Does Your Dog Need Air Conditioning?

If you have a hard time handling the summer heat, you might be equally concerned about how your dog is able to cope. While turning off your AC when you leave the house can be the best solution for your utility bill, it might not be the best solution for your animals. If you're facing a huge summer heat wave, here are some facts and tips about keeping dogs cool that will influence your decision to run your cooling system, even when you are not at home.

Humidity is worse than heat.

Just like humans, dogs have a harder time cooling themselves when there is moisture in the air. Dogs have coats of fur, which means they don't sweat as readily as humans do in order to cool themselves off. They do, however, pant. The panting allows a dog to cool off the air inside its lungs, like a miniature evaporative cooler for the body. The cooler air reaches the lungs and helps to provide some relief. This exchange of heat and moisture, however, is not nearly as effective in humidity. 

If you live in a dry area, therefore, you will not have to worry as much about running your HVAC system all day long. However, if your summers are both hot and humid, your dog will need air conditioning just as much as you will. To reduce your AC use, you should talk to an HVAC contractor about whether it would be beneficial to install a dehumidifier within the home so that the humidity will not make the room seem warmer than it actually is. 

Your dog's breed, health and age make a difference.

If you have a young, healthy dog, it will be easier for them to regulate their body temperatures in hot weather. Dogs that are old, obese, or unable to move very much will have more trouble finding relief and can suffer from heat stroke or heat exhaustion. Leaving your AC on is especially important if your pet fits into these categories. Some breeds of dogs, like pugs, are also at greater risk for heat-related illness, as they have shorter snouts and a small oral cavity, so panting is not as effective for them to cool off.

The right room temperature makes a difference.

Dogs, especially dogs that live indoors more than outdoors, therefore do need a controlled temperature in order to remain healthy during a heat wave. Even though dogs' ancestors lived in the wild without heat regulation, dogs have been living indoors in relatively comfortable environments, so their capacity for wilderness survival is not as it was before climate control. Most modern dogs begin to overheat at around 81 degrees Fahrenheit, so a safe temperature for them should be a few degrees below this threshold. 

So, you can have your HVAC contractor install a programmable thermostat that does allow the temperature in your home to rise four or five degrees above normal while you are not home to save on at least some cooling costs. You can also have your dog stay in a cooler area of the home, like a basement, when you leave the house. Also, providing ample water will help decrease the chance of overheating. 

You dog will give you signals that they are too hot. Dogs may lay in the sun-- this means that they are happily soaking up rays to get warm. Other times, your dog might lie right in front of the fan or on top of vent blowing cool air. This means the air temperature of your home is probably not as comfortable for them, as they are actively seeking to cool themselves. 

If you are a dog owner, a good HVAC system is necessary to help them stay healthy in the heat. Talk to your HVAC contractor for more info about ways you can improve your home system to better suit your needs and the needs of your pet.