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Can German Shepherds Overheat? (Heat Tolerance Explained)

German Shepherds have thick coats and can be pretty active. In warm regions or hot temperatures, these two things do not go along very well, and there is a risk of overheating. If you are worried about your German Shepherd overheating, you should know the heat tolerance of German Shepherds.

German Shepherds can overheat at temperatures closing 86°F/30°C. Anything above that crosses the heat tolerance threshold of GSDs and can result in a heat stroke. German Shepherds must be kept at a moderate temperature and given plenty of shade and water in hot weather.

In this article, you will find everything you need to know about overheating and heat tolerance in German Shepherds. You will discover the best practices for owning and caring for a German Shepherd in a high-heat environment.

So, let’s get started!

German Shepherd Heat Tolerance. A GSD sunbathing.
My German Shepherd Willow sunbathing!

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German Shepherd Heat Tolerance

A German Shepherd’s heat tolerance is up to 86°F/30°C. More resilient GSDs can tolerate up to 95 degrees, while most dogs can be in pretty bad shape when the mercury rises to 90°F. Your dog is at risk of heatstroke if his body temperature rises to 103°F/39.4°C.

Even higher body temperatures around 107°F/41.7°C and 109°F/42.8°C) can lead to organ failure and subsequent death. For all dogs, the classic Thermoneutral Zone ranges between 68°F and 86°F (20°C and 30°C).

The term “thermoneutral zone” (TNZ) describes the range of temperatures where your dog can maintain its body temperature by controlling heat loss through the skin. In other words, a dog in the typical TNZ has a balanced process for producing and losing heat.

Your German Shepherd will pant to burn energy if the temperature is too high to keep his body temperature regular. Dogs risk hyperthermia and the ensuing heat stroke if they don’t.

German Shepherds are big dogs, and their level of activity can raise their internal temperature. When 86 degrees Fahrenheit is too hot for a GSD that is still, even 80 degrees can be too hot for a dog that doesn’t stop running around.

“Knowing your dog’s general activity levels, you can figure out how quickly he might overheat.”

World of Dogz

Temperature

The ideal temperature for a German Shepherd is between 50° and 80°F, with bulkier and more active GSDs being comfortable at 50 degrees and leaner ones being pretty comfy at around 75 degrees. Temperature monitoring is essential during the peak summer months.

Direct Sun Exposure

Sunlight is responsible for heating the environment. Heat from the atmosphere is not as direct as the heat from sunlight exposure. Your dog’s fur can trap this heat, making him overheat even if the atmosphere is not as hot.

Make sure to provide plenty of shade for your dog. Most dogs self-regulate their sunlight exposure and move into the shade if available.

Most dogs love to lay in the sun, and as you can see from the below photos, my German Shepherd, Willow, is no different. However, after only a few minutes of heavy panting, she will move to go and lie in the shade!

Hot Ground Consideration

Aside from the atmosphere’s temperature, you have to be mindful of the temperature of the ground. Depending on the material, the ground can have two to three times higher temperatures than the air.

Never walk your dog on asphalt in the summer, even when the sun is down. Make sure to test the ground’s temperature before walking your dog. Walk your dog on grass or use dog shoes to minimize the heat transfer from the ground.

I could recommend a surface thermometer, but you can use a naked toe to test the ground. Instead of buying a thermometer to get the ground temperature, you should get dog shoes.

XSY&G Dog Boots from Amazon are pretty good for not just hot weather, snow and ice but also rainy seasons. They prevent slips and water exposure when walking on wet surfaces but also sufficiently protect your puppy’s paws from the hot ground.

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Do German Shepherds Overheat Easily?

Due to their thicker coats than other popular dog breeds, German Shepherds are more susceptible to overheating. When they don’t have access to fresh water or live in an environment with insufficient ventilation, they also tend to feel hotter.

Dogs with thicker coats have a diminished capacity to expel heat from the surface of their skin, according to research on temperature requirements for dogs from the Center for Animal Welfare Science at Purdue University. As a result, as temperatures rise, they might quickly feel thermal distress.

In a 2016 UK study that examined the prevalence of heatstroke in dogs receiving veterinary care, German Shepherds ranked 22nd out of 35 breeds.

These findings imply that German Shepherds are somewhat prone to heat-related illnesses or disorders. Dogs with flat faces (brachycephalic), such as Boxers or Pugs, are typically the worst at controlling their body temperature.

The combination of intense activity and hot weather alongside poor hydration can increase the risk of overheating. To avoid overheating, GSD owners should ensure that no two factors simultaneously act against their dogs. Here are a few factors to consider.

  • Hot surface – Since heat can transfer at a higher rate from prolonged direct contact, a hot surface is much more severe than a hot atmosphere. Because we wear shoes, it is hard even to get a feel of how hot the ground is.
     
  • Direct sunlight – Sunlight can accelerate the heating process if the weather is harsh. Provide sufficient shade for your dog to minimize the chances of unnecessary heat exposure.
     
  • Activity levels – The body generates heat when it gets an intense workout. Everything you do with your dog, from playing fetch to going on a walk, constitutes activity. GSD fur traps this heat, increasing the risk of overheating in hot weather.
     
  • Water – Water can neutralize heat to an extent. It can help cool the body, and giving access to drinking water and hosing down a hot pup can reduce the overheating risk.

So, you should ensure your dog wears boots and is in the shade when the weather is hot. And if he has been very active, make sure to hose him down if he seems to be panting a lot. German Shepherds can handle one heat factor acting on them. But they are not good at managing multiple sources of heat.

German Shepherd By The Beach
Willow at the beach in summer – don’t worry, UK summers are not that hot!

German Shepherds overheating in mild weather or even slightly hot summer temperatures is not very common. When owners know the key factors that can compound and overheat their dogs, they don’t let things come to that. You already know these, so it is time to look at signs of overheating.

Signs That Your German Shepherd Is Too Hot

In the context of beauty pageants, turning judges’ and other canines’ heads can indicate that a dog is really hot. But in the literal sense, other signs expose overheating and its consequences.

  • Labored breathing – Heavy breathing is often an attempt to regulate internal temperature. If your German Shepherd seems to be having difficulty breathing, he is probably too hot.
     
  • Panting – Panting is a slightly less severe stage that indicates thirst or heat regulation. In either case, cool water can help.
     
  • Salivating – If your GSD is drooling and seems to salivate a lot more than usual, he might be overheating. This is especially important to notice if your dog doesn’t have any stimuli worth drooling over. If there is no food or scraps around and your dog’s salivating, he is hot.
  • Color of gums – Gums can turn blueish purple from a lack of oxygen. They may also appear bright red or pale.

Learn More About Signs of Overheating in Dogs in This Video…

Dog Overheating - Signs, Prevention & What To Do

What To Do If My GSD Overheats?

Having established the signs of canine overheating alongside their causes, we can now look at the best courses of action when a German Shepherd overheats for different reasons.

Give Your Dog Water

Water can help cool down your dog. Give COOL drinking water and use LUKEWARM water to splash your German Shepherd, or place COOL towels on his paws, tummy, neck, and armpits.

Give cooling treats like ice cubes, frozen strawberries, or a frozen KONG toy.

However, if you suspect your pet is already suffering from heatstroke, don’t use ice-cold water or give him ice cubes, as his body needs to cool gradually.

Move Your GSD Into the Shade

Get your dog into the shade or indoors where there is air conditioning. You can also position him near a fan to assist with the cooling.

Take His Temperature and Consult a Vet

By now, you understand that overheating is not about the general temperature but the dog’s internal body temperature. Use a thermometer to take your GSD’s body temperature. Ensure that it is not over 106 degrees. If it is, you need to get experts’ help and quickly get your pup to the vet.

Can You Raise a German Shepherd in a Hot State/Country?

German Shepherds are pretty big, active, and covered in dense double coats. This makes them prone to overheating if they aren’t taken care of in hot regions.

However, German Shepherds are popular in Caribbean countries and many tropical destinations.

“In fact, two of Willow’s littermates were shipped to the Caribbean. This shows that raising German Shepherds in full-sun environments is not impossible. However, it can be challenging.

World of Dogz

You might need 24/7 air conditioning if average temperatures regularly exceed about 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Since GSDs can be pretty comfy at room temperature, they can be considered dogs that can live and thrive anywhere.

Pro tip! You might want to check out my article on how to keep your pup from overheating for some great tips, 10 Ways to Keep a German Shepherd Cool.

The most important thing to keep in mind when you raise a GSD in an environment where heat is everpresent is to maximize his indoor time and ensure that his feet are well protected whenever you take him out, especially during the summer months.

Willow loves paddling in the river and lapping fresh, clean running water. It is the first place I take her when we have hot temperatures – which isn’t that often in the UK!

German Shepherd Paddling In River
My German Shepherd cooling down in the river

Should I Shave My GSDs Hair in Summer?

Do not shave your German Shepherd’s coat in the summer. The double coat of your GSD might trap internal heat inside, but it also keeps heat from the outside away from the dog’s core organs. Use water to cool your dog instead of stripping him of his ability to stay protected.

Final Thoughts

German Shepherds don’t usually overheat if properly cared for. However, when considering their heat tolerance, neglecting multiple heat factors can result in a heat stroke.

Be mindful of direct sunlight, hot ground, and lack of water. Do not exercise your dog too much in hot weather, and never shave your dog’s double coat.

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