can german shepherds tolerate hot weather

Can German Shepherds Tolerate Hot Weather? Important Considerations

Can German Shepherds tolerate hot weather? Yes they can, but only to a certain extent.

As working dogs, German Shepherds were bred such that they’re capable of working in different conditions including hot weather. Thus, they have natural traits that allow them to tolerate up to a certain amount of heat. That said, extremely high temperatures are dangerous for even the tolerant German Shepherd and may lead to life-threatening issues. 

Therefore, if you live in an area where it can get quite hot, there are some considerations you have to keep in mind when taking care of a GSD.

In this article I discuss those considerations including how German Shepherds are capable of tolerating heat, what temperatures they can tolerate, the dangers of prolonged exposure to extremely hot weather, and finally, what you can do to help your German Shepherd stay cool. 

How Are German Shepherds Capable Of Tolerating The Heat?

Similar to how they stay warm in the cold, German Shepherds, as counter-intuitive as it may seem, are capable of tolerating heat because of their thick double coats.

How is that possible?

Well, the secret lies within both the German Shepherd’s natural shedding process and how their double coats function.

Seasonal Shedding

German Shepherds blow their coats seasonally. In preparation for winter, they would shed their old undercoat to make way for a thicker and warmer ones. While the opposite then occurs in spring where they shed their thicker winter undercoats to replace it with ones that are lighter. Meaning, by the time summer comes a German Shepherd would have essentially replaced their winter sweaters for a t-shirt.

Still however, wouldn’t having all that fur still cause a German Shepherd to be hot? Well, no. Which leads me to the next point.

Double Coats In Summer

The German Shepherd’s double coat consists of a topcoat and an undercoat that perform specific functions to allow a German Shepherd to tolerate heat.

The topcoat prevents sun rays from penetrating the skin and helps prevent sunburn. While the undercoat works as an insulator and traps cold air in to keep the German Shepherd cool.

How Hot Is Too Hot For A German Shepherd?

As previously mentioned, prolonged exposure to high temperatures can be dangerous for even the highly capable and tolerant German Shepherd. And so, it’s important to know what temperatures are considered safe.

Based on the graphic from Petplan, for a large dog like a German Shepherd, prolonged exposure to temperatures above 85 degrees Fahrenheit, can already be potentially life-threatening. The danger, however, varies depending on access to cooling factors like water and shade. As access to both these cooling factors will allow for a more bearable experience.

That said, even with water and shade, do exercise caution when temperatures rise above 85 degrees Fahrenheit, especially if your dog’s old or overweight.

Consider Humidity

Do note that temperature reading may not fully reflect just how hot it is. When humidity is high, the environment may feel warmer than what’s indicated in the thermometer. An 85-degree reading may end up feeling like 100 degrees.

According to an article from HumaneSociety.org, if humidity is too high, your dog will be unable to cool itself, and its temperature may rise to dangerous levels very quickly.

The Dangers Of Extreme Heat On Your German Shepherd

Prolonged exposure to extreme heat may cause your German Shepherd to develop risky health conditions like hyperthermia and heatstroke.

Hyperthermia Or Overheating

Hyperthermia is when a dog’s body temperature rises above 103 degrees Fahrenheit. It has two classifications, fever hyperthermia, and non-fever hyperthermia.

Fever hyperthermia occurs when the body experiences inflammation, brought about by infection or other internal factors. Non-fever hyperthermia, on the other hand, occurs when dogs can’t regulate their body temperature due to external heat.

For the context of this article, we’re concerned about non-fever hyperthermia.

How To Tell If Your German Shepherd Is Overheating Or Experiencing Hyperthermia

The following are warning signs that may indicate your German Shepherd is overheating:

  • Heavy, excessive panting and shortness of breath
  • Excessive drooling
  • Bright red or purple gums
  • Increased pulse and heartbeat
  • Weakness and fainting
  • Vomiting

If you notice any of these signs, cool your dog down immediately.

According to VetStreet here’s what you should do if your German Shepherd overheats:

  1. Move your German Shepherd indoors and to a cool area, like an air-conditioned room.
  2. Cool your dog down by placing cool water on its belly and groin area. You may also place wet towels on your dog’s neck, armpits, and between its hind legs.
  3. Offer your German Shepherd cool water to drink, but don’t force the water into its mouth.
  4. If you have a rectal thermometer, use it to get your dog’s actual temperature to share with your veterinarian.
  5. Call the vet, tell them of the emergency, and let them know that you’re on the way.

Heat Stroke

Heatstroke is a severe form of non-fever hyperthermia, where your dog’s body temperature rises to above 106 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s a life-threatening condition that may cause fainting, organ damage, and left untreated, death.

The warning signs of heatstroke are very much similar to overheating, so again, if you notice any of those signs, cool your German Shepherd down, and take it to a veterinarian immediately.

How To Keep Your German Shepherd Cool

Given the dangers of prolonged exposure to high temperatures, you will need to know how to keep your German Shepherd cool if temperatures get too hot.

To help, here are guidelines you can follow to prevent your German Shepherd from overheating:

Stay Indoors. The first one would be to keep your German Shepherd in a cool place indoors. If possible, turn on the air conditioner, and let your dog relax.

Provide Shade. If your German Shepherd is an outside dog, provide reliable shade where your dog can stay away from direct sunlight.

Keep Up With Regular Grooming. Your German Shepherd’s coat plays a vital role in keeping cool. So try to keep their coats in perfect condition by keeping up with a regular grooming schedule.

Provide Plenty Of Drinking Water. Keep your dog hydrated by providing constant access to fresh, clean, and preferably, cold water.

Exercise With Caution. German Shepherds need exercise, but it may not be wise to do so in the heat. So, plan your walks, and refrain from exercising on hot days. If you can, exercise your German Shepherd during the early morning or late at night. Else, you could also consider indoor exercises.

Play With Water. If your German Shepherd likes water, you may want to consider getting a dog pool where you can let your dog take a dip and cool off. It may even count as exercise.

Keep Your Dog Fit. Watch your dog’s weight. Overweight dogs tend to be more susceptible to overheating.

Use Protection. To help prevent sunburn and skin cancer, you could also consider getting your German Shepherd some sunscreen. 

Don’t Leave Your GSD In A Parked Car. If you ever travel with your dog, never leave it in a parked car. There have been many cases of dogs overheating and suffering heatstroke when left in cars. So, do be careful.

Don’t Shave Your German Shepherd’s Coat. Your dog’s coat serves as it’s natural defense to the elements and will effectively help it stay cool in the heat. Shaving its coat will only put it at greater risk for sunburn and heatstroke.

Can German Shepherds Tolerate Hot Weather?

To summarize, yes German Shepherds can tolerate hot weather. That said, prolonged exposure to extremely high temperatures can be dangerous and may lead to life-threatening conditions. So, if you live in warmer areas or it just happens to be a hot day, you’d have to do your part to keep your German Shepherd cool.

But if you don’t mind the effort, just follow the guidelines presented in this article, and you should have no problem.

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