How hot is too hot? Here’s how to tell if your dog is suffering during the summer heat

Long nosed dogs, like Fonzi, have more cooling structures. Photo credit: Lucy Beaumont, CC BY

Hot weather can be dangerous for our dog lovers. Humans can sweat all over their bodies, but dogs can only sweat on their paws, which doesn’t help much when it comes to giving off body heat.

So how hot is too hot to take your dog with you? That depends on the dog and its individual risk factors (more on that in a moment). For me, 33 ℃ is where I think about whether or not to take my dogs outside and try to think of cooler places to visit.

If they were older or heavier, I may not take them out at all on days over 30 ℃. Dogs can struggle on very humid days so I take that into account too.

Here’s what you need to know about grooming your dog on a hot day.

What are the risk factors?

A dog’s main cooling mechanism is panting, which sucks air through the nasal cavity and mouth and through the capillaries located there.

This allows for evaporative cooling, just like the sweat on our skin, but it happens inside rather than outside. It’s also a much smaller surface area than our skin, so dogs generally aren’t as good at giving off body heat as humans.

If the dog is overweight, they may have more trouble staying cool than if they are slim.

A dog with underlying health problems like heart problems may also be at higher risk.

Very young or old dogs can have more problems regulating their temperature.

Dogs that have been used to warmer temperatures for over a month or so are less prone to heat stress.

Because some cooling occurs in the nasal cavities, dogs with short faces have fewer of these cooling structures and are more prone to heat problems.

Dogs with long noses have more cooling surface in their nasal cavities and are therefore theoretically more resistant to heat stress. But a lot depends on the individual dog and its history.

How hot is too hot  How to tell if your dog is suffering from the summer heat

Thick-coated dogs, like Stella, may have difficulty releasing heat on a hot day. Photo credit: Lucy Beaumont, CC BY

Your dog’s fur does matter, but should we shave him?

Larger or heavier dogs generally release their heat more slowly than smaller dogs, as is the case across the animal kingdom. For example, smaller species of penguin tend to visit warmer climates while larger species of penguins stay in colder climates.

Dogs from cooler climates usually have a heavy, insulating coat, while dogs from warmer areas tend to have thin hair that gives off heat quickly.

So would your dog be cooler if you shaved him for the summer?

It is true that isolation works both ways; Cold or hot air outside the body cannot easily penetrate a thick coat and affect the core temperature. But a dog always produces body heat, especially when active or aroused, and this internal heat can slowly escape through a thick coat.

For many thick-haired, otherwise healthy dogs, it helps to keep the fur free of tangles and dead undercoat during the warmer months. This reduces the insulating properties of the jacket.

Cutting the coat shorter will make it easier for them to stay cool. You could also consider trimming the belly and groin very short. This doesn’t help much when the dog is active, but it can help when the dog is lying on a cool surface. However, be careful not to wear the upper parts of the fur too short, otherwise the skin may be exposed to sunburn.

How to ask your dog how he is doing

We should always “ask the dog” how he is doing.

Signs that a dog is too hot include:

  • wheezing a lot in the warmer months, even when you’re not exercising
  • appears lethargic and refuses to exercise
  • regularly try to cool off with moisture or to lie on cool tile or wooden floors with as much skin contact as possible.

Always observe the following rules of thumb:

  • If it’s too hot for you, it’s probably too hot for your dog
  • Make sure there is water available to drink or soak your body when you exercise on hot days
  • know your dog’s panting. Dogs usually have a panting cycle in which they pant for a short time and then stop for a few breaths or longer and then start again. If they start wheezing all the time, they may have trouble cooling off
  • If they can no longer hold a ball or toy, foam at the mouth because they cannot swallow so easily, or have trouble drinking due to panting at the same time, put your dog in the shade and let him rest. Watch for signs of heat stress
  • Signs of extreme heat distress are: vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, unsteady standing or limping. Take your dog to the vet right away if you see these signs. Heat damage can be fatal!
  • Choose shady, cool spots so your dog can run when it’s warm. Go early or late in the day when the temperature has dropped a bit. The early morning is usually cooler than the late afternoon
  • The lack of airflow in cars can turn them into deadly stoves in minutes, even with the windows closed. So never leave your dog alone in the car, even for a few minutes.

Here’s how to prevent your dog from getting heat stroke – according to the science at The Conversation

This article was republished by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.The conversation

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