Poorly pup nearly dies from heatstroke

PDSA vets saves Finlay’s life during UK summer heatwave.

As temperatures are predicted to soar once more, we’re urging dog owners to be extra vigilant after saving a puppy from the brink of death due to severe heatstroke.

One-year-old American Bulldog, Finlay, was left fighting for his life after his body temperature soared to a life threatening 108°F (42.2°C) during recent hot weather.

Finlay, who was born with three legs, became overheated when his owner Shona McLaren (38) took him to her local park.

“I always bring water for Finlay to drink and keep his walks short,” said Shona. “On this occasion, some children starting playing with him and he ran around for a few minutes. I saw him panting and was concerned that he might be getting too hot so decided to take him home to cool down.”

However, as Shona and Finlay were making the 300 yard walk back home, things took a turn for the worse.

Shona continued: “His breathing became more laboured. He sat down and didn’t want to move. Then he collapsed completely and his eyes became glassy and his tongue started to turn blue. I’ve never been more scared in my life.”

Finlay was left fighting for his life after his body temperature soared to a life threatening 108°F

Shona picked up Finlay and drove him straight to our Glasgow East PDSA Pet Hospital, where he was rushed in for emergency treatment.

“They took him straight off me and started treatment to cool him down,” said Shona. “I could hear him breathing heavily from the waiting room. I thought he was going to die.”

PDSA Vet Terri Steel said: “When Finlay arrived he was gasping for breath and his temperature was 108°F, over 42.2°C, which is incredibly high for a dog and is life threatening. His normal temperature shouldn’t be over 101°F, which is 38.9C°. He was suffering from a severe case of heat-stroke, which occurs after exercise in the heat, and is much more common in flat-faced dogs. These breeds can struggle to regulate their body temperature, especially on hot sunny days when dogs haven’t had a chance to acclimatise to the sudden rise in heat.

“We needed to bring down his temperature slowly to avoid the risk of shock which can cause organ failure. We treated Finlay by hosing him down with cool water and put him on a drip and oxygen therapy to combat shock. We also gave him a light sedative as he was struggling to breathe from stress.”

Finlay being helped to recover by vet after suffering heatstroke

After spending a tense couple of hours waiting to see if Finlay would pull through, Shona was thankfully reunited with the plucky pup. He had managed to recover from his ordeal, thanks to the dedicated work of our team at PDSA.

Vet Terri continued: “After half an hour of continuous intensive care we were able to bring Finlay’s temperature to a much less worrying 102.4°F, equivalent to 39.1C, and he was in a stable condition. We sent him home to continue his recovery in the shade with close supervision.”

“Finlay is a bit of a wonder dog,” said Shona. “He was born with three legs and his breeder thought no one would want him, but I love him to bits. He has to work a bit harder with only three paws to support him, so I’ll be really careful if we get more hot weather. He means the world to me so I’m incredibly grateful PDSA were able to save his life.”

Vet Terri added: “While any dog can suffer heat stroke, certain dogs are more at risk. Flat-faced breeds such as Bulldogs, Pugs and Shih Tzus are more likely to experience heatstroke as they can’t cool down as effectively through panting, compared to dogs with a longer nose. So it’s especially important to make sure they don’t overheat in the first place. Obese dogs, those with very thick coats, dogs that are dressed up, very young pets, and those with breathing problems are also all at higher risk.”

Heatstroke can take effect very quickly and is an emergency that requires immediate treatment. Severe heatstroke can result in death, but it’s easily avoided. On warm days, walk your dog before or after the hottest part of the day. Always provide shade and water, and keep fur trimmed short where necessary. Keep your pet at a healthy weight and make sure not to encourage strenuous exercise when it’s hot.

Finlay recovered at home

Make sure you know how to recognise the signs of heatstroke in your pet:

Early signs of heatstroke in dogs and cats:

  • panting heavily
  • appearing upset or distressed
  • dribbling more than usual
  • foaming at the mouth

Advanced signs of heatstroke in dogs and cats:

  • bright red gums
  • collapsing or inability to stand up
  • blood coming from the mouth or nose
  • tremors or seizures

If your pet shows any of these signs, call your vet immediately.

We’ve put together a free downloadable pet first aid guide on what to do should you find your pet an in emergency situation or accident.

PDSA is the UK’s leading veterinary charity. Through our 48 Pet Hospitals and Pet Care scheme, we save the lives of poorly pets who would otherwise be left untreated.

Every year, we helped over 388,000 pets. Without us, emergency cases like Finlay's would be left untreated and many pets could lose their lives or be separated from families who love them.

We wouldn’t be here for dogs like Finlay without your support. Please consider donating today.

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Where to next

What to do if your dog shows signs of heatstroke

Find out what to do if your dog shows signs of heatstroke like Finlay did.

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Our vets have tonnes of top tips for looking after your dog.

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