Heat Index & Dogs

This blog was initially titled “Seeds, Thorns & Heat”. But after researching how heat affects our dogs, Seeds & Thorns will have to wait. As we approach summer, heat is a more important and, as I’ve recently learned, complex issue that is critical for all of us to understand better.

Heat Index chart for dogs – Click to enlarge

For years I’ve told people that our sporting dogs can deal well with cold, even pretty extreme cold, especially if they are dry and out of the wind or moving like hunting or training so their body is producing its own heat. But heat, I’ve always said, will kill dogs. And I still believe both of those statements are true today.

So how hot is too hot? That’s a great question that should, it seems, have a simple answer. But it’s a bit more complicated than just picking an ambient air temperature like 90º. Most dogs that are outdoors with access to shade and water, and hopefully a little breeze, will likely do just fine at 90º. But put that same dog in a vehicle with the sun coming through the windows and very quickly that dog could reach the life threatening internal temperature of 106º.

We field trial folks tend to keep our dogs in crates or truck kennels made of everything from aluminum to plastic to wood and even expanded wire. So as you can see, there are too many variables to just throw out a number when it comes to air temperature. And then add in what is called Heat Index and it gets even more complicated. So for the point of this discussion I’m going to create a common scenario that could happen at any of our warm weather field trials…

Suppose you own four Springer Spaniels and transport them in a nice aluminum 4-hole trailer or under a pickup canopy. It’s the 3rd series and you have two dogs back. The ambient temperature is a warm 85º and there are dunk tanks available. So you run your two dogs and you know that each of them is very hot so, before putting them away, you put them into a dunk tank and get them soaking wet. Then they go into their kennels which have reached 90º. But you know they are wet so you are not concerned much about the heat and you join your friends at the tent area to wait for the trial to finish and the awards to be given out.

Waggle pet temperature monitor- Click to enlarge

In the meantime, the moisture introduced into the kennels by the wet dogs quickly raises the humidity in the kennels to 100% and suddenly the heat index reaches a deadly level. In fact, with an air temperature in the kennels of just 5º above the outside air temperature of 85º, and the humidity rising to 100%, the heat index temperature is now 132º and heat stroke is imminent.

So how can we know that this is happening and prevent our dogs from potentially dying of hyperthermia? It’s actually pretty simple with a device called Waggle or tempi.fi, a smart phone, and a Heat Index Calculator (https://www.calculator.net/heat-index-calculator.html). Tempi.fi (https://tempi.fi/) works by bluetooth and has line-of-sight and distance limitations but no subscription cost. Waggle (https://mywaggle.com/) runs through Verizon with no limitations, except there must be a Verizon signal available, and does have a subscription cost. The Waggle app also displays the heat index on your smartphone so there’s no need for you to calculate it. I have and use both.

Either of these units constantly measures both temperature and humidity of the area in which they are placed and sends a warning to a smartphone for levels you set for each. At any time you can check the readings and plug them into a Heat Index Calculator and know right then if your dogs are in trouble. It only takes a few seconds.

Once the internal temperature of a dog reaches 107º they most likely will not survive, dying from multiple organ failure over the next 24 hours or so. It’s something that would be terrible to experience and is easily preventable. If you have any questions about how these monitors work, or which one would be best for you, feel free to contact me at info@english-springer-spaniels.com.

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