Hyperthermia in Dogs: Signs & Symptoms

hyperthermia in dogs

A dog’s body can fall victim to the same conditions a human’s can. Our anatomies—in some ways—mirror each other. If you live in an area which experiences the seasons in extreme, then it is paramount you know a dog can suffer from hyperthermia the same way you would if your body temperature were to drop low enough.

In many cases, although we experience the same ailments, the symptoms differ drastically. By in large it is more difficult to identify signs of a malicious condition in animals than it is in humans. Of course, communication plays a large role in this phenomenon. But biologically we have different response systems.

Oddly enough, with hyperthermia, the symptoms are nearly synonymous.

What is Hyperthermia?

Hyperthermia is a condition that occurs when the body experiences an abnormal drop in temperature. Moderate hyperthermia is anywhere from 31-36 degrees Celsius and severe is categorized by a temperature below 28 degrees. What follows is a suppression of the central nervous system, which can then lead to a host of other problems. Blood pressure drops, breathing is constricted, blood flow is inhibited, and coma, heart failure, and death can ensue.

What Causes Hyperthermia in Dogs?

hyperthermia in dogs

The same thing as us; being exposed to cold temperatures for extended periods of time. This could mean being stuck out in the snow, having wet fur in windy conditions (not allowing it to dry and thus continuously decreasing body temperature), and being in any situation where the body is incapable of regulating temperature autonomously.

Symptoms

If the hyperthermia is in its mild state, then typically what follows is extreme shivering, a loss of strength, incredible stiffness, an abnormal gait, and a delayed mental state. The dog can fall into a stupor where all they do is shiver and breathe heavily, neglecting to respond to their owner or react to the world around them.

General symptoms of mild hyperthermia:

    • Extreme shivering
    • Heavy breathing
    • Lowered blood pressure and heart rate
    • Extreme stiffness
    • A general lack of awareness and extreme lethargy

However, if the hyperthermia is in its severe state, the symptoms are a bit more drastic. The pupils will dilate, the dog can grow completely unresponsive, frostbite can begin in the paws, tail, and nose, the heartbeat can grow faint to the point of being inaudible, and at worst a loss of consciousness will follow.

General symptoms of severe hyperthermia:

    • Dilated pupils
    • Extremely cold fur
    • Unresponsiveness
    • Inaudible heart rate
    • Frostbite
    • Loss of consciousness, coma

As you can deduce, these symptoms are quite similar to our own. The shivering, dilated pupils, drop in blood pressure, heavy breathing, inaudible heartbeat, and at worse a coma are ubiquitous signs of hyperthermia across humans and dogs. Fortunately, these symptoms are easily recognizable and thus sound an identifiable siren.  

What To Do if Your Dog Has Hyperthermia?hyperthermia in dogs

First, know that no matter what type of hyperthermia it is, you must act quickly. If the hyperthermia is in the mild spectrum, then you need to provide assistance for his body to organically regulate temperature. Blankets and thick covers can help contain heat and aid the heating process. While the dog is beneath these insulating covers, his shivering will also contribute to rebalancing his temperature.

If the hyperthermia is severe then often professional medical attention is required. Amidst hot water, heaters, and heated pads, veterinarians will also administer fluids through an IV (often warm fluids) that will help raise body temperature internally. If a loss of consciousness occurs, then oxygen might also be administered.

The tricky aspect of severe hyperthermia is that heating the body too quickly can actually be harmful. A slew of other conditions can arise from this wild swing between low and ‘normal’ temperatures. In which case it is important to—if possible—take your hyperthermia ridden canine to the veterinarian, as they will know how to monitor, handle, and execute the recovery with dexterity.

Recovery

Depending on the severity of the hyperthermia, usually, a canine will make a full recovery without any permanent damage. But, if blood flow and oxygen were limited for an extended period of time, internal damage can occur. That is why, now that you are armed with this knowledge, it is vastly important to act as quickly as possible once you first begin noticing symptoms.

When it comes to hyperthermia, time is not your friend.

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