Heat sensitivity or the inability to tolerate heat can be a problem in many breeds. The brachycephalic dogs or pug nosed dogs such as Boston Terriers, Pugs, Pekingese, Boxers, Bulldogs or Shih Tzus are the breeds most prone to problems in handling the heat but other breeds may have concerns as well. Some of the double coated breeds that have been bred for colder, northern climates can also be prone to heat sensitivity when moved to more temperate regions. Heat sensitivity can lead to the serious, life threatening heat stroke seen in dog's whose internal temperature rises above 107 degrees Fahrenheit.
In most dogs heat sensitivity means that they will experience problems in breathing, maintaining their core temperature within the normal range, and staying hydrated in hot weather. Most dogs that are heat sensitive are pretty smart and will stay in shady areas, drink lots of water, and only exercise when the temperature is cooler. Unfortunately many owners encourage their dog's to exercise in the heat of the day, leading to heat sensitivity and heat stroke problems. Heat sensitivity is not something that can be corrected, although owners may choose to clip their heavy coated dogs and minimize outside time in the hottest months of the year.
As dogs mature they often become heavier and less active with the possibility of decreased heart functioning and respiratory functioning. This decreased body functioning can lead to increasing problems in regulating body temperature, resulting in much more sensitivity and reaction to the heat, even for dogs that previously seemed to have no difficulties in handling hot climates.
Frequently owners will not notice any heat sensitivity in their small dogs, especially those that spend a good deal of time inside air conditioned homes and apartments. Often these dogs only go outside for very short walks or to relieve themselves, not really allowing enough time outside for the heat sensitivity to be problematic. Owners may be very surprised to find that their dog that has never had problems with heat sensitivity in the past suddenly develops the signs of excessive panting, drooling and distressed breathing when they are outside on longer walks. Dogs that are always housed in constant climate controlled conditions need to be very carefully supervised, especially when outdoors during the first few hot days of the spring or summer seasons.
Always carefully introduce your dog to hot climates or temperatures, only allowing them small periods of time outside with careful monitoring, gradually increasing the time they are outside. Provide lots of shade and fresh, cool water at all times. If your dog is older, has a dense double coat or has a history of heat sensitivity or heat stroke only exercise indoors or in the coolest parts of the day. Always watch for any signs of excessive or heavy panting, drooling or respiratory problems and immediately move to the shade, provide water and restrict the dog's movement at this time.