a pet outdoors in hot or humid weather without enough shade or when exercised with lack of rest breaks or inadequate amounts of water.
Dogs that are at an increased risk are those that are overweight, older, and brachycephalic breeds such as pugs and bulldogs. Clinical signs of heat stroke vary since every system in the body can be affected. A few common signs include restlessness, vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory abnormalities, excessive drooling, and seizure activity. Most pets with hypothermia are over 105 F.
Dogs do not sweat like people do, they actually regulate their temperature by breathing. Therefore, cooling your pet is extremely important, however, do not use cold water or ice for cooling as you can cause more damage. Using tap water and soaking your pet's fur to the skin after removing them from the environment where the hypothermia occurred is recommended. Directing a fan on them can also help. Do not force them to drink water, and get them to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Heatstroke is a preventable condition. Allow time for your pet to adjust to the increasing weather temperatures. Do not leave them in unattended vehicles, the temperature inside of a car can rise an average of 40F in one hour regardless of the outside temperature. If you suspect heat stroke in your pet, seek veterinary care as soon as possible.