Heat Stress

AKA Heat Stroke

What does it look like

The animal is usually open mouth breathing, their respiratory rate is high and the breathing is laboured. They are often drooling excessively and may have a lot of froth around the back of the mouth. Their gums are often bright red or may become bluish if there is not enough oxygen getting into the lungs. If they have severe hyperthermia – overheating, they may be unconscious

What causes the froth

The rapid air movement that occurs with excessive panting causes vibrations at the back of the throat and together they whip the saliva into froth. Once that starts to happen there is decreased oxygen exchange and decreased heat exchange as well which makes the animal pant more and the problem just gets worse

What do you do

Your pet needs to be cooled immediately. If going to the vet is going to take, say more than 20 minutes, then cool your pet at home before coming to the vet

Dogs can be wet and cooled in the shower, the bathtub, the sink or under the hose. Wet towels might be all that is needed. Cats and rabbits and our smaller pets are best cooled with wet towels as putting them in water stresses them further

At the vet hospital we can continue this treatment and monitor their temperature (we don’t need HYPOthermia after the HYPERthermia) and put them on intravenous fluids to cool them internally. Sometimes some suction or medicines are required to help move the fluid and froth that is clogging up their airways. We can also provide them with 100% oxygen to help their compromised respiration

Who is at risk

Any pet given the right conditions, but we more commonly see this problem on excessively hot days and/or very humid days

Those that are most commonly affected are the breeds with the pushed in faces – the brachycephalic breeds with their narrow little nostrils and long soft palates

However, we also see animals that are not brachycephalic, but have thick coats or are overweight or have laryngeal paralysis or have just been left in a place with too little shade and not enough water. Cars heat up incredibly quickly and I’ve even seen a dog that developed heat stress while it was in the car with its owner driving

Some underlying diseases can make our pets predisposed to developing heat stress

For example, animals with laryngeal paralysis can develop heat stress easily; some Border Collies are genetically prone to becoming overheated with too much exercise on any day – and some don’t need much exercise; an underlying respiratory tract infection; pets with mobility problems may find getting to the shade difficult or reaching the water bowl too hard and sometimes they knock over the water bowl; animals affected by ticks can find themselves stuck in the sun and overheating

On those real stinker days make sure your pet has a cool place to go to, (e.g. inside the house), and they can reach it and that they have multiple water bowls in case they knock one or two over. Don’t take your pet on a long run or do vigorous exercise on those days and only go for a walk when it is cool – late evening or early morning before the day heats up. Keep an eye on them and if you really can’t stay at home with them, make sure they are safe while you’re out