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

Hot weather can be dangerous for our canine friends. Humans can sweat all over our body, but dogs can only sweat on their pads, which is not very helpful in releasing body heat.

So how hot is it to take your dog outside? It depends on the dog and their individual risk factors (more on this in a minute). For me 33 ℃ is where I start to think about whether or not to take my dogs outside and try to think of cooler places we could visit.

If they were older or heavier, I might not take them out at all on days over 30. Dogs can have a hard time on very humid days, so I take that into account as well.

Here’s what you need to know about how to take care of your dog on a hot day.

Read more: Nine Dog Breeds At Higher Risk For Heat Stroke – And What You Can Do To Avoid It

Long-nosed dogs, like Fonzi, have more refreshing structures.
Lucie Beaumont, CC BY

What are the risk factors?

The primary mechanism for cooling a dog is panting, which draws air through the nasal cavity and mouth and over the capillaries therein.

It allows for evaporative cooling, just like sweat on our skin, but it does happen. inside rather than outside. It’s also a much smaller surface area than our skin, so dogs are generally not as good at dissipating body heat as humans.

If the dog is overweight, it may be more difficult to keep his cool than if he is thin.

A dog with underlying health issues such as heart problems may also be at greater risk.

Very young or older dogs may have more problems with temperature regulation.

Dogs who have been lucky enough to get used to warmer temperatures for about a month are less likely to suffer from the heat.

Because some cooling occurs in the nasal cavities, short-faced dogs have fewer of these cooling structures and are more susceptible to thermal distress.

Dogs with long noses have a larger cooling surface in their nasal cavities and are therefore theoretically more resistant to thermal distress. But that depends a lot on each dog and their history.

Dogs with thick coats, like Stella, may find it difficult to dissipate heat on a hot day.
Lucie Beaumont, CC BY

Your dog’s coat plays a role, but should it be shaved?

Larger or heavier dogs generally give off heat more slowly than smaller dogs, as is the case in the animal kingdom. For example, small penguin species tend to visit warmer climates, while large penguin species stay in cooler climates.

Dogs in cooler climates – like Kivi Tarro, a Finnish lapphundtend – have thick, insulating coats while those in warmer places tend to have fine hair.
melissa starling, Author provided

Dogs in cooler climates tend to have thick, insulating coats, while those in warmer areas tend to have fine coats, which helps to dissipate heat quickly.

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

It’s true that insulation works both ways; cold or warm air outside the body cannot easily penetrate a thick layer and affect core temperature. But a dog always produces body heat, especially when active or excited, and this internal heat can slowly escape through a thick coat.

Kivi Tarro, a Finnish Lapp, shows off his haircut.
melissa starling, Author provided

For many healthy, thick-coated dogs, this helps keep their coats tangle-free and dead undercoat during the warmer months. This reduces the insulating properties of the mantle.

Cutting the coat shorter can make it easier for them to stay cooler. You can also consider cutting your stomach and groin very short. It won’t help much when the dog is active, but might help when lying on a cool surface. However, be careful not to go too short on the upper parts of the coat, otherwise the skin may be exposed to sunburn.

How to ‘ask your dog’ how he is

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

Signs that a dog is too hot include:

  • panting a lot during the warmer months, even when you’re not exercising

  • seems lethargic and reluctant to exercise

  • regularly seeking to cool off by getting wet or lying down on cool tile or wood floors with as much skin contact as possible.

Always consider the following rules of thumb:

  • if it’s too hot for you, it’s probably too hot for your dog

  • make sure that water is available for drinking or submerging the body when exercising in hot weather

  • know your dog’s panting. Dogs typically have a breath cycle where they gasp for a short time, then stop for a few breaths or more, then start again. If they start to pant constantly, they may have a hard time cooling down.

  • if he can no longer hold a ball or toy, if he has foam in his mouth because he cannot swallow easily, or has difficulty drinking due to shortness of breath at the same time, place your dog in the shade and let him rest. Watch for signs of heat stress

  • signs of extreme heat distress include: vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, unsteadiness on the feet, or lameness. Take your dog to the vet immediately if you see these signs. Heat injuries can be fatal!

  • Choose shady, cool places to let your dog run around in hot weather. Go early or late in the day when the temperature has cooled down a bit. Early mornings are generally cooler than late afternoon

  • the lack of air circulation in cars can turn them into deadly ovens within minutes, even with the windows down. So never leave your dog alone in a car, even for a few minutes.

Read more: At home with your dog? 3 ways to connect and cheer yourself up

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