Hyperthermia

Hyperthermia is also known as heat stroke. Any time the body temperature goes above 41 C (106 F) a true emergency exists.

Overheating and heat stroke can be a major problem for your pets – from dogs and cats to the pocket pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs. Heat stroke can be a nasty condition to manage

Who is at risk?

  • Breeds of dogs and cats with short, squashed in noses are not able to lose heat as efficiently through panting and are prone to heat related problems when the temperature and/or humidity are high
  • Overweight pets
  • Pets undertaking exercise in hot or humid conditions
  • Those with a thick hair coat
  • Sick animals (especially those with heart or respiratory diseases)
  • Animals unable to move away from the heat eg Pocket pets such as guinea pigs and rabbits that are confined in outside cages. Similarly, dogs and cats confined in poorly ventilated spaces such as cars and garages are at risk of developing heat stroke.

Steps that you can take to protect your animals include:                    

  • Exercise your pets gently in the coolest part of the day or not at all on very hot or humid days. 
  • Provide plenty of shade and fresh water. Having a container of water that dogs can sit in can be a good idea.
  • Consider keeping your pet inside during the heat of the day +/- in air-conditioning if this is a possibility.
  • Spray your pet with a mist of cool water or wet them down on hot days. Wetting the neck and groin areas is especially beneficial.
  • Use cool rather than iced water. If they get too cold, their vessels constrict and they are less able to lose heat. Using a fan to increase air flow can also be helpful.
  • Put ice packs in the cages of pocket pets to cool their cages.

Signs of heat stroke:

  • The most common sign is vigorous panting in dogs and cats.
  • Affected pets may become restless or agitated, or may lie on their side and be unable to stand.
  • There may be thick, ropy saliva or froth coming from mouth and/or nose.
  • The mucous membranes of the mouth are often red, but may be pale or "muddy".

What to do:

Cooling your pet is very important. Please wet their coats with cool but not icy water and transport them to your veterinary clinic as soon as possible. Severe hyperthermia can affect nearly every system in the body and can be fatal.