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Heat Stroke and Malignant Hyperthermia in Dogs and Cats

 Submitted by Michael Adams on May 23, 2010

A heat stroke occurs when the temperature of the body goes beyond the normal range. At this high temperature, the functioning of the body gets impaired. Almost all physiological functions of the animal’s body are affected due to this condition.

Sometimes the effects of a heat stroke are permanent and may eventually prove fatal. The extent of temperature variation and the time for which exposure to heat has occurred are factors that determine the extent of damage caused by a heat stroke. Though hyperthermia is generally the medical name for a heat stroke, malignant hyperthermia is quite different.

Malignant hyperthermia is a disorder of the musculoskeletal system that causes impaired metabolism. While a heat stroke is a completely random and usually isolated event, some dogs and cats are genetically predisposed to developing malignant hyperthermia. A dog or a cat, left in extremely high temperatures for as little as ten minutes, could die because of the heat. A heat stroke can cause intravascular clotting, cerebral edema hemorrhage or even renal failure. If the pet owners are inattentive to their pets, the pet may end up being grievously affected. Pets left unattended in closed vehicles are especially prone to suffering from heat strokes. In a vehicle, the heat buildup is especially quick and dangerous. If you have to leave the animal inside the vehicle, make sure that the windows have been rolled open a little to keep letting fresh air in. If you leave the dog alone at home, even in the shade, they may need cooling. An air cooler or slight air conditioning can help dissipate the heat inside, allowing your pet to remain cool and therefore healthy. All living cells, whether in dogs, cats or humans, have a tolerance level for heat. If the heat goes beyond the tolerance level, the cells begin to break down and release certain harmful chemicals. Eventually, the cells begin to die. Sometimes, the cells may not die, but are so damaged that they can never recover enough to start functioning normally.

While humans have sweat glands which help to dissipate heat, dogs have too much fur and are therefore unable to stay cool. Their skin does not have as many sweat glands as the human skin. The time, temperature and the level of humidity govern the extent of heat generated. These are critical factors that govern the development of a heat stroke in pets. If proper care is not given to keep the animal cool, the heat may prove fatal to your pet and no matter what kind of medical treatment you give, you will not be able to revive the animal.

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