Sunday, July 8, 2012

Should We Leave The AC On For Our Dogs?

Mother Jones raised this question in their recent article. Good question, particularly with the record-breaking temperatures we've had lately. It is an important question, because it is much harder for dogs to cope with high temperatures that it is for us.


Well, what do you think? Should we or should we not?

According to Mother Jones, this topic inspired quite a hot debate. The author of the article asked a few veterinarians for their opinion, to settle the argument.

When the temperature and humidity rise, it becomes crucial to keep our pets comfortable and safe. Animals cool themselves by panting, a process of exchanging warm air from their lungs for the cooler air outside. This cannot happen when it is hot and humid, which leads to increased risk for heat stress and exhaustion. Leaving the air circulating with fans or, better yet, leaving the air conditioning on will help to keep pets cool and healthy.
—Dr. Helen Myers, veterinarian at the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center

Of course, it is not the most environmentally friendly solution, and it also inspired quite a number of heated comments.

The main argument against was that our dogs' ancestors lived outside, without the benefit of AC, and survived.

Dr. May, a veterinarian and spokeswoman for the American Veterinary Medicine association replied that we've domesticated them and ruined their ability to deal with extreme weather conditions.

One question also was what did our pre-AC ancestors use?

At one time I was trying to decide whether I should leave the AC on for my dogs or not.

I was even trying to figure out whether keeping them in such controlled environment won't make them less able to cope with the outside conditions when they do go outside.

I decided that while some adjustment to the seasons is benefitial, when the weather gets really hot and humid, it all becomes about the core temperature.

We have witnessed first hand how devastating effect can hypethermia have on a dog's body.

So yes, when it gets hot like this, I definitely keep the AC on for my dogs.

As for the argument that our dogs' ancestors survived outside without climate control, that is true, but ... there is a huge difference between coping with heat out in the wild and being stuck in a house or an appartment.

Last week we went up to Jasmine's ranch, which is really in the middle of wilderness. It was very hot there too. And of course, there is no AC there.

So how did Jasmine do in the wild during the heat?

She did perfectly fine. Her favorite place is under the trailer. She chose this spot because it provides shade all day long. But the shade isn't all that is to it. The second ingredient in this formula is the ground itself. It has a fairly steady temperature and it is quite cool.


I tested it myself,  it'll suck the heat right out of you.

For even better cooling effect, all the dog has to do is to dig a bit of a hole. (Our guys created quite a Grand Canyon under that trailer)

Does this work? It is an awesome "climate control!"

In fact, today we visited our daughter's place, and a mama rabbit decided to give birth to a bunch of little bunnies in their yard. What did she do? Dug up hole and that's where she keeps the babies. And they are doing fine, even on these hot days. Thermal mass, baby.

I can tell you one thing. While we were up on the ranch, the temperatures hit 35°C  in the shade (not counting the humidex). It was so hot, all we could do was sit around in the shade and it was still hard to even breathe.

Our guys, though, were perfectly comfortable in their den, and when they came out they felt nice and cool.

I did bring the cooling vests with us but didn't have to use them once.

The problem is not domestication, the problem is the environment. In the wild, our guys can cope with the heat just fine. A house or an appartment, though, is another story. There is nowhere to hide.

And as for our  pre-AC ancestors?

My pre-AC ancestors dealt with the heat the same way – thermal mass. The old buildings and farm houses back in my country were built to keep the heat out. When you walk in on a hot day, it is so cool inside you almost want to put on a sweater. I kid you not.

What is the environmentally-friendly answer to heat? Insulation! But how many houses or appartment buildings were built in such way? The place we live in could as well have the walls out of cardboard. They let the heat in in the summer and they let the cold in in the winter.

I believe, that until such time when our dogs either do get to deal with hot weather the natural way, or we live in properly insulated homes, AC is the only answer to keeping them safe and cool.

Some time in the future we're planning on building a house on Jasmine's ranch. We have decided to go with Earth-sheltered design. We figured we ought to learn from the animals who do get the chance to do things the natural way.

Until then it is AC for my dogs. I like to keep them alive.

What do you think?

Related articles:
Know Your Dog's Enemies: Heat Stroke Is No Light Matter!
Hypo- Versus Hyperthermia

Further reading:
Overheating in Dogs
Heat Stroke in Dogs and Cats: Signs, Symptoms and Treatment
Hyperthermia (Heat Stroke, Heat Prostration)

6 comments

  1. Definitely on. But not on too large in/out difference and avoiding to blow freezing air directly on the dog.

    Argumment, that dogs lived for thousands of years without AC, is false. Yes, the species, as a whole, lived, but it does not mean individual dogs did not die.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Yes, definitely don't want to have it "freezing" inside for too much of a shock.

      Based on my observation with our dogs, I do believe that survival in the wild (at least in our climate) is perfectly possible. Of course, that might be quite different down South.

      Delete
  2. We live in the Pacific Northwest. We're having our "heat wave" now and it's barely touching 80 degrees. We wake up early, open the windows and turn on our ceiling fans. We close the windows around 11 am and our house stays cool for the rest of the day.

    Our dogs have a spot beneath a tree where they hang out. I love the reminder of the cool ground.

    Our biggest thing is keeping our dogs hydrated. We like long walks and we time them so that the dogs can cool off in a fresh water creek at one point and stop for a fountain drink at another point.

    Great post!
    Kimberly

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Kimberly. Yes, keeping them hydrated is very important. Having the opportunity to cool of in a creek, pond, lake or pool is also awesome. Of course, that works only outdoors, doesn't help dogs who are stuck inside.

      We use your method or sealing the house when the weather allows that - but our home is so poorly insulated that getting it to stay cold works only up to certain temperature and then it just becomes like an oven. In the apartments we lived before this didn't work at all.

      We can't wait to have our Earth-sheltered house built - there the need for additional climate control will be minimal, if any.

      Delete
  3. I live in the Pacific Northwest as well and it is just starting to get hot here for the summer. I always leave the AC on in the house for the pets when I leave and a fan as well. A large and full bowl of fresh water is important, especially for dogs who are always running around the yard like mine!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, plenty of water is also very important.

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