Heat stroke is a form of nonpyrogenic hyperthermia, which essentially means a high temperature not caused by a fever. It occurs when dogs are no longer able to self-regulate and keep their temperature at a comfortable level.
What causes heat stroke in dogs?
There are two types of heat stroke — exertional and non-exertional.
The first occurs during exercise and is much more common on hot sunny days when dogs haven’t had a chance to acclimatise to the sudden rise in heat. Dogs can take up to 60 days to acclimatise to significant changes in temperature, which isn’t ideal in the UK as the weather tends to change from week to week.
The second type is when a dog is exposed to a notable rise in temperature but doesn’t have access to the ventilation, or drinking water, to keep themselves cool. This typically occurs in a parked car, a garden with no shade, or a very hot room
How quickly can a dog die in a hot car?
Dogs die in hot cars. It’s a depressing fact and another reason for a large number of admissions to Vets Now pet emergency clinics and 24/7 hospitals. There is no definitive answer to how long it takes for a dog to die of a heat-related illness but it can be as little as 15 minutes. Just remember, the temperature inside a car on a hot summer’s day in the UK can reach 56C (133F).
Call your vet or, out of hours, your nearest Vets Now pet emergency clinic. Heat stroke takes effect very quickly and is an emergency that requires immediate recognition and prompt treatment. Otherwise, it can result in death. It’s particularly devastating as it’s easily avoided so make sure you know how to recognise the signs.
Detecting heat stroke early and treating it promptly is essential to your dog recovering successfully. As it’s difficult to detect heat exhaustion in the early stages, it’s a good idea to learn how to take your dog’s temperature. You can do this using a rectal thermometer or an ear thermometer, although these can be less accurate if not used properly.
Your vet will most likely try to cool your dog gradually and put him on a drip to replace lost fluids and minerals. They may also instruct you to try to cool your dog down on the journey.
According to one study into heat-induced illness in dogs, those actively cooled before arriving at the vets had a lower mortality rate (19%) than those not cooled prior to arrival (49%). Please do not do this without veterinary advice. For example, never immerse your dog in cold water as this can lead to shock.
Tips to keep your dog cool
Restrict exercise on hot days
Never leave dogs in hot rooms or sun traps
Avoid long car journeys
Make sure they have access to a cool shaded place and cool drinking water
Always take water on a walk
In summer, walk your dog early in the morning or later in the evening
Spray your dog with cool water
Never leave your dog in a parked car.