Heat Stroke

Disclaimer: The information in this article is not intended to replace the diagnosis or treatment of a licensed veterinary doctor. This page is intended for educational and informative usage only, and should not be considered as medical advice.

Heat stroke is also known as sunstroke. Other medical terms to describe or relate to this condition include heat apoplexy, heat hyperpyrexia, malignant hyperpyrexia and thermic fever ("heatstroke").

The Merck Veterinary Manual groups three conditions together that are related to extreme heat, each as a form of heat stroke: heatstroke, heat cramps and heat exhaustion (Siegmund 759). The fourth edition of the manual, from which much of this information is obtained, primarily focuses on common farm animals, such as horses, cows, pigs and goats, along with dogs and cats.

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual:

Heat cramps are associated with animals doing hard work in extreme heat that loose to much salt due to excessive sweating. Muscle spasms ensue, and in some working animals, such as horses, sweating stops. If the animal is not vomiting, a stomach tube to administer cool water with salt. Another solution is an isotonic saline IV (Siegmund 759).

Heat exhaustion is attributed to draft animals, resulting in blood vessel dilation, and possibly resulting in vessel collapse if blood volume isn't increased. Outward signs include weakness, muscular tremors and collapse. The animal may have a rapid pulse as well as rapid breathing, [Hyperpnea]. Body temperature may not necessarily be elevated, and is not as sudden as heatstroke. Treatment for this form includes using cool water on the body. Cool water with salt (0.5 grams NaCl per pint of water, or equivalently 1/4 teaspoon of salt in 9 1/4 cups of water) may be given by mouth. Isotonic saline via IV can be administered with caution, as circulation is impaired and too much fluid can result in a Pulmonary Edema (Siegmund 759).

Heatstroke refers to what commonly happens in dogs that are exposed to high temperatures. Signs include rapid breathing ([Hyperpnea]) and collapse. Vomiting is not uncommon and the animal may have a staring expression of the eyes. Rectal temperature is greatly elevated. This is likely to result in death. For dogs, immersion in ice cold water water seems to work best. Cold water should be applied to the body of any animal suffering from heatstroke. High body temperatures should not be lowered too suddenly. Rectal temperature should be monitored every 5 minutes (Siegmund 759-60).

In summary, the various forms of heat stroke have different treatments, yet they all result from extreme heat situations. To further complicate matters, sugar gliders are far smaller than the animals that are referred to here. This may change the diagnosis and the resulting treatment.


Siegmund, O. H., ed. The Merck Veterinary Manual. 4th ed. Rahway: Merck, 1973.

"heatstroke." On-line Medical Dictionary. Academic Medical Publishing & CancerWEB. 21 Jun. 2007. <[1]>.


Overheated sugar gliders: June 19, 2007
Maxwell's Heatstroke: March 14, 2013

Last Edited March 15, 2013