Understanding the heat tolerance of German Shepherds is vital, especially given their thick coats and active lifestyles, which can increase overheating risks in warm climates. Careful attention is needed to prevent heat exhaustion, particularly during intense activities.
German Shepherds can overheat when subjected to temperatures nearing 86°F (30°C). Anything that crosses this threshold withers the heat tolerance of the breed, resulting in potential heat stroke symptoms.
Just as adults require adequate hydration to prevent dehydration, German Shepherds must be maintained at a comfortable temperature, with access to ample shade and plenty of water to combat the heat.
This article offers comprehensive insights into the risks of overheating and the heat tolerance of German Shepherds. It delves into the most effective strategies for owning and caring for a German Shepherd in hot climates, ensuring their health and comfort.
So, let’s get started!
Heat Tolerance in German Shepherds
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 activity level can raise their internal temperature. When 86 degrees Fahrenheit is too hot for a resting dog, even 80 degrees can be too hot for a dog that doesn’t stop running around.
Know The Ideal Temperature for Your Dog
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.
Avoid Direct Sun Exposure
Sunlight is responsible for heating the environment. The heat from the atmosphere is not as direct as 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 photos below, 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.
Doggy booties 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.
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 the German Shepherd breed is 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 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 risk of overheating.
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. However, they are not good at managing multiple sources of heat.
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 Dog 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 much more than usual, he might be overheating. This is especially important to notice if your dog has no 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.
How To Cool Down a German Shepherd
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.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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 must get experts’ help and quickly get your pup to the vet.
Raising a German Shepherd in a Hot Climate
German Shepherds are big, active, and covered in dense double coats. This makes them prone to overheating if they aren’t cared for in hot regions.
However, German Shepherds are popular in Caribbean countries and many tropical destinations.
You might need 24/7 air conditioning if average temperatures regularly exceed 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. Or you can check out the video below.
The most important thing to remember 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!
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.
What are some outdoor precautions I should take for my dog in the heat?
There are several outdoor precautions you should consider. Firstly, provide ample shade in your yard or outdoor space where your dog can retreat from direct sunlight. Additionally, make sure to always have fresh water available for your furry friend to stay hydrated.
Consider investing in a cooling mat or vest specifically designed for dogs, as these can help regulate their body temperature. Limit strenuous exercise during the hottest parts of the day and opt for early morning or late evening walks instead.
Lastly, be vigilant for signs of heatstroke, such as excessive panting, drooling, or lethargy, and seek immediate veterinary attention if necessary.
Are there specific signs of heat exhaustion in German Shepherds?
Some common signs of heat exhaustion in German Shepherds include excessive panting, drooling, rapid breathing, weakness or lethargy, vomiting, and even collapse.
It’s important to note that these symptoms can vary from dog to dog, so it’s crucial for owners to be vigilant and take immediate action if they suspect their dog is experiencing heat exhaustion.
How do German Shepherds handle hot weather?
German Shepherds can become overheated more readily than some other breeds due to their thick double coat. To manage warm conditions, moderate exercise and provide ample water and shade.
Can German Shepherds overheat easily?
As German Shepherds lack an effective cooling mechanism, they are prone to overheating above approximately 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Their coat provides insulation rather than helping dissipate body heat like short-haired breeds. Vigilance is advised when temperatures rise significantly.
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.