Imagine you are the head caretaker at a popular dog shelter. At your facility you not only house dogs that have been rescued, but puppies that are born on site, and all of them are looking for loving homes and owners that want to be their new best friends. It's been an excessively hot summer, and you have had to take extra care in making sure that the dogs in your shelter are staying cool enough and that they aren't overheating. The last thing you want on your plate is a bunch of hot dogs, and we don't mean the kind that are topped with ketchup and mustard and chowed down in three bites.
In the past, our blog has discussed the importance of monitoring the temperatures inside RV's and cars, specifically police vehicles, because in a matter of minutes, dogs left behind in our cars can be exposed to temperatures that are not only excessively hot, but also excessively cruel. But, as you can probably guess, hot cars in the summer aren't the only times we should be worried about the temperatures that we keep our dogs in.
You may not even realize it, but did you know that ambient temperature and humidity levels of our dogs’ environments could affect everything from their acclimation to their surroundings to their fertility potential? It's true! So what exactly are the parameters for safe temperature and humidity levels for dogs? Let us help you out!
It may sounds a little bit obvious, but, according to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, dogs and puppies must never be subjected to any combination of temperature and humidity for a duration that is detrimental to the animal's health or well-being, taking into consideration such factors as the age, breed, overall health status and acclimation of the animal. If anything, it's an ambiguous answer that would probably be much more helpful if it was quantified in degrees. It's a broad range, but temperatures in dog shelters should never get below 55°F nor should they ever exceed 90°F.
You may be wondering why the temperature range for dog housing is so broad, and the answer is because certain breeds of dog are more sensitive to fluctuations in temperature than others. Typically, short-nosed breeds such as pugs, Pekinese, Boston terriers, English bulldogs and boxers, among others, are known to be more sensitive to heat extremes because these breeds are not anatomically as efficient at handling increased temperature and humidity levels as normal shaped dogs. This is because they don't have as much surface area available within their nose and throat regions to function in decreasing body heat during the panting process compared to other breeds of dogs.
Where dogs with short noses are more sensitive to extremities in heat, smaller dogs with short legs, and short hair, or even hairless coats, like dachshunds, Chihuahuas and Chinese crested, are more sensitive to the cold. This is because their abdomens, chest, groins and lower extremities are more exposed to snowy and icy ground cover.
As it turns out, it's extremely important for you to provide a temperate environment for the dogs in your care, and it doesn't necessarily have to be done with air conditioning and fans, which could rack up your electric bill astronomically. By simply providing shaded areas for the dogs to relax, you are doing them a big favor. It is true that different breeds are more or less tolerant to different extremities in heat and temperature, but as a general rule, all dogs are not very efficient at dissipating body gear and generally cannot tolerate elevated temperatures, humidity levels or direct sunlight for long periods of time. More often than any shelter employee would care to admit, shelters for dogs become too warm for the animals and the dogs being housed there suffer from overheating and discomfort.
But beyond just being uncomfortable and overly warm, our furry friends are at risk with environmental or climatic stresses that can negatively affect their health. What kind of problems can you expect to see in a dog that’s too hot? Untreated heat stress can lead to a heat stroke, which is potentially fatal and you know you've got a big and immediate problem on your hands when one or more of your dogs are showing signs like vigorous, uncontrolled panting, labored breathing, dark red gums, tacky or dry membranes, specifically in the gums, salivating or foaming at the mouth, vomiting, dehydration, lying down and unwilling or unable to get up and, trembling, dizziness, disorientation, just to name a few.
Still, dogs can suffer more than just short-term affects from heat suffering. As I mentioned earlier, heat stress or heat stoke can directly decrease both spermatozoa production and survivability within the male reproductive tract. They are effects that are similar to those that male dogs experience after running a fever during a viral or bacterial infection. And sorry lady pups, you're at risk for low fertility rates too, with exposure to high temperature extremes. Heat stress has been shown to negatively effect pregnancy and embryo survival in breeding females.
You want to continue your reputation as a caretaker at a dog shelter that takes pride in being safe, humane and loving, and although it takes a lot of work, manually monitoring the temperature and humidity of the environment doesn't need to be added to the list of your daily chores. In the hot summer months, you worry about feeding, exercising, providing water and health care for the playful pups in your care, and let automatic, low-cost and easy-to-use temperature monitors do the tedious work of making sure that temperatures and humidity levels are kept within safe ranges.
If you could be spared the nightmare of walking in to a kennel filled with dehydrated and uncomfortable dogs by receiving a text, phone call or e-mail alert in the middle of the night when your air conditioner goes out, why wouldn't you?