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When I lived in Texas, one of my neighbors had a massive, spoiled-rotten malamute that would regularly play outdoors throughout the year. This was the source of a lot of gossip, with plenty of people whispering how cruel it was to keep an arctic breed in such a hot, humid state.
So when an abandoned husky wandered into my yard, I immediately panicked. How can a husky survive in hot weather, after all? Can huskies live in hot weather? I quickly learned the truth:
Due to their ability to regulate their body temperature, huskies are able to live in cold and hot environments if they are given shade and water. However, special care must be taken to ensure that huskies have a well-maintained double-coat and are not showing signs of overheating.
Below, we’ll explain how a husky can live in hot weather in greater depth, ways to keep your husky safe, and how to cool down your pup if they show signs of overheating.
3 Reasons Huskies Can Live in Hot Weather
A dog’s normal body-temperature is somewhat higher than humans’, at an average 101.0 to 102.5°F. Any internal temperature outside of this range is considered to fall into a potentially dangerous extreme. Luckily, huskies are equipped with the double coat to prevent extreme temperatures and thermoregulation mechanisms to help their bodies cool down as needed, even in hot states like Texas or Florida.
1. They Have a Double Coat
Many people look at the thick coat of a husky and think that it would make them incapable of living anywhere but the coldest of climates, but a husky’s coat is actually its greatest tool for keeping cool. As with other breeds, such as arctic breeds and even some short-haired breeds such as Rottweilers, huskies have a double coat.
As the name would imply, a double coat is one with two distinct layers. The bottom layer, known as the undercoat, is made up of down-like fur, and the top layer, the guard hairs, are sleek and thick. Together, these layers are able to block sun, dirt, and rain, and heat, while maintaining a cushion of cool air right on top of a husky’s skin.
That said, there are limitations to this ability, and huskies can still develop an elevated temperature. Along with their double coats, the major way huskies are able to regulate their body temperature is by taking advantage of the cooling effect of evaporation.
2. They Can Thermoregulate By Panting
As with other warm-blooded animals, huskies are able to maintain a healthy body temperature through a mechanism known as thermoregulation. While humans primarily use sweat for thermoregulation, dogs lack sweat glands anywhere but their paw pads and nose and must instead rely on another means of cooling down.
Dogs begin to pant when they are hot, allowing the water from their nose, mouth, and lungs to evaporate and create a cooling effect inside and out.
3. They Are Mesocephalic
Dog heads can be broadly described as brachycephalic, mesocephalic, and dolichocephalic depending on the ratio between their head width and length. Huskies are mesocephalic, meaning their head width is 50-60% of their head length.
As opposed to brachycephalic breeds such as pugs and bulldogs, mesocephalic breeds receive plenty of ventilation and are therefore able to withstand higher temperatures.
How Hot Can Huskies Tolerate?
Considering all the variables that come into play for overheating, it’s difficult to put a number on exactly how hot is too hot for a husky to be outdoors. A husky can overheat in even slightly warm conditions if they are worn out and not provided with shade and water. On the other hand, a husky can comfortably doze off in 80 degree weather if they’re well-acclimated and given the right conditions.
Along with keeping an eye out for signs of overheating, a simple rule of thumb is for you to go outside with your dog and see how it feels. If you immediately look for shade and a tall glass of water, you should make sure that your husky has the same opportunity. And if you can’t stand being outside for more than a few minutes, your husky should come in too.
But for those of you looking for a cold and hard number, we’ve got a scientific explanation. In normal circumstances, dogs expend no energy on thermoregulation in temperatures between 68 and 86 degrees, referred to as a dog’s thermoneutral zone. Although factors such as exercise, age and breed heavily factor into how hot is too hot, the Purdue Center for Animal Welfare Science recommends against housing dogs of any kind in 85-plus degree temperature for more than four consecutive hours.
Ways to Keep Your Husky Safe in Hot Weather
Although huskies can do well in hot weather for brief amounts of time, close monitoring and variety of preventative measures are required to ensure that your pooch does not develop hyperthermia. We’ll discuss several vital steps to take below.
Watch for Signs of Overheating
While huskies can enjoy time alone outdoors during more temperate months, the situation changes when the weather warms up. Huskies should always be monitored closely in hot weather for signs of overheating.
These signs will be explained in depth below, but the main symptoms to look out for are excessive panting, exhaustion, and discomfort. Dogs can overheat quickly, and heat stress can rapidly progress into heat stroke if not properly handled.
Do NOT Shave Them
It is incredibly common for owners of double-furred breeds to want to shave their dogs in the hopes of keeping them cool, but this shaving a husky will have the opposite effect. As mentioned above, a double coat is one of the most important ways a husky is able to maintain their temperature. With all their guard hairs shaved down, a husky has no way to keep cool air close to them or block the sun. This quickly leads to an overheated, sunburned, and miserable dog.
Along with making them susceptible in hot weather, shaving a double-coated dog has a variety of negative effects, such as potentially permanently ruining their fur growth and more.
Regularly Brush Them
Regular brushing is important not only to reduce husky shedding, but also to prevent overheating.
As mentioned above, a husky’s double coat is vital in helping them regulate their temperature. The insulation mechanism that prevents huskies from overheating is dependent on the two distinct coats having a cushion of air between them.
When a husky’s coat isn’t brushed enough, their undercoat can quickly pile up, preventing temperature regulation and causing them to rapidly overheat.
For much of the year, weekly brushing will suffice to keep your husky’s coat in tip-top shape, but there are specific times of the year where this is not the case.
Huskies’ undercoats “blow out” twice a year, meaning they profusely shed. This is the reason huskies infamously shed so much, and daily brushing is required.
Provide Plenty of Water and Shade
Arguably the most important way to keep your husky safe in hot weather is to provide them with plenty of shade and water.
Shaded areas can be as much as 25 degrees cooler than those in the sun, which is invaluable on hot days. On wake in hot days, you can give your dog plenty of breaks in the shade, and a nice tree or shade-providing structure is great for dogs who are in the yard.
Along with shade, water is incredibly important for keeping your dog safe and cool. Water acts as a coolant to lower your dog’s internal temperature. Additionally, it is easy for dogs to become dehydrated in hot weather, as they lose water in the process of panting.
It’s a good idea to keep your dog’s water dish in the shade and regularly monitor it, as it may quickly evaporate.
Avoid the Hottest Hours
Depending on your region, daily temperatures may fluctuate by as much as 20 degrees. Not only does mid-day sunlight make the air around your dog toasty, but it also heats up concrete and asphalt, potentially turning the ground into a 120 or even 140 degree surface that will burn your dog’s paws.
You should ideally take advantage of morning and evening temperatures and take care to avoid the hottest hours of the day. If it is impossible to avoid walking on hot concrete, you should invest in a pair of doggy booties to protect your husky’s webbed paws.
It might sound impossible to make a husky sit still, but avoiding excessive playing and activity when in hot weather is an important step to keep your husky from overheating. Exercising causes your husky’s muscles to create and expend energy, processes which result in rapid internal heating.
In cold weather, this can be somewhat counteracted, but exercise in hot weather can have a dangerous additive effect when it comes to raising your pup’s body temperature. Keeping your husky safe in hotter months means giving them indoor playtime, keeping playtime brief, or relying on low-intensity movements.
But if your dog still craves some outdoor fun in the sun, it’s possible to take advantage of the heat-absorbing property of water. Although huskies aren’t natural swimmers, a nice, monitored swim with a well-fitted life vest or a run through the sprinkler can also be an excellent way to wear out your dog while keeping them cool.
Acclimate Them to Hotter Temperatures
A husky that has been born and raised in an AC environment will likely have a much more difficult time adjusting to a hot summer day than one that normally spends much of their days outside.
As a study of heat regulation in working military dogs demonstrated, dogs that are acclimatized to working in hot conditions begin thermoregulation mechanisms at lower temperatures and with greater efficiency. In other words, surviving hot weather is a skill that your dog’s body can adapt to over time. That said, acclimatization it isn’t something that happens overnight.
Most dogs can become partially acclimatized within 10 days, but full acclimatization can take up to two months. Although acclimating your dog to new temperatures is by no means a guarantee that they’ll be comfortable in hot weather, it’s still a good idea to get your dog’s thermoregulation skills gradually warmed up (pun intended) before summer hits.
Take Them Inside If Necessary
At the end of the day, huskies should not be left unmonitored in hot weather for long periods of time, and unless you plan on setting up camp on your porch, you should bring them in. In other words, if you own a husky in a hot state like Texas or Florida, they’ll need to be an indoor dog for most of the year.
If a husky’s shedding or frequent vocalizations are too much to handle in the house, you may want to consider a more heat-resistant breed altogether.
Signs A Husky is Overheated
There are three progressive stages of heat-related illness based on body temperature, and your dog will show different symptoms at different levels. While all of these illnesses are considered dangerous, identifying which stage your dog is in can help you understand the level of emergency you’re dealing with.
Signs Your Husky Has Heat Stress
Once a dog’s temperature surpasses 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit, they are considered to be within hypertermic range. At this point, your dog will begin showing key signs that they are experiencing heat stress. The most prominent sign of heat stress is heavy panting as your dog attempts to cool themselves down. A dog experiencing heat stress may also appear uncomfortable and thirsty.
Heat stress can strike quickly on hot days, especially if you haven’t taken preventative measures. Although it may be the most minor type of heat-related illness, heat stress is still a serious sign that action needs to be taken immediately for your dog’s safety. Aside from just being plain uncomfortable, heat stress can quickly lead to more dangerous or even fatal forms of heat-related illness.
It’s important to make sure your dog’s temperature does not continue to rise by moving them to a cool, shaded environment with plenty of water, and to keep an eye out for worsening symptoms.
Signs Your Husky Has Heat Exhaustion
If a dog’s internal temperature continues to increase beyond 103 degrees Fahrenheit, they will develop heat exhaustion. At this point, a dog’s panting will become excessive and labored, and they may drool or have red or white gums.
As its name would suggest, dogs in this stage of heat-related illness will typically become sluggish, disoriented and weak, and many lay down and are unable to rise. They often show a rapid heart rate and may be hot to the touch. You may have to physically carry your husky to a cooler environment.
Heat exhaustion can quickly lead to a stroke, and after moving your husky, you should call your vet and begin the cool-down techniques listed below immediately.
Signs Your Husky Has Heat Stroke
By the time a dog’s heat-related illness progresses to a heat stroke, they will begin to show dramatic symptoms in addition to those above. Seizures, vomiting, blood in the mouth or stool, and unconsciousness are all indications that a dog’s internal temperature has surpassed 106 degrees Fahrenheit. If not attended to soon enough, heat stroke can result in a coma or even death.
Heat strokes are always considered medical emergencies, and it is imperative to contact your veterinarian immediately if your dog begins to show signs of a heat stroke and work quickly to cool them down.
How to Cool Down Your Husky
Now that we’ve covered what heat-related illnesses look like, it’s important to identify ways to help your dog if they begin to show symptoms.
Try Not to Panic
It’s understandably difficult to keep a level head when your husky is showing signs of heat-related illness, but time is of the essence. Instead of freaking out, you should quickly begin to help your dog and identify how extreme of heat-related illness they are showing symptoms of.
Move Them to A Cool, Shaded Environment
Introducing your dog to a cooler, shaded environment is the first and most important way to help them begin to cool down. For less severe cases of heat-related illness, your husky may be able to walk themselves to a covered area or better yet, a room with air conditioning. In the case of severe heat exhaustion, however, physically picking up and carrying your husky to safety may be your only option.
Assess the Situation
Once your dog has been moved to a more appropriate location, you can try to figure out your next step. It’s important to properly identify what type of heat-related illness your dog is experiencing by identifying their symptoms.
If possible, use a rectal thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of your dog and keep an eye on their symptoms. It’s also a good idea to keep a mental note of how long it has been since you first noticed your dog’s symptoms and started making efforts to cool them down.
According to Dr. John Hamil of the AKC Canine Health Foundation, dogs with a temperature below 105 degrees should be taken to a veterinarian immediately if showing signs of a heat stroke or heat exhaustion.
Dogs with a temperature above 105 degrees should be cooled off with water as described below until their temperature is reduced to 103 degrees, at which point they should be taken to the vet. Attempting to cool them down beyond this point may have the opposite effect and make your dog hypothermic.
Use Cool (Not Cold!) Water
When you see a dog showing all the signs of overheating, your first instinct might be to throw them in a tub of ice water or fill their water dish with shaved ice. For as easy of a mistake as this is to make, it’s just that– a mistake. Putting your husky in cold water or giving them too much ice when they are overheated are likely to put your dog’s body into shock, resulting in cardiac arrest, rapid breathing, and even death. Furthermore, according to Dr. Ruth E Chodrow, ice water will cause your dog’s capillaries to close, making it more difficult to cool their internal organs..
That said, using water is one of the most important ways to reduce temperature in a hyperthermic dog. Specifically, experts recommend cool or lukewarm water be poured over your dog, sponged, or applied with a wet towel. Putting your dog in a ventilated area with good air conditioning or using a fan can help heat evaporate off of your dog more readily.
Offer your husky plenty of water to drink as well, but make sure it is cool and do not force them to drink.
Contact A Vet As Needed
Heat stress can often be managed with at home care, but you should contact a vet if your dog’s symptoms worsen or do not improve.
In the instance of any sort of progression to heat exhaustion or heat stroke, veterinary intervention is required. Treatment for heat exhaustion or heat stroke will likely continue even after your dog has cooled off, with the possible use of intravenous fluids and monitoring of secondary conditions such as heat-related kidney disease.
It’s easy to assume that northern breeds such as huskies would not do well in hot climates, but truthfully huskies can thrive in cold and hot conditions alike.
More than other breeds, husky owners should always be conscientious about any signs of discomfort or hyperthermia and take preventative measures to ensure the health and comfort of their dogs.