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Dog Breeds That Can't Handle Heat: A Guide to Summer Safety

Between the sun, high temperatures, and humidity, summer can be a dangerous time for dogs. And while all dog owners should take precautions in warm weather, some dog breeds can be more susceptible to heat-related illness than others. Learn what dog breeds are most at risk in warm weather and what all dog owners need to know to keep their pets safe during summer.

Dogs and heat safety 101

Dogs typically have a much higher risk of overheating in hot weather than humans. This is because dogs don’t sweat like humans do; they cool down mostly through panting and by releasing heat through their paw pads. But when the ground and outside air temperatures are hot and humid, it becomes difficult for a dog to cool down. Furthermore, certain types of dogs have an even harder time cooling down, such as those that are elderly, ill, overweight, or brachycephalic ('smushed-face' breeds like bulldogs) and breeds that hail from colder regions.

Since humans and dogs process heat differently, it’s crucial for dog owners to learn about heatstroke, know their dog’s heat tolerance, and take precautions during the summer. Sometimes, even just a short walk in warm weather, which might have their owner barely breaking a sweat, can become dangerous for a dog. Heatstroke can occur quickly on a hot day, sometimes in just minutes.

Signs of heatstroke in dogs

  • Heavy panting
  • Drooling
  • Bright red gums
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Increased body temperature
  • Excessive thirst, dry gums, and other signs of dehydration
  • Disorientation
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea (may be bloody)
  • Seizures
  • Collapses

A case of heatstroke can be brought on by exposure to high temperatures, overexertion through exercise, or a combination of the two, like running with your dog on a hot day.

Heatstroke is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention. Any dog showing signs of heatstroke should be brought to an emergency veterinary hospital right away. If possible, call ahead to let them know you’re coming and begin cooling your dog on the way by pouring cool water or sponging the dog with towels soaked in cool water. Don’t use really cold water or ice as this can bring on shock.

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While heatstroke can occur in any dog, some breeds are more susceptible to it than others and require extra precautions to stay cool during the summer. Below we review some of the most common dog breeds that overheat easily.

Brachycephalic breeds

Brachycephalic dog breeds, known for their 'smushed-face' appearance, have shortened snouts and airways that can make breathing more difficult. Some also have excess soft tissue in the throat, known as an elongated soft palate, which can also inhibit breathing. When overheated, a brachycephalic dog has to work much harder to pant and cool themselves down than dogs with longer snouts and airways. This makes them much less tolerant of warm weather, and even just a few minutes outside on a hot day can lead to a heat-related illness.

Most common brachycephalic dog breeds

Other brachycephalic dog breeds sensitive to heat

  • Cavalier King Charles spaniel
  • Pekingese
  • Lhasa apso
  • Japanese chin
  • Dogue de Bordeaux
  • Affenpinscher
  • Brussels griffon
  • Shar pei

Some bulldog mixes, mastiff mixes, and other 'bully breed' mixes can also be brachycephalic and among the dog breeds that don't do well in heat. If you have a mixed breed, some telltale signs you have a brachycephalic dog include a short, wide skull, a short muzzle with a nose that appears 'pushed in,' and wide-set, protruding 'bug' eyes.

Owners of brachycephalic dog breeds should take extra precautions in warm weather to prevent overheating. This is especially important in active breeds like boxers or 'bully' mixes that might not know when to stop running or playing, as well as long-haired breeds like the chow chow or Pekingese.

Arctic breeds

Arctic dog breeds, sometimes simply referred to as cold-weather breeds, are dogs hailing from cold, northern regions that were bred to withstand cooler conditions. These dogs have thick, insulating coats to protect them from the elements, which can become a hindrance in the heat. Many were also bred for endurance like sled-pulling or snow rescue work so they have lots of energy to burn, which can be a challenge in the summer.

Most common Arctic dog breeds

Other Arctic dog breeds sensitive to heat

  • Newfoundland
  • Anatolian shepherd
  • Keeshond
  • Icelandic sheepdog
  • American eskimo dog
  • Shiba inu
  • Bernese mountain dog
  • Greater Swiss mountain dog
  • Tibetan terrier

While Arctic dogs can and do live in warmer climates, extra precautions should be taken to keep them from overheating. This is especially important for the Arctic breeds that are also brachycephalic, like the chow chow.

Other dogs at risk

Other dogs that can carry a higher risk of heat-related illness include puppies, elderly dogs, overweight dogs, and dogs with chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, or laryngeal paralysis. Dogs with dark-colored coats can also overheat in the sun faster.

Some large dogs, especially those that also have thick coats and/or are brachycephalic, can also be at an increased risk for heat stroke. Chow chows, for instance, are large, have thick coats, and are brachycephalic — all of which can lead to higher chances of overheating in warm weather.

Are there any breeds of dogs that do well in heat?

All dogs have limits when it comes to heat, but there are a few that can tolerate it better than others. Breeds hailing from desert regions like the chihuahua, xoloitzcuintli, and Afgan hound and some working breeds like the Australian cattle dog, German shorthaired pointer, and vizsla handle the heat a bit better than most (if they are acclimatized). While these dogs may have a higher heat tolerance, they are not immune from heat-related illness and safety precautions in hot weather are still important.

Summer dog safety tips

Keeping your pet cool throughout the 'dog days of summer' is important, regardless of whether you have an at-risk breed. Here are some tips to keep all dogs safe in the summer heat.

  1. Leave your pup at home during outings in the heat. Summer may be all about trips to the beach, backyard BBQs, and other outdoor fun, but with high temperatures and humidity, these are not ideal places to bring dogs. To keep your pup safe in the summer, leave them at home to relax in the air-conditioning while you hit the beach, park, or outdoor gatherings that will be in the heat for extended periods of time.
  2. Gear up to cool down. If you have to head out with your dog in hot weather, be sure to bring along portable water bowls and plenty of fresh, cool water. Keeping them hydrated is important. Cooling vests, cooling bandanas, and/or cooling mats may also come in handy and are great items to have on hand for dogs in the summer. Some dogs may also need booties to protect from pavement burns in areas where the ground gets hot.
  3. Limit outdoor time during the day. Restrict long long walks or backyard games of fetch to cooler times of the day, like the morning or evening. When your pet is outdoors, always ensure they have access to shade and water, and monitor for any signs of overheating (bring them inside to cool off immediately).
  4. Never leave your pup in a parked car. Temperatures inside parked cars can rise to dangerous levels within mere minutes, even with windows down. Never leave your dog (or any pet) alone in a parked car for any matter of time. In one study cited by the American Veterinary Medical Association, temperatures inside a parked car on a 75-degree day reached 94 degrees within just 10 minutes and 104 degrees within 20 minutes.
  5. Offer alternative forms of play. Providing alternative forms of enrichment during the day with things like puzzle toys or snuffle mats can help bust boredom or provide an outlet for pent-up energy. If you have the space, setting up a mini-pool, splash pad, or dog sprinkler in your backyard can offer a way to play and stay cool (but still use caution and monitor your dog).
  6. Socialize indoors. Just because the weather is warm doesn’t mean your dog has to miss out on social hours. Look for indoor dog parks or agility courses (like Zoom Rooms), nosework classes, or doggie daycare centers that offer indoor play areas. If your dog is not the social type, many facilities also offer private play sessions and classes.

While summer can be a real scorcher, by staying informed and taking some precautions, you can ensure your dog stays safe, cool, and comfortable all summer long.

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