Bird Dogs Afield host Paul Fuller is the gun dog columnist for Northwoods Sporting Journal. The Journal has granted permission to re-print Paul’s articles. Thank you Northwoods Sporting Journal.

Northwoods Sporting Journal

Proper Hydration

During recent heat spells, my wife and I have been very careful to ensure our dogs are adequately hydrated during our daily walks. In fact, three of the four courses we have for walking dogs have water available for swimming or drinking.  And, the dogs do both.

Mother Nature did not equip dogs with an effective method of keeping cool. Veterinarians say that the dog’s cooling system favors the brain at the expense of the remainder of the body.  When the dog’s body becomes overheated, the dog is usually in trouble. Overheating can cause permanent damage to the dog’s entire system…including the brain.

According to Robert Gillette, D.V.M., Director of the Sports Medicine Program at Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, there is a part of the brain called the hypothalamus which regulates temperature. This is done by the hypothalamus receiving signals from different parts of the dog’s body. The hypothalamus, based on the information received, attempts to maintain a normal body temperature.

One unique cooling method is for the dog to seek water in which they can submerse. The body sends warm blood to small blood vessels directly under the skin. Cool the skin with cool water and you’ll cool the body.

Most dog owners, I believe, understand that a dog cannot sweat. There is some thought that a dog sweats just a bit around their paws but your author has no evidence of that happening. However, panting creates saliva and saliva cools blood that goes to the brain. This is not a long-term solution. Panting requires energy and burning energy can be more detrimental for an overheated dog than the saliva cooling process.

A major cause of overheating is our dog’s genetic desire to hunt. Instincts tell them to keep running to find that elusive bird. In the prairies, where early season temperatures can reach 90 degrees, many dogs have succumbed to the heat. They simply don’t know when to stop. 

There are some researchers that feel the heavily coated dogs handle heat better than the shorthaired dogs. They feel the heavy coat provides insulation from the heat. This is another theory that your author has no evidence either way.  I know if I was wearing a heavy wool coat in hot and humid weather, I would be very warm and drenched in sweat. My recommendation would be to shave a heavily coated dog if hunting in hot weather.

A normal dog’s temperature is 101 degrees with a range of 98 to 102 being acceptable. Experts feel that a short period of 105 is usually safe; however, an extended period of 105 can create long-term issues. Although it may not be in your canine first-aid kit, your author highly recommends you add a thermometer to your kit. If working or hunting your dog in warm weather, it would be wise to check the dog’s temperature on a frequent basis.

The owner/handler of a hunting dog should take steps to prepare their dog for warm weather. Taking a poorly conditioned dog into the field on a warm or hot day can be a recipe for trouble.  Condition your dog all summer long. Also, understand your dog. If it’s laboring or excessively panting, stop the hunt.  Check your dog’s temperature. Have plenty of water in the truck. When my wife and I hunt Montana in September, we always carry two bottles each for the dogs. And one bottle for ourselves. We offer the dogs water every ten minutes. They must remain hydrated.

Finally, if you feel your dog is overheated and not responding well to water intake, it’s time to get the dog to a vet. Be safe rather than sorry.

Have a great hunting season.

Copyright 2019 Paul Fuller

Paul and his wife Susan are co-hosts of Bird Dogs Afield TV ( Paul can be contacted at