Hot summer weather can be ‘ruff’ on dogs who have thick fur coats, flat-faces, are obese or elderly. On hot humid days it’s best to keep pets inside with plenty of cold water. Outdoor exercise and walks are best in the early morning or late evening when temperatures are cooler. Bring water and take breaks in the shade. If pavement is too hot to comfortably place your hand on for several seconds, it is too hot for your dog.
Some dogs don’t know their own limits – use caution with exercise such as running and fetch as you may need to stop your dog from overdoing it.
Here are a few types of dogs who need to be watched extra closely when venturing outdoors on those hot summer days.
Dogs have sweat glands in their paw pads but release excess heat primarily by panting. Brachycephalic or flat-faced dog breeds have more difficulty taking in enough air to cool themselves down by panting. Flat-faced dogs such as pugs, Boston terriers, French bulldogs, English bulldogs and shih tzus are more sensitive to heat because they suffer from brachycephalic airway syndrome (BAS). They have small nasal openings and long soft palates in the back of their mouths, which limits airflow. These types of dogs also have a narrower windpipe and have to work harder to take in enough air to keep themselves cool. Be sure to walk flat-faced dogs with a harness instead of a collar to ensure their airway is not constricted.
Note that Brachycephalic dogs are not great swimmers. A wading pool with a few inches of water should be enough to cool them down. For example, pugs need to tilt their faces up to breathe while swimming, which means they must paddle hard to stay afloat. Pekingese tire easily and have short legs. A life vest is necessary to avoid having these breeds get water up their noses and drown.
Dogs with thick fur coats
A dog’s coat captures air and acts as an insulator trapping heat in the winter and deflecting heat in the summer. Never shave your dog. Shaving off their fur increases the likelihood of developing heatstroke, a sunburn and skin cancer. Brush a dog’s coat daily, keep their coat clean and take a dog to the groomer regularly. A fluffy, clean coat will do a better job of keeping the dog cool.
Dog breeds such as Labradors, huskies, shepherds and golden retrievers have a double coat. The shorter layer of fur insulates the dog and is shed regularly. The outer coat is made up of coarser, longer hairs that don’t shed as often. If these breeds are shaved their double coat can regrow improperly resulting in a patchy appearance, follicle damage and loss of the protection from the weather the coat provides.
The darker the dog’s fur the more heat it will absorb. Dogs with black fur are at a higher risk of overheating.
Dogs that are overweight or obese are more likely to develop heat-related illness because of the increased insulation the fat cells provide and increased heat they generate from mild exercise.
A dog is considered to be a senior over the age of five for large breeds such as a great dane. Smaller breeds such as Chihuahua’s generally live longer and are not considered to be seniors until about age eight. Senior dogs are more sensitive to temperature and may have underlying medical conditions such heart or lung diseases, which makes them more likely to develop heatstroke.
Puppies are not able to regulate their own body temperature as well as adult dogs and are high-energy. They tend to run and play and can easily overexert themselves outside on hot days.