Heatstroke results from a failure to dissipate accumulated heat during exposure to hot environments, or during strenuous physical exercise under heat stress. It is characterized by core body temperatures > 41°C, with central nervous system dysfunction. Functional morphology and thermoregulatory effectors differences between dogs and humans may require special heatstroke protective adaptations in dogs, however, the risk factors for developing heatstroke are similar in both. In dogs, these include hot, especially highly humid environments, excessive physical activity, obesity, large (>15 kg) body weight, being of certain breed (e.g., Labrador retrievers and brachycephalic breeds), upper airway obstruction and prolonged seizures. Lack of acclimation to heat and physical fitness decreases the survival of heat stroked dogs. At the systemic level, blood pooling within the large internal organs (e.g., spleen, liver) is a major contributor to the development of shock and consequent intestinal ischemia, hypoxia and endothelial hyperpermeability, commonly occurring in heatstroke patients. Evoked serious complications include rhabdomyolysis, acute kidney injury, acute respiratory distress syndrome and ultimately, sepsis and disseminated intravascular coagulation. The most common clinical signs in dogs include acute collapse, tachypnea, spontaneous bleeding, shock signs and mental abnormalities, including depression, disorientation or delirium, seizures, stupor and coma. In such dogs, presence of peripheral blood nucleated red blood cells uniquely occurs, and is a highly sensitive diagnostic and prognostic biomarker. Despite early, appropriate body cooling, and intensive supportive treatment, with no available specific treatment to ameliorate the severe inflammatory and hemostatic derangements, the mortality rate is around 50%, similar to that of human heatstroke victims. This review discusses the pathophysiology of canine heatstroke from a veterinarian's point of view, integrating new and old studies and knowledge.
Keywords: acute kidney injury; canine; disseminated intravascular coagulation; heat shock protein.