The trouble with heat stroke in pets is not the diagnosis...any fool with a thermometer has a good chance of getting the diagnosis correct...the problem is keeping the patient alive. In this sense, heat stroke is similar to being shot with an arrow.
The trouble with this disease is that all kinds of terrible things happen inside the body when the internal body temperature rises over 4 degrees above normal. (Normal body temperature for both cats and dogs ranges from 100-102 degrees F)
Here's some of the deadly things that happen when the body over heats:
- The Blood Clots and causes embolisms
- Micro-organisms and toxins from the intestinal system are absorbed into the
- Cells die leading to all sorts of inflammatory reactions by the body
- And if that isn't enough...all kinds of other biochemical stuff goes haywire
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Saving a pet from heat stroke requires intensive care to prevent permanent organ damage
You might find this interesting: I don't discuss large animal medicine much on this site, but heat stroke is a major cause of GI disturbance and death in sheep ... especially if chased by a dog ... which is why farmers get so upset when loose dogs get in their sheep pens or pastures. It's also why it's so important when herding sheep in the stock yards, into trucks, or through treatment chutes not to get them "over worked".
What To Expect When You Go To The Vet:
(Of course, other vets may do things differently)
EXAM: We notice a prostrated patient breathing a million miles an hour and we take it's temperature. Very High. Like I said, this part is a "no brainer". We go right to treatment:
Wet down with water and/or alcohol. It's best not to use ice cold water; it may be too big a shock to the body.
High dose Dexamethasone Injection to stabilize capillaries and minimize reactions
Start Antibiotic Injections as a prophylactic for infections
IV Fluids (This is the most Important Step of all)
B Vitamin injections
Oxygen therapy (this is another critical step that greatly improves the odds of success)
Consider AntiSerum IV to minimize the effect of endotoxins absorbed from the gut
Consider Oxyglobin to greatly increase tissue perfusion (very expensive)
Antihistamines to counter some of the histamine related reactions that take place when over heated
Hospitalize, monitor, and continue I.V. Fluids until all better.
Usually these cases are quickly resolved...one way or the other.
Antibiotics to fight and prevent infections associated with intestinal leakage of bacteria
Antioxidants to minimize free radical damage
Prednisone or other short term steroids for a few days to minimize inflammation and protect the CNS
Supplemental supportive care to maybe include vitamins, CoEnzyme Q 10 to promote tissue perfusion, probiotics, or other treatments helpful in stabilizing the GI system.
A high calorie recovery diet may be recommended. I also like to recommend Chicken Soup or other electrolyte source.
Buffered Aspirin to reduce blood clotting, DIC
Some cases aren't serious enough to warrant all of the above and that's great, but it's a fairly common misconception that all you have to do is "hose em down with water".
"Hosing down with water" is the First Aid treatment for heat stroke and is very helpful, but is not nearly enough if your pet is in the advanced stages of the disease.
And I'm sure you've heard the stories...in the right conditions...especially inside parked cars...it doesn't take long for a pet to die from over heating.
Learn to recognize
of heat stroke:
- body temp over 104F
- extreme panting
- high heart rate
- lots of salivation
- unable to stand
- gums that are either pale, brick red, purple, or blue