Dogs have an optimal temperature range of roughly 38-39c they regulate their temperature by using their fur, by panting and they sweat from their paws where they also have capillary retes for heat exchange , you may also notice dogs laying on their backs to expose their stomach and groin area where there is less fur to let heat radiate away from the body.
Size does matter
Smaller dogs have a greater surface area to body mass ratio, which means they dissipate heat much more quickly that larger dogs, so smaller dogs can cope with higher temperatures better than larger dogs
Fabulous fur coats
Your dog has a fur coat fur it’s a fabulous thing, it protects your dog from the cold and from the heat. There are different coat types, some breads have double coats, a thick down fur and courser guard fur, some breeds have a single coat, of softer short fur, and then we have the dogs who have hair rather than fur. Dogs molt with seasonal temperature changes, even dogs with hair throw dead hair. So in the summer they will throw much of their thick winter coat to thin it out this allows more air into the coat to keep the skin cool. So please don’t think that clipping fur helps your dog, those thick coats trap air, helping to keep them cool, you can help your dog with their coat by grooming them to remove dead fur.
How to keep your dog cool
Elderly, ill or brachycephalic breeds with squat noses should be kept out of the heat as much as possible as it can have a very fast detrimental affect on their health.
Ideally keeping all breeds of dog cool and not letting them over heat is always the best course of action.
You can keep your dog cool by taking them swimming or giving them a paddling pool with food or toy treats to entice them in, you can wet their coats with cool water or you can purchase cooling mats for them to lay on or just a wet towel can help, and likewise you can purchase cooling coats for your dog to wear, they act in the same way as the dog panting as the water in the coat evaporates the heat is radiated away from the body, these can carry on cooling for quite some time if you give your dog plenty of places to lay in shade with a cool breeze.
You can also make cooling treats frozen carrots or stuffed frozen Kong toys, ice cubes filled with treats, vegetables or fruits are also a nice treat as well as helping to keep your dog cool.
Exercising your dog at cooler times of the day is also a good idea, the early hours of the morning are generally the coolest time of the day, but also during the mid to late evening. It is always best to avoid walking them in the heat of the day, also remember that the pavement is very hot to walk on, we don’t tend to notice this because we wear shoes, but place the back of your hand on the pavement and you will soon feel the heat, radiating from it, this can burn the pads of your dogs paws and cause them to blister painfully.
if you do take your dog out in the heat of the day many working dogs will be out every day. Be sensible about it, try to walk in shaded places or take shade with you umbrellas are great for this, take plenty of water with you, not only for your dog to drink but you can get your dog wet with it the water evaporating will act like sweat on our skin to help radiate heat away from the body, in the same way those cooling coats that have already been mentioned.
Try to avoid taking your dog out in the car, unless you are traveling point to point where your dog will not be left for any period of time unattended in the car, it can take seconds for your dog to over heart in a car, and you may not be able to save it’s life on your return.
What are the signs of Hyperthermia?
There are many signs but the most obvious are, your dogs panting my becoming very rapid, it may not be able to stand or it may stagger when trying to walk and it may vomit or have diarrhea.
So what happens with Hyperthermia?
Hyperthermia is over heating of the body, the brain and organs of the body heat up to a point where they start to cook, this means the cells start to die off and the organs shut down one by one.
What do you do in the event your dog suffers hyperthermia?
Quick action can save your dogs life, so you will need to cool your dog.
Obviously you need to get to a Veterinarian as quickly as possible, but acting quickly to get your dog cool can help save its life, once this process is in motion as soon as possible you should get your dog to a vet.
Cooling your dog should not happen quickly and this is where people often make mistakes, cooling too quickly with ice can cause shock and this in it’s self can be life threatening.
You should remove your dog from the direct heat to a cooler place, laying the dog in front of a fan that will move the air over it can be useful, you can place a bowl of ice in front of the fan to cool the air the fan blows, this is the only ice you should use in the cooling process. Place towels soaked in water direct from a tap around the dogs body and between it’s legs, poor tap water over the body and neck, not directly over the head. The rectal temperature of the dog should be continually checked and as soon as the temperature becomes normal 38-39c, you should stop cooling the dog and dry it, to stop the cooling process and to ensure the dog does not become Hypothermic or too cold, Ideally though as soon as the cooling process as started you would move the dog to the care of a Veterinarian as quickly as possible
Rehydration fluids such as Lectade can then be offered, but this may not be enough your veterinarian may need to place your dog on a drip and monitor it’s heart and urinary output, as well as run blood tests to ensure everything is in good working order. Dogs that suffer severe hyperthermia may have organ damage then may need long term medication to maintain the health of the dog
But of course as already mentioned prevention is far better that treatment and you will have a happy dog with hopefully a long an happy life.
Clair Litster-Huckle has a BSc (Hons) in Animal Behaviour and Welfare and an MSc Animal Behaviour and Training and has studied Canine psychology and Canine diet and nutrition.