You see grand photographs of them with the picturesque Swizz Alps in the background or pulling sledges long snow country in sub-zero temperatures. Yes, they are the snow dogs that were created to survive the cold and the cold only – those beautiful Saint Bernards and Huskies that mark almost every snow-clad landscape.
Yet when these are bred and kept as pets in tropical climates and countries, one can well imagine their plight, given their thick coats and heavy fur. Even though they prefer snowdrifts to sundrenched beaches, a little extra care can help them survive hot weather as well. Here’s how.
Keeping him outdoors
Snow dogs can at best tolerate temperatures up to 90 degrees. Anything above that slows them down and saps their energy. Thus, protection from direct sunlight is pivotal because the dark spots of their coat absorb the sun’s rays, making them very hot indeed. A doghouse isn’t the best protection from the sun because of inadequate ventilation (though this can depend on how it is made). If the shade from a large tree is missing, try a thick tent-like tarp, stretched over four posts, to provide a shady canopy to protect the dog.
You can have a pergola in the back yard which could offer them some protection. If you have yard furniture under the pergola that will give your dog another nice shady spot if they can lay underneath the furniture.
The most important factor in snow dog maintenance. Fresh water is absolutely essential for keeping such breeds hydrated and cool during the hot weather. If left out in the sun, the dog’s water bowl can quickly heat up with the water’s temperature rising over 100 degrees.
Keep the water bowl in the shade, while also changing the water at least twice daily, preferably with iced water. An on-demand water spigot may also be installed on your hose hydrant that emits fresh water every time the dog drinks. An additional water bowl also comes in handy, in case the on-demand spigot doesn’t work.
You also should have a doggy door so your dog can come inside the home when he wants during the hot afternoon and early evening.
The Saint Bernard loves to run and romp, but it’s also equally fond of napping, particularly when it’s hot. So take him for his walks early in the mornings before it gets too hot. Make sure that the walk is relaxed, or he’ll wear out soon. If he shows signs of exhaustion, take him on shorter walks until the weather become cooler. Also don’t force him to exercise when he shows signs of fatigue by lying down, panting excessively, or sitting down.
Long haired snow dogs suffer more from the heat and require suitable grooming for it. You could either trim its fur to the bare minimum or take it to a groomer during early summer and have him sheared. If shaving isn’t what you have in mind (though the dogs hair should be short in the summer time), keep the dog indoors, preferably in an air conditioned room, when temperatures shoot over 90 degrees.
The feed dosage also depends on is appetite, which tends to wane in hot weather. Adjustments are, therefore, necessary so that he isn’t force fed and his appetite will return when the weather gets cooler.
If you’re taking him for a car ride, put up blinds to keep the sun out. Make him drink water periodically. Bring a water bottle and a water tray of some sort with you. When flying, talk to the airline before buying a cargo ticket in hot weather so that he gets a temperature-controlled hold, which not every airline has (or buy an extra ticket and have the dog sit near you!). This could lead to overheating on long flights and death even if ready access to water isn’t available.
And that is animal abuse!