How to Keep Your Dog Cool in Florida or the Tropics
Even without air conditioning, your dog can be comfortable. Follow these tips to help your dog handle the heat and humidity in Florida, sub-tropical, or tropical environments.
Most Dogs Can Adapt to the Tropics
Living in the tropics, where the temperatures are high every day, I probably have to worry less about heat than those of you that live in northern climes. My dogs are adapted to the climate—they are used to the heat and even with no air conditioning they do quite well.
Dogs do not sweat much but as long as some tips are followed they do fine. Dogs can handle the heat and humidity of the tropics as long as they are in good shape.
Most dogs with problems are long haired breeds that are bred for a long and cold winter, those brachycephalic breeds that are not able to breathe as well as other dogs (like Pugs, Boxers, and English Bulldogs), and those obese dogs that heat up quickly even in mild weather.
Obese Dogs in the Tropics
There is not much to do about a dog that is built for the arctic or that is born with a flat face. If your dog is overweight, no matter the breed, she is going to feel the effects of the heat a lot more than a thin dog and there are steps you can take to make her life more comfortable.
Take the time to learn how to help your dog lose weight. If the recommendations are too difficult for you to follow speak to your veterinarian. There is a weight loss drug called Slentrol that may be of help.
Keeping Your Dog Cool
Even thin dogs don’t sweat as effectively as we do though and can have problems with the tropical heat. Here are a few tips you need to remember to keep your dog more comfortable when those hot days strike.
- Make sure you provide a special cool place in the yard—either a patch of grass, a sand pit, or maybe even a shallow pool. (I buried bones in a shady spot next to my house and when my dog found the bounty she decided the spot was special. She always digs there to reach the cool sand and never disturbs the rest of my garden—I wish it were as easy to train chickens.)
- Obviously you need to make sure she has a spot near her hole with access to fresh and cool water. Get into the habit of dropping a block of ice or a tray of ice cubes into your dog´s water before you leave each morning. They will not last long in the heat but will help cool the water off for a while.
- Dogs still need exercise but not when it is hot; get up early in the morning before it gets hot and do not take her for her evening walk until it has cooled down. If getting up for an early morning walk is out of the question, the only exercise that is acceptable during the day is a cool swim in the ocean or river. No ocean available? Take her to the river? No local river? How about a backyard pool?
- Don’t walk your dog on blacktop where she can burn her feet and where she has to absorb all of the heat from the road. If you have to walk her in an area where there is only concrete (like sidewalks) there are booties you can buy to protect her pads. (When you take her out in the evening, put your hand on the concrete sidewalk so that you can feel if there is still heat coming from it—if the sidewalk is still hot she will be very uncomfortable.)
- Shaving your Siberian Husky, Alaskan Malamute, or other breed with a long coat is not going to help, but brushing to keep the undercoat thin will. If you have a dog that is not adapted to the tropical climate the best thing you can do is provide air conditioning during the day. At the very least you need to provide dogs like this with a kiddy pool to relax in during the hottest part of the day-just get used to the smell of wet dog!
- Never leave your dog in the car. A car is like a greenhouse and heats up quickly. This should be obvious to anyone but people still do it and kill their dogs without meaning to, both in the tropics and in other parts of the world.
Heat Stroke can Happen to Any Dog!
If you don´t follow all of the tips above and your dog does get overheated you need to watch out for symptoms of heat stroke:
- Excessive panting (dogs can´t sweat so she will try to pant to cool off)
- Excessive drooling
- Dizziness, staggering, or just an unwillingness to get up
- Vomiting (sometimes with blood) and diarrhea
If you notice any of the above signs you should try to get her in an air conditioned car and take her to your regular veterinarian. At the very least you should get her to somewhere cool, like in the shade in the back yard, hose her down, and offer her clean cool water (she might not want to drink though, no matter how badly she is feeling).
Use your first aid kit to check her temperature. If she has a body temperature close to 41 degrees or over (106 F) it is an emergency and if you do not get help she might die. Some of the other symptoms at that point are:
- Your dog is no longer able to produce urine
- Increased heart rate and irregular heart beats
- Confusion and seizures
- Muscle tremors
The best way to keep your dog comfortable in the heat is to:
Let sleeping dogs lie
A final word of warning: dogs that are hot do not feel good. They get irritated a lot easier and are a lot less likely to be forgiving if someone pulls on their tail, hugs them, etc. Tell the kids to leave the dog alone when she is hot.
Dogs put up with hugs almost all of the time, but on hot humid days leave sleeping dogs alone.