Malamutes and Warm Weather
Most of us that own Malamutes would love to live in the north...but not everyone does. If you happen to love Malamutes and live in a warm place - it's possible to still have your heat and Malamute too.
Malamutes can do just fine in warm weather, but it takes a little planning and common sense. We've had pups live with their owners in warm climates - Florida, Texas, Oklahoma and they do just fine. However, their owners take reasonable precautions to make sure their Malamutes are comfortable in warm weather. First and foremost, they must be INDOOR dogs! They enjoy the air conditioning their owners enjoy. Often during the day, they will only go outside for pottys - saving playtimes for evening or cooler, overcast days. The one thing to consider is that darker Malamutes will be MUCH hotter in a warm climate than a lighter coated Malamutes. The black in their coat absorbs the heat - whereas a lighter gray and white might be more comfortable.
Something to consider when you purchase your puppy and you live in a warm climate.
Also, take advantage of all the cool products out there that will allow your Malamute to be more comfortable in warm weather. Crate fans are great - you can even prop them in car windows because they are battery powered or run off of the car battery. We even use them at dog shows when the dog must be crated outside. Other products that can keep your Mal comfortable are swamp cooler vests, cool mats to lie on, and dog water bottles. If you go for walks, these are a must - a "bowl" flips down providing a place to drink.
A good rule of thumb is to do no strenuous work above 70 degrees Fahrenheit - and especially if the dog is carrying a full and dense coat. Usually, once the dog has acclimated to a warmer climate and shed out it's original thick puppy coat - the coat will never return to that density again as long as you live in a warm climate. Even woollies will lose a lot of the density and can be quite comfortable. Time your walks and outdoor playtime for after the sun goes down and cooler, cloudy days. Better yet, go at night if your area is safe to be in.
If you take your dog with you to parks and beaches - find a picnic table in the shade. While you may like the sun, your Malamute needs to be able to get out of the sun or he will overheat. Plan walks down shady streets, watch parades from under a tree. Consider also, that if your Malamute is hot he may not be as tolerant of children or even adults. Many Mals get crankier in the heat! (wouldn't you?) This seems especially true when the humidity is high, probably because it's harder to cool down when your only means of cooling is by tongue evaporation.
The one thing you should NEVER do with an Alaskan Malamute is shave their coat!!! Not only is it insulating for the cold, it is also insulating in warm weather. A Malamute's coat will allow him to run outside to potty in a warm climate and be just fine for the few minutes it takes. If you shave him, he will be more likely to get heatstroke and even sunburn.
One problem in southern climates is bugs. There are more mosquito's, ticks and fleas than northern areas so you will have to stay on top of this. Make sure he's on a good flea and tick deterrent, and check his feet and armpits regularly for ticks. Have your Malamute on heartworm prevention year round.
The largest problem is the hot sun, so it's important you shade the yard somehow. Plant lots of shade trees and foliage in your back yard. If you don't have natural shade, you need something else - solid fencing can provide some shade and there are tarps and awnings for this purpose. While he's waiting for you to let him in, a Malamute in his dense coat, can become too hot in just minutes. Provide a shady area he can wait - just in case you can't get to the door quickly to let him in. If your climate allows you to grow grass...that's much better than concrete as concrete and asphalt become burning hot in the summer - toasting paws.
Koani and Shadow chillin in the pool A pool is a wonderful thing for a Malamute in a southern climate. Many Mals love to swim, or at least get their paws wet - which helps them cool off. Many will stand in the water dish while they drink! If you have a built-in pool, make sure it's fenced off though - while a kiddie pool is fantastic - a Mal carrying a lot of coat may have a hard time getting out of a built-in pool once his coat is waterlogged and wet, and could drown. Always supervise, particularly with woollies who can almost quadruple their weight when wet.
Many Mals love ice..maybe it's in the genes. What I do in the "dog days of summer" is freeze giant blocks of ice in milk cartons then let them play with them outside. They love it! If you break the chunk into sMaller pieces, you'll find your Malamute loves to chew on the slivers of ice. It's a fun treat in summertime, or warm climates, and helps keep them cool. And always, lots of fresh cool water!!!!
Traveling in warm climates with a Malamute can be difficult - especially if you need to stop now and then.
Signs and Symptoms of Heatstroke
If you suspect heatstroke, cool down the Malamute with towels and water, placing him in front of a fan. Contact a vet immediately.
When you do, don't leave him in the car!!!! It can become too hot in seconds. Plan your trip so that he can get out when you do - eat at places that have picnic areas. If you stop at a restaurant, park where you can see him and safely leave all the doors and windows wide open (not too many places these days are like that!) with crate fans running (don't expect him to stay in the car unattended, with the doors and windows open). If it's sunny or over 75, leave the air conditioning running (make sure you can SEE the car is running - many a car has stalled and the dog has cooked while the owner had a leisurely dinner inside out of sight!). Even if you do leave the air running or the doors/windows open - check on him several times throughout dinner to make sure everything is STILL ok. Even in the shade, the heat in a car can reach dangerous levels within minutes. If your car doesn't have air conditioning, maybe it's better to leave the dog home or at a kennel or snack while driving to your destination. Malamutes (and any dog) can over heat quickly on a sunny day - even if the outside temperature is only in the 60's or 70's. Always bring water (cool water) and even better, pack an ice chest with ice. As it melts it will provide cool water for your Malamute. I never go anywhere in the summer without a jug of water in the van.
Also, a word here about dogs in the back of pickup trucks - while it might seem like a solution....don't do it. Not only is it stupid and dangerous - the dog can jump out or be thrown out and killed - the metal bed of the pickup can get burning hot even for a dog in a crate!
If your dog should overheat, which is possible even with the most careful Malamute parent, get him somewhere cool immediately and contact a vet. You need to lower his core temperature as quickly as possible to avoid seizures or brain damage. A dog's normal temperature is 101 degrees Fahrenheit - anything over 103 can cause seizures and death. Submerging him in the cool water of a lake, or wet towels and a fan may buy you time. A dog that's glassy eyed, collapses, is panting heavily, or is lethargic is in grave danger. Get him cool FAST!
Here are some websites about symptoms and treatment of heat exhaustion and heat stroke:
Kiska's Texas Tips for the Heat
We do intentionally modify our lifestyle to cope with the Texas summer heat. We consider it to be “hot” when daytime temperatures rise into the 80s and higher. If I am uncomfortable because of the heat, I assume Kiska is also hot. I consulted her, and here are some tips "O'Mal's Texas Baked Alaskan" would like to share:
- Don’t expect a dog that will spend HOURS outside in the spring, fall, and winter to want to stay outside in the summer longer than it takes to potty.
- Don’t expect the dog to be as active as it is in cooler weather. Expect the dog to sleep more than it does in the winter.
- Avoid vigorous exercise on hot days. You can still walk outside every day, but build up your tolerance to the heat. Shorten the length of your exercise sessions from 60 minutes to 30 minutes, and reduce the intensity. Walk twice a day instead of once.
- Exercise early in the morning, before the temperatures start climbing rapidly, or at night. My malamute can tolerate higher temperatures after dark than she can during the day.
- Have the dog walk on grass, not concrete, to protect paws. Walk in the shade. Walk through sprinklers! The spray on their belly will help cool them, and it feels good for the humans too!
- Don’t do any running if it’s over 70 degrees or if the humidity is high. Humidity is worse than dry heat for my malamute, so stay inside if it is unusually humid for your area.
- Make sure the dog always has cool, clean water available. My dog probably drinks double the water per day in the summer than she drinks in the winter. Don’t go anywhere without water and a container the dog can drink from. If you’re exercising, offer the dog water every 15 minutes. The dog may refuse a drink if she doesn’t need it, but at least you made it available! The dog will drink when it gets thirsty, so keep offering.
- Increase the dog’s indoor activities. If your dog is friendly with other dogs, send her to an indoor doggie day camp on a regular basis or invite other dogs over to your house for indoor play dates. Exercise the dog indoors on a treadmill. Have the dog chase you around the house or toss around a ball indoors. Keep the sessions short, even though you are inside. It is probably above 75 degrees in the house as well.
- Make sure the dog has a cool place to sleep in the house, such as the tile floor or near an AC vent. Don’t expect the dog to curl up on their (or your) nice, soft, warm bed when it’s 100 degrees outside! Put a fan in the dog’s favorite resting place. The dog will enjoy the cool breeze.
- Brush the dog regularly. Get out that extra undercoat!
- Maintain your dog’s healthy weight. It is much harder for overweight dogs to manage in the heat.
- Don’t be surprised if you dog eats less food when it starts getting hot, or changes their eating schedule. My malamute inhales breakfast in the winter, but in the summer will often let her breakfast sit in the bowl until almost dinner time. Sometimes she skips meals all together.
- Kiska's favorite tip... Serve doggie ice cream treats. You can buy them or make your own. She LOVES Frosty Paws!
While a warm climate is not the ideal place for a Malamute, it can be done. A little thought to how you would feel wearing a winter coat in 90 degree heat goes a long way toward helping you understand how it must feel to your dog. While you can take the heat in a coat for short periods, it can be devastating without a break. Let your dog inside, and sip a cool drink together!
Special thanks to Mark, Di and Santa in Florida, and Jen in Texas for the cool pictures and some great suggestions!
Kiska at a 4th of July concert in 100 degree heat...