Summer’s prime time for heat stroke in dogs

Dear Dr. John,

Recently, on a particularly hot day, I went for a long walk and run with my French Bulldog. She is almost three years old and has never had any health problems. As we neared the end of our exercise, she seemed excessively weak and collapsed, panting and drooling a great deal. I rushed her into an emergency clinic. They found her to be suffering from heat stroke! They immediately put her in a tub with cold water as well as giving her oxygen and some IV fluids. I was able to bring her home several hours later. They said that she had an elongated soft palate, never diagnosed by my vet before. They also said that there was a surgical procedure to address the problem. I asked my vet and was told that it was unnecessary for now unless she develops breathing issues. What do you think? B.W.

Dear B.W.,

Heat stroke in dogs can quickly deteriorate into severe and irreversible damage to multiple organ failure, disseminated intravascular coagulopathy, and death. You noticed the panting, drooling, and collapse. Other signs include vomiting, diarrhea, seizing, and muscle tremors.

Summer is a common time when veterinarians see cases of heat stroke due to dogs being left in cars, inadequate hydration and cooling opportunities, and too much exercise. French Bulldogs are a brachycephalic breed which means short-faced. A condition known as Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome or BOAS affects these dogs due to their facial structure. Besides elongated soft palates, they can have narrow nostrils, laryngeal saccules that are everted, and have laryngeal collapse. These congenital anomalies are dealt with surgically if needed based on their breathing and tolerance to heat and exercise.

For what you were told, your dog’s soft palate extends past the epiglottis. These dogs often snore, have what we call stridor or stertor, and often are prone to reverse sneezes. Since your dog never had a problem previously and your veterinarian suggested holding off on any surgery, I would follow that advice for now.

Dr. John de Jong is President of the World Veterinary Association. He owns and operates the Boston Mobile Veterinary Clinic and can be reached at 781-899-9994.

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