Hyperthermia/Heat Stroke

It’s summertime – and with the sunny skies and warm temperatures come some potential risks for your pet. We wanted to share this recent article from Veterinary Partner.

Hyperthermia (Heat Stroke): First Aid

Written by Roger Gfeller, DVM, DACVECC; Michael Thomas, DVM; Isaac Mayo and shared with permission from Veterinary Partner.

Body temperature may be elevated because of an infection (fever), but it may also increase because of hot and/or humid conditions outside. An increased body temperature caused by environmental conditions is commonly referred to as hyperthermia or heatstroke. Hyperthermia may be a life-threatening condition, and does require immediate treatment. A dog’s normal body temperature is 101.5° F plus or minus 1 degree Fahrenheit, and any time the body temperature is higher than 105°F, a true emergency exists. Heatstroke generally occurs in hot summer weather when dogs are left with inadequate ventilation in hot vehicles. However, heatstroke may also occur in other conditions, including:

  • When an animal is left outdoors in hot/humid conditions without adequate shade.
  • When exercised in hot/humid weather.
  • When left in a car on a relatively cool (70°F) day; a recent study from Stanford University Medical Center found the temperature within a vehicle may increase by an average of 40 degrees Fahrenheit within one hour regardless of outside temperature.

Other predisposing factors may be obesity and/or diseases affecting a pet’s airway. Keep in mind that prolonged seizures, eclampsia (milk fever), poisonings, and many other conditions may cause hyperthermia. Also, brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds (i.e. Pekingese, Pug, Lhasa Apso, Boston Terrier) may suffer from ineffectual panting that results in an increased body temperature that may be fatal.

Initially the pet appears distressed, and will pant excessively and become restless. As the hyperthermia progresses, the pet may drool large amounts of saliva from the nose and/or mouth. The pet may become unsteady on his feet. You may notice the gums turning blue/purple or bright red in color, which is due to inadequate oxygen.

What to Do

  • Remove your pet from the environment where the hyperthermia occurred.
  • Move your pet to shaded and cool environment, and direct a fan on him or her.
  • If possible, determine rectal temperature and record it.

Begin to cool the body by placing cool, wet towels over the back of the neck, in the armpits, and in the groin region. You may also wet the ear flaps and paws with cool water. Directing a fan on these wetted areas will help to speed evaporative cooling. Transport to the closest emergency veterinary facility immediately. In these situations, we will recommend referral to a 24-hour care emergency facility as your pet will need more critical/emergency care than what can be provided at a general practice.

What NOT to Do

  • Do not overcool the pet.
  • Most pets with hyperthermia have body temperatures greater than 105°F, and a reasonable goal of cooling is to reduce your pet’s body temperature to 102.5-103°F while transporting him or her to the closest emergency veterinary facility.
  • Do not attempt to force water into your pet’s mouth, but you may have fresh cool water ready to offer should your pet be alert and show an interest in drinking.
  • Do not leave your pet unattended for any length of time.

Severe hyperthermia is a disease that affects nearly every system in the body. Simply lowering the body temperature fails to address the potentially catastrophic events that often accompany this disorder. A pet suffering from hyperthermia should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Did You Know?

The temperature inside your car can become extremely hot. Do not leave your pet in a car for any length of time during a warm summer day.

Outside Air Temperature (F°) Inside Car Temperature (F°)
70 100
75 110
80 120
85 130
90 140

If you have any questions about hyperthermia or heat stroke in pets, please call us at (651) 645-2808 or email us at group@stfrancisabh.com.

Employee Spotlight: Katarina Ziegler

Each month, we will spotlight one of our team members in order of years of service at St. Francis Animal Hospital.

Katarina joined St. Francis Animal Hospital as a Veterinary Assistant in the summer of 2012. She graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior with a minor in Anthropology. She is currently at the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy earning her Doctor of Pharmacy degree. She hopes to combine her passion for pharmacy and veterinary medicine.

When she's not studying, she stays busy spending time with her animals. She and her fiancé live in Minneapolis with their two rescue dogs, Arrow and Diego; their cat, Tesla; and their two ducks, Louisa and Fifi.

In her remaining free time, she enjoys spending time outdoors, reading, and traveling.

Why do you love being a veterinary assistant?

I love being a veterinary assistant because I love the direct contact with our pets and being a part of the up-close interactions between pets, pet parents, and veterinarians.

It is so fulfilling to work with animals and help foster exceptional care for our furry friends.

I care deeply about how we treat fellow creatures, and working in an environment where I feel I can make a difference first-hand is extremely important to me.

Why do you love working at St. Francis Animal Hospital?

I love working at St. Francis because it is an exceptional workplace that offers outstanding care for our animals, and I attribute it being so because every single member of the staff is extremely passionate about animal welfare. It is evident in every action, every day, and I have never witnessed the amount of dedication and compassion I see in our staff at any other workplace. It is truly a special place and I am honored to work in a forward-thinking veterinary clinic that has such a positive impact in the community.

Thank you, Katarina, for all of your years at St Francis!

Controlled Substances: New Regulations

If you’ve been in to refill one of your pets' controlled medications recently, you may have noticed some changes. On July 1st, new regulations surrounding controlled substances went into effect.

Prescriptions for controlled substances used for acute pain will be limited to a 7-day supply. For example, patients on certain pain medications after surgery may be limited to 7 days’ worth of medication. Prescriptions for controlled substances used for chronic pain or other chronic conditions (i.e. coughing or seizures) will be limited to a 30-day supply.

No refills are allowed for Schedule II medications. A new prescription must be provided each time.

For medications in Schedules III through V, including gabapentin, refills for 30 days each, up to six months (i.e. 5 additional refills) may be allowed depending on the condition. Examples include tramadol, buprenorphine, gabapentin or benzodiazepines like alprazolam or diazepam.

In addition, we are now required to verify your identification with a driver’s license, passport or other photo identification before dispensing a controlled substance or a prescription for a controlled substance unless the staff member knows you personally and can verify your identity. This verification is logged into your pet’s medical record.

We understand that these new regulations may be an inconvenience for you, but these are legal requirements by the MN Board of Pharmacy and the MN Board of Veterinary Medicine. Due to the opioid crisis nationwide, we suspect that additional regulations will be added in the future.

If you have any questions about these changes, please call us at (651) 645-2808.

News Briefs

Grain Free Diets

A new article was released by the Food & Drug Administration relating to the potential link between grain-free diets and dilated cardiomyopathy, a potentially life-threatening heart condition, in pets. To learn more, click here to access the article.


We currently only have traditional landline phones at St Francis. These phones are not capable of texting. If you text us at (651) 645-2808 or any of our after-hours phone lines, we will not receive it. If you need to reach us, please call us at (651) 645-2808.

Thank You

We would like to take a moment to thank you for partnering with us in the care of your pet. We take great pride in being part of your family and an extension of your pets’ care team. We are very fortunate to have such amazing clients and patients to work with every day. Thank you so much!