Heat stroke patient Jackson

Jackson is a 10 year old Newfoundland dog who was brought to Reservoir Veterinary Clinic on a very hot day in November. He had cyanotic (blue) gums and was having trouble breathing during his walk. Dr Suzanne Leibel examined Jackson and immediately placed him on an intravenous fluid drip and administered oxygen therapy. Jackson was sedated to calm his respiration to reduce his panic behaviour. Jackson's temperature was 41.9 degrees Celsius, the normal range for dogs is 38-39 degrees. Jackson was suffering from severe heat stroke with the possibility of having a condition called laryngeal paralysis. Laryngeal paralysis is when the vocal cords do not move which can result in a blocked airway. Heat stroke is a life threatening condition that can occur very quickly.

Dr Suzanne and Nurse Janelle started to actively cool Jackson's temperature using alcohol, cool water and fans. While Jackson was being cooled he was also anaesthetised so that an endo-tracheal tube could be placed in his trachea giving him a patent airway until the medications had time to take effect to reduce the swelling in his airway. After one hour of cooling Jackson's temperature finally returned to normal. Jackson was woken up and placed in a very cool room in front of the air conditioner. Later that day it was safe for Jackson to be discharged from hospital.

Jackson's owner will be taking extra steps to ensure that he does not suffer from heat stroke again. Jackson will need to be kept in a cool area when the temperature outside is above 30 degrees. He will not be allowed to go for walks if the temperature is above 28 degrees. Dogs cool down by panting so it is quite easy for them to suffer from heat stroke during summer, especially if they are taken for walks and exercise. We advise that you should never walk your dog if the temperature is over 28 degrees, and never during the heat of the day. You should also keep your dog cool by wetting them several times a day during summer to ensure they refrain from getting too hot.

HEAT STOKE: How to stay cool in hot weather

Heat stroke is common in hot weather, and can affect any animal from cats and dogs to rabbits and guinea pigs. Heat stroke is more common as it gets hotter but some animals are susceptible at lower temperatures. If your animal is affected by heat stroke, bring him/ her to the vet immediately. Heat stroke is an emergency!

Who is affected?

Any animal can be affected by heat stroke but some pets are more susceptible either due to their breeds or due to medical conditions.
Animals that are at more risk include:
• Older animals
• Rabbits
• Animals with any lung or breathing disease (i.e. laryngeal problems, asthma) or heart disease
• Very large animals
• Animals with a thick coat
• Dog breeds with a short nose (e.g. Pugs)

Signs and Symptoms of Heat Stroke

• Panting and breathing difficulty
• Temperature <40 degrees
• Collapse
• Increased heart rate
• Red gums
• Depression
• Collapse


• Do not take your dog for a walk in temperatures over 25-28 degrees
• Do not exercise your pet when it is hot, or in the middle of a hot day
• Ensure there is lots of cold water available for your pets
• Keep animals cool and quiet - this might include putting ice blocks in water or even freezing food in large ice blocks, wetting your animals or wiping them with cool wet towels, providing your dog with a bathing pool
• Make sure rabbits have well ventilated cages and provide frozen bottles of water wrapped in a towel to allow them to cuddle up to get cool

First aid

• Get out of direct heat
• Take temperature if possible
• Spray with cool water (not icy cold)
• Use fan or continue to run cool water over coat
• Take to vet immediately