Heatstroke in Exotic Companion Mammals

Key Points

  • Heatstroke is characterized by neurologic dysfunction paired with hyperthermia.
  • History is usually the most helpful factor in diagnosing heatstroke, however owners do not always realize when the environment is too warm for their pet chinchilla or when ventilation is inadequate for their rabbit.
  • Always consider heatstroke when body temperature exceeds 104° to 105°F (40° to 40.6°C) without evidence of inflammation.
  • Heat-induced illness can cause dysfunction of all major organ systems.
  • Treatment is aimed at reducing core body temperature while supporting organ function with oxygen and fluid resuscitation.
  • Do not immerse your patient in cold water or ice baths since this will cause severe peripheral vasoconstriction, thereby inhibiting the patient’s ability to dissipate heat.
  • Do not cool your patient to the point of hypothermia, as this will worsen prognosis.

Heatstroke is the most severe form of heat-related illnesses. In this life-threatening condition, the body is unable to dissipate heat load at a rate that accommodates excessive heat levels.

Begin treatment immediately once heatstroke is suspected. Intensive care is aimed at reducing body temperature while supporting organ function. A variety of techniques can be used to lower core body temperature. Administration of intravenous or intraosseous fluids is a popular internal cooling technique that also serves to support organ function . . .


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