Understanding the Dangers of Hyperthermia

Dog portrait in the snowEvery day, working K-9′s spend a great deal of time diligently working to protect and serve their owners. For many of these dogs, the majority of their day is also spent outside. Unfortunately, every year, countless working dogs become ill, and many even die from heat exposure while they are on the job. Understanding the prevalence of this issue and how to help dogs avoid this life-threatening condition, can save countless working animals from falling victim to serious health issues.


As these dogs spend their days working, they put themselves in a position to fall victim to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. These issues can can long-term damage or even death in many dogs. Extended heat exposure can cause these issues and unfortunately, many of these heat related deaths are actually preventable. Many of these deaths occur when dogs are left in the car on a hot day, or if they work too long. Suffering from this type of heat exhaustion is known as hyperthermia.


This condition is correlated with the outside temperature, along with the dog’s body temperature, as well as the amount of time that both of those temperatures stay in an elevated state. The longer a dog is in a hot environment and the longer their body temperature stays at that elevated temperature, the higher risk they are for hyperthermia, health issues and death.


The typical, healthy body temperature of a canine should be between 100 and 102 degrees Fahrenheit. However, for active working K-9 dogs, having a higher body temperature of 102-103 degrees is not abnormal. When a dog’s body temperature raises like this, it should then start to decline when the dog stops working and they can rest in a cool environment. Some active dogs, can even experience a rise in temperature to 105 degrees fahrenheit after they are deployed and when they are working.


The thing to remember with these conditions is that when dogs are done working, their body temperatures typically cool down rapidly within 15 minutes. These are normal conditions for a working dog to experience a body temperature increases.

However, when a canine’s body temperature stays elevated for a prolonged period, then this is when they become at risk for hyperthermia. Whether the issue with the body temperature increase has to do with poor cooling abilities, confinement, or excessive, prolonged activities, when a dog in unable to experience the necessary body cooling measures, they are at serious risk of life threatening conditions. Keeping these working dogs hydrated and making sure they are able to relax in cool and comfortable environments after working, are all essential components to keeping K-9 dogs happy and healthy.

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