Do Labradors Overheat? Tips to Keep Them Cool

labrador_overheat

Living in the southern part of the United States, I’ve become all too familiar with how unbearable summers can be. When I’d think about how hard it is for us humans, it seemed unimaginable how tough it must be on our dogs. I started wondering if maybe they had a greater tolerance than we do. So, I did some research to find out – do Labradors overheat?

Labradors do run the risk of overheating, especially in the hotter summer months. The biggest contributing factor is the double-coat, which serves as an insulator to fend off water and extreme temperatures. As the heat penetrates, the coat can seal in the higher temps extending the time it takes for Labs to cool down.

Fortunately, there are many steps that you can take to stop this from ever becoming a problem. It is much easier to prevent your dogs temperature from getting out of control than it is to try to bring it back down.

However, in this article I will discuss both preventive and reactive measures that I have learned. Additionally, I’ll cover some of the warning signs an owner should be on the lookout for if they find themselves in a situation where Labrador overheating is likely.

Can Labradors handle hot weather?

Labradors are working dogs and have a lot of energy. It is in their nature to be constantly on the go which makes them a popular breed for outdoor activity. It is quite common for hunters to bring Labradors with them on hours long hunting adventures in both the cold as well as warm weather.

I think it’s important to remember that Labradors have what is known as a double-coat. This simply means that they have both an outer coat that is very weather resistant as well as an inner coat. This helps to regulate their temperature fairly consistently. As a result, I have found that as long as there aren’t unusually long periods of time of extreme weather exposure Labs tend to do well.

When it comes to heat, find shade often to help minimize the heat exposure. This is one of the many preventative measures laid out below.

What temperature is too hot for my dog?

According to the WebMD pets site a normal body temperature for dogs in general is somewhere around 101 degrees. The closer you get in outside temperature to that level, the less effort it will take for the dogs internal temperature to rise.

I have found that temperatures above 90 degrees is where it starts to get tricky. Most experts agree that owners should really start to keep temperature in mind at this level.

If you think you’re going to be prolonged in outside temperatures of this level you should have your dog prepared! I’ll talk about strategies to prevent overheating below.

Do black labs overheat more than other labs?

It stands to reason that black labs are at a higher risk of overheating because of their dark coat. While it may seem comparable to a human wearing a black t-shirt out on a hot summer day, it is not quite the same.

The inner coat does provide some insulation, even for Labs with black hair. The best way to think of this would be to imagine wearing a white undershirt under both a black and white shirt on the outside. The significance of the black shirt does become reduced due to not having the direct skin contact. However, the trapping of the heat would still have a slightly more significant effect and can raise the temperatures faster.

So, regardless of your Lab’s coat color, you should be cognizant of these things and plan ahead!

Ideal temperature ranges for Labs

I found it difficult to find exact prescriptions for ideal temperatures for Labs (or dogs in general for that matter.) However, what I was able to find in many ways seemed to mimic what we would expect ideal ranges to be for humans!

On the lower end, most agree that below 40-45 degrees calls for heightened awareness. At this level you would want to make sure you’re planning ahead just in case the cold becomes unbearable for your dog. On the higher end, as discussed anything above 90 degrees requires this same awareness.

With that, I think it is fair to say that a safe zone is the 50-85 degree range. In terms of indoor temps, everything that I found seems to point to a range of 75-78 degrees. Given that the generally accepted “room temperature” for humans is around 72 degrees, and dog internal temperatures are just a few degrees higher than ours, this seems about right!

Ways to prevent overheating

I’ve created a list of very simple things you can do to prevent Labrador overheating from ever occurring. Additionally, there are a handful of cost-effective items you can equip yourself with, too!

Consider the weather ahead of time

When I’m looking to take my girl for just a regular park day on the weekend, I’ll always make sure to check the weather for both days. If one day is more favorable than the other and it fits my schedule, I’ll choose that day. When I find myself with less flexibility, I’ll at least look at the hourly forecast and try to work around that. For bigger trips that are planned far in advance this obviously won’t work.

Hydrate well beforehand

Leading up to your planned outing you should make sure your dog is continually hydrated. This is an easy one to overlook. Unfortunately, you can’t go back if you realize you missed it the morning before you go. I recommend using alarms on your smartphone to be set every couple of hours to encourage drinking water.

Bring water

I’d like to believe that this would be a no-brainer, but I’ve been guilty of overthinking this one myself. If you think you’ll be in the heat for an extended period of time, then when you’re packing your own refreshments make sure you bring some for your dog, too! There’s a simple tool called the Pupflask by Tuff Pupper on Amazon that can make giving your dog water extremely easy. Click here for current pricing (Amazon link).

Find shade often

It’s important to continually remind yourself that while you may not be overheating yet, your dog might be quickly heading in that direction. If shade is within reach, always take a few minutes to allow your dog to rest in it. I have found it to work wonders over the long haul. This may slow your pace down. However, it beats having to derail your afternoon because things got out of hand because your Labrador overheated.

Signs your Lab is overheating

If you’re worried that it is too late and your dog has reached the point of overheating, there are a few things you can do to help. There are a few warning signs you can look for:

  • Panting
  • Lethargy
  • Dry nose/mouth
  • Instability

While there are some other signs to look out for, these are the quickest and easiest to identify if you think your Lab might be in danger.

How do you cool down a Lab?

I’ve seen many methods to help cool your Lab down. Here, I have narrowed it down to the 3 that I find to be most effective:

Use a cooling pad

In my experience, this was the most well rounded method for relief in a variety of scenarios. Pads themselves can be pricey, but getting a good one is super-important. A gel-cooled pad like this one from Arf Pets (Amazon link) can provide up to 3 hours of continuous cooling. The gel design allows for automatic recharging in just 20 minutes. This is important as it is always ready. It also folds up really nice!

Regardless of your surroundings, you can quickly whip one of these out and have it ready in an instant. No fumbling with water, towels, or trying to find a body of water for your dog to jump in.

I’d highly recommend picking one of these up. Even for just in crate or out by the pool deck use, you will absolutely get your money’s worth out of one of these!

Find a body of water

Ideally you’ll be somewhere with access to a body of water that your Lab can submerge in. This is likely to be the fastest way to cool them down. If this is an option, your Lab should naturally head for the relief on their own.

For at home, it’s always good to have a kiddie pool of water in the backyard during summer. This gives your dog another option and it is very inexpensive.

I wouldn’t recommend any of the inflatable ones, though!

Water and towels

If a cooling pad isn’t an option, and there are no bodies of water nearby, this is likely going to be your only choice. Hopefully you came prepared and have bottled water that you can use.

My research led me to learn that you should never pour water directly onto your dog, as this can actually do more harm than good. Wetting a towel or cloth and cooling their undersides, paw pads, and armpits while providing shade will help significantly with Labrador overheating. Also, spare some of the water for them to drink as well.

Conclusion

My hope is that you won’t find yourself in any precarious situations with your dog. Simple planning ahead should prevent any unnecessary emergencies.

If you do end up in a bad spot, I’m hoping my experience and research can help. Our Labs depend on us to keep them safe! Labrador overheating is no joke. Let’s stop it before it starts!