In this case, we had Felipe the French bulldog, who was brought in to us collapsed and twitching uncontrollably. They had earlier been to the dog park where he had been for a big run and play with some friends but nothing particularly out of the ordinary other than that it was quite hot day. The owners told us that he had been panting a lot after but after a big drink of water at home figured he would be ok. Later that day however, they found Felipe unresponsive and quickly rushed him into our clinic.
On arrival, Felipe had an internal temperature of 40.5oC (normal temperatures range from 38-39oC) and was in a very bad way. Initial blood tests showed he had damage to his kidneys and liver and was severely dehydrated. We immediately started Felipe on cooling therapy, anti-seizure medication, and IV fluids to stabilise him. Thankfully after several days in the hospital and intensive treatment, Felipe made a full recovery but others aren’t so lucky. Severe or untreated cases can lead to permanent brain and organ damage, problems with blood clotting or even death!
Any dog can suffer from heatstroke from being in high temperatures but our flat-faced brachycephalic breeds like French bulldogs are at even greater risk with airway problems being extremely common. Dogs typically cool down by panting but due to the shortened faces of these breeds, this ability is severely compromised. Because of this already reduced ability to take air in due to their anatomy, swelling from the heat and exertion reduces this even more, leading to airway obstruction and an inability to cool down.
Some of the problems can be improved with surgery, but this must be done when they are young, normally at around 6 months of age when desexing is often performed. To save having two anaesthetics, ask about getting the airway checked and fixed at the same time. Be aware that not all clinics are able to offer this service.
As part of the treatment, we also x-ray the spine and hips of Frenchies when they are under anaesthetic, as spinal and hip problems are also common and it’s good to be aware of them early.
Please take care of all our canine friends during this hot summer but be especially conscious of our flat-faced friends!
Dr Matt Wong, Pet Vet at our Te Kauwahata clinic