Extreme heat is unhealthy for everyone, but particularly for dogs. In summer, temperatures can rise rapidly in a matter of hours…conditions are prime for heat stroke, overheating, or “heat exhaustion” in dogs, as it’s sometimes called. High temperatures (and in fact, high humidity) can affect dogs in a number of ways. When the outside temperature rises your dog’s does, too. By the time his internal temp reaches 103 degrees or above, serious complications like tissue damage or even death can occur. How can you tell if it’s too hot for your dog? Early symptoms of overheating include extreme panting and an elevated heart rate. Advanced sign of heat stroke in dogs can include anything from vomiting to disorientation to excessive drooling. Dogs with elevated body temperatures can seem lethargic or even lose consciousness altogether. Which kinds of dogs are most at-risk in extremely hot conditions?
English bulldogs, French bulldogs, and even American bulldogs are extremely vulnerable to heat. Because they are brachycephalic (i.e. have those adorable smooshy faces!) they have very short noses. This makes it even more difficult for them to get enough oxygen to their bodies when breathing conditions are strained. Additionally, many bulldogs carry extra weight which is a significant contributing factor to heat stroke.
If you’ve ever heard a pug snore, you know that they’re not the best breathers in the world. Their brachycephalic noses make it hard for them to cool themselves down internally as temperatures rise. Additionally, because pugs are generally relatively short, they’re closer to the ground where heat tends to radiate from.
Bostons are also considered brachycephalic which means they have trouble oxygenating their own bodies in extreme conditions. Their tiny nostrils and narrow trachea make it all the more difficult for them to breathe normally when it’s hot.
While Pekingese are also technically brachycephalic, the biggest risk to this breed is actually their fur. With a super-heavy coat on year-round, Pekes can’t regulate their body temperature very well. Direct sun is their worst enemy on a hot day.
You guessed it: Boxers are brachycephalic, too. When flat-faced dogs pant, it’s not a very efficient process which makes it hard for them to return to stasis. Boxers are generally medium- to large-sized dogs which means they need extra water, too.
The tiniest of brachycephalic dogs, Shih Tzus have both fluffy coats and trouble breathing. Keeping yours clipped short for summer helps, but remember that extreme heat will never be his friend.
Overweight dogs are at a very elevated risk of heat stroke. Their extra layer (or layers) of fat actually insulate their too-hot bodies once their temperatures rise. Extra weight strains any dog’s ability to breathe efficiently. They’re often less mobile than normal weight dogs too, and unable to move themselves to cooler conditions.
Old dogs can develop heat-related issues even if they’re not in direct heat. High temperatures and more specifically, high humidity, makes it difficult for senior dogs to breathe normally which in turn stresses their other bodily systems. Remember that a “too high” temperature for an older dog is much lower than that for a normal dog.
What can you do to keep your dog healthy even when the weather is scorching?
- NEVER leave your dog in the car! Nope, not even in wintertime. On a 70 degree day, temps inside a vehicle can reach 110 degrees or more.
- Do not leave an animal outside (even in the shade) for any extended period of time if the temperature is over 80 degrees.
- Don’t exercise your dog in the heat of the day. Morning and nighttime walks are best, but you still might want to consider shorter, more frequent jaunts.
- Provide your dog with plenty of water at all times! Dehydration is the underlying cause of many serious heat-related complications.