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Summer Heat Protection

June 21, 2011


Excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling, mild weakness, stupor or even collapse. It can also include seizures, bloody diarrhea and vomit along with an elevated body temperature of over 104 F. Call your vet the moment, you notice something’s wrong!

It has been full sun and 90F (32C) for a week now. Our pup is a dark brownish black. You can feel the heat in his fur after a few minutes in the sun. He gets weak and sleepy in about 15minutes. Also the sunny sidewalk gets too hot for his paws and he tries to walk on the grass the whole way. Summer heat is dangerous for puppies. so he says indoors all day now.

It is only June and I started to worry that he would not make it through the summer comfortably. I have left his puppy hair long, so he is extra fuzzy and that soft puppy fur is preserved. Coarse adult hair is coming in now (he is 6 mos), so he is not as soft around the neck and on the butt. Yesterday I scissor-clipped the top of his body to reduce heat containment.

White dog hair reflects heat better, but dark hair shields dog skin from UV rays. Light haired dogs require sun block to protect their skin and nose from cancer. Dark haired dogs are naturally protected from cancer and don’t require lotion, so please never shave them bald in the summer.

Dark coated animals in nature, shed most of their hair to increase heat convection (air blows through thin hair reducing heat containment in the summer months). For example, bison drop a thick winter coat and dawn a thin cow like coat in the summer. Domestic animals are NOT built to survive in nature because we have bred traits that are very bad for survival. In particular, Schnauzers were bred to be low shed. If you have a show dog and you pull out all the under coat, your dog is probably already prepared for summer. If instead you mow the coat with clippers, your dog holds onto the undercoat year round. These family pets are in danger if they are not clipped well and left outdoors. Schnauzers, poodles, and other low shed dogs suffer from heat exhaustion more frequently and die of heat related health issues too often.

How to tackle the heat with your Schnauzer:

1) Either strip (yank out the undercoat) the dog’s backside and neck like a show dog or clip it to 0.5-1 inch in length. I read a few studies and 1″ was found to to be the best length, but if your schnauzer is super thick you can go a little shorter. Just don’t expose skin to sunlight from any angle for protection from cancerous UV rays.

WARNING: Never shave a dog down to the skin. If your schnauzer is bare, you must apply sunblock every time you go outside, until hair grows back. Naked dogs get skin cancer easily!

2) Change your walk schedule to a longer walk before 10 am and then again after dinner or around sunset. If you dogs needs to go outside between 10-4, make it a quick pee-break and nothing more. Leaving them in a doghouse is like leaving them in a parked car. While it provides shade, the heat builds in a doghouse and is very dangerous.

3) Introduce your dog to swimming. Our pup hates water and bathes, but a kiddy pool or large bucket in the backyard works miracles for most dog owners. If you have a true pool, be sure to supervise at all times. They should not drink too much pool and must be rinsed afterwards. Chlorine will make them sick, if they drink too much, and their skin will become flaky and itchy, if they are not rinsed. If your schnauzer does not swim, invite another dog over to show yours the ropes. Schnauzers are copy cats.  They tend to love digging in water, you can drag a tub of water around the yard and they can water plants and dry grass. Put them to work!

WARNING: Not all dogs can swim. Many sink. Most exhaust quickly from poor treading and drown. Plan to teach your pup to tread in deep water and know how long they can tread. I highly recommend a life jacket and reviewed a few that are great on mini schnauzers on this blog.

4) Make sure you always have a large portion of water on hand. Our puppy doesn’t regulate water intake well. He will go too long without drinking and then drink way too much at one time because he gets hot, panicked, and overly thirsty. We have a huge water dish available at all times and he will put his face in it some times to cool off.  If you leave the house with your pup, always carry a tiny plastic bottle of water. Also store a liter of water under the seat in the car for emergencies. Warm water works just as well for an overheated pup.

5) Do not plan to leave your pet in a parked vehicle for more than 1 minute. Leave them at home and indoors! A car’s temperature will climb to 120 degrees in only a few minutes even in the shade. Cracking the window does not reduce heat build up either. This is myth. My mother learned this the hard way, when I was a kid and I hope it never happens to your family. Truck beds are just as dangerous. The metal gets overheated and radiates into your dog, like an egg in a frying pan. (If you don’t believe me drop a raw egg in the back our truck, it will turn white quickly in the summer!) Your dog’s footpads function in heat regulation (dogs sweat through their paws), so don’t burn them in the summer. Plastic bed liners are not much better protection, like a nonstick coating on a frying pan. If you put a cap on the truck bed, you are back to the first issue of heat build up in an enclosed box. Again, leave your pet at home, if they are not actively running all your errands with you.

6) Keep your pup off asphalt. The tar in asphalt pavement heats up and gets soft. If hot tar gets onto your pups paws it can burn them deeply. Tar is hard to see and get off.  People say that dogs don’t sweat, but that is false. Dogs sweat, mainly through the footpads. They truly need healthy pads in the summer. Dogs will react to hot pavement and make quick steps or try to get off, listen to your dog. They know what is up and when it is too hot.


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