Hyperthermia in Dogs: Heatstroke Is No Light Matter!

Do you know that too much heat can seriously harm and even kill your dog?

Hyperthermia is a term that describes [dangerously] elevated body temperature. It falls in two categories:

  • fever
  • non-fever

Fever is an increase in body temperature as part of the immune response. A heatstroke is a form of hyperthermia that happens that the body’s ability to cool itself fails to accommodate external heat. Severe heatstroke can lead to organ dysfunction and eventually death.

More information: Heat Stroke and Hyperthermia in Dogs

Dr. Laci Schaible of VetLive also wrote a great post that will help you brush up on your knowledge: Overheating in Dogs. It is easy to underestimate the effect overheating can have on your dog. Don’t!

Hyperthermia in Dogs: Heatstroke Is No Light Matter!

Jasmine’s story

Of all the bad things that happened to Jasmine, hyperthermia was by far the worst. Jasmine’s didn’t suffer heatstroke. But in the end, the result is the same, regardless of the cause.

The day started innocently enough. We took Jasmine in for x-rays. She had x-rays done a number of times before and we didn’t think much of it. In fact, the plan was that after that was done, hubby was going to take her to the farm for the rest of the day.

Little we realized the horror we were in for!

Drug-induced hyperthermia

Jasmine was showing pain as a result of her neck being manipulated to get the right shots. To relieve the pain she was given a shot of Buprenorphine. Shortly after that, her temperature spiked to 42.5°C!

Even though she was given shots to counter the effect of the drug, and alcohol rubdowns, her temperature remained quite high for quite a while. It wasn’t until almost three hours later when her temperature got back to normal.

Hubby called me that she spiked a fever and he’s waiting for her to stabilize before he can take her home.

I was terribly worried. However, I was told that’s she’s stabilizing and within a couple of hours, she can come home. I was also told that she will be very tired and weak, which should resolve by the next morning.

The damage

When Jasmine finally came home she looked like a train wreck!

Being tired and weak didn’t even begin to describe it. It took all her strength and determination to make it into the house on her own power. She collapsed on her bed. She needed help to get up and have a drink.

We all slept on the kitchen floor with her that night. I kept being hopeful that things indeed will improve by morning, but I didn’t hold my breath.

Indeed, in the morning she was in worse shape yet. With help, she struggled to go to the bathroom and her pee was brown! She also had what looked like bruises on her tongue.

That was all I could take. We rushed her to the emergency.

Emergency vet visit

They didn’t even believe us that with a bit of help to get up she could stand up on her own. After an exam and a set of x-rays, we were told that she likely had either her liver or kidneys were failing and that she likely had multiple perforations in the intestine. Say what?

As all this sounded like a death sentence, we insisted on a transfer to a teaching hospital.

Their assessment was that her liver, not kidneys, was in trouble and that she doesn’t have perforated intestine but a large abdominal abscess. Her platelets and her muscles were fried by the hyperthermia. She was in a bad shape, was going to need intensive care and surgery but they believed that she can make it.

It was a race against time. Her platelets needed to get to a safe level for the surgery and the surgery needed to be done as soon as possible!

Jasmine’s hospitalization

Jasmine has always been a fighter and two days later she was able to get the abscess removed. However, at that point, she wasn’t able to get up or walk at all!

She spent a week at intensive care but still was not walking. They kept blaming it on her knees but we knew her legs were working fine before all this happened.

We decided that hubby should go and visit her. I was so distraught that we didn’t feel that my visit would be of any help.

They wheeled Jasmine out and laid her on the grass.

When she saw hubby, with all determination she could gather, she started struggling onto her feet. With a great effort and a lot of help, she made her way towards him. The technicians kept calling out, “she’s walking! She’s walking!”

The next evening they told us that we can take her home. She was so happy to see me but looked so horrible that I wept. “Yes, darling, we are taking you home,” I kept telling her. That was all she wanted too.

She still couldn’t get up without help and her legs kept folding under her.

Her legs felt as if they were just bones and skin. It took another week before she could get up and walk without help or stumbling.

A long recovery

It took another month before she started getting her strength back. That’s how hard the hyperthermia hit Jasmine’s body.

Granted that almost dying, in fact, saved her life, it was the darkest time in her life. So please, don’t underestimate the effect overheating can have on your dog!

Ever since I am very paranoid about Jasmine’s body temperature. I always have a thermometer and cooling aids on hand and keep watching like a hawk. I keep monitoring the slightest changes in the color of her tongue and gums.

God forbid she should have to undergo something like this ever again!

Keep an eye on your dog and catch the signs of overheating early!

Related articles:
Heatstroke in Dogs: What Happens In The Dog’s Body with Heatstroke?
Canine Heatstroke: Signs, Symptoms And Treatment Of Heatstroke in Dogs

Further reading:
Heatstroke in Dogs & Cats

Categories: ConditionsEmergenciesHeatstrokeSymptoms

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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