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Ask AKC

with Lisa Peterson
February 2008

Dear Lisa: For more than 10 years, I’ve worked for a cleaning service and many of my clients are dog owners. In the winter many of these pet owners set their thermostats between 68-74 degrees, regardless of whether they’re home or not. It’s extremely stagnant and dry. I can’t breathe in these homes because of this. The animals are clearly uncomfortable and the dogs are panting. Please give advice about a comfortable and healthy temperature setting for animals, especially since the animals now have their winter “coats.” – Burning Up

Dear Burning Up: Dogs, like humans, do not tolerate significant variation of body temperature. On average, a dog’s normal body temperature is 101.5 degrees F. Small dogs may have a slightly lower temperatures and large dogs slightly higher. Because of this inability to handle wide swings in their body temperatures, dogs have wonderful internal mechanisms that keep their body at the correct temperature at all times, regardless of the air temperature.

Dogs don’t use their skin to perspire, like humans, because of their insulating coat. Their coat keeps them both cool in hot weather and warm in cool weather. Dogs do have sweat glands, located in the pads of their feet and in their ear canals, but sweating plays a minor role in regulating body temperature. The dog uses the panting mechanism to rid his body of excess heat. And like your observation of your clients’ dogs, when they are panting they are getting hot.

Panting Pooches
To put panting in simple terms, a dog breathes in air through his nose, where it picks up moisture from tissue (i.e. a wet nose). The moisture then captures the heat generated from the body and it is exhaled through the mouth. This rids the body of the excess heat, thereby, keeping the body at a normal temperature. The faster and more shallow the panting, the more heat the dog is trying to release from his body. In the reverse, if the dog wishes not to lose body heat, like in cold weather, he breathes in air through his nose and also exhales through his nose to hold the body heat in.

You did not mention the types of dogs and their coats. I would say that “winter” coats play a small role in the comfort level of the dog indoors. Less coat means less insulation, so smooth-coated breeds can loose more body heat but I would be more concerned about brachiocephalic breeds, (i.e. Pugs, Bulldogs and Boston Terriers) that don’t have as efficient breathing to keep cool through panting, their primary cooling mechanism.

An ideal temperature doesn’t exist for all dogs, since their normal body temperature will vary according to size. Most dogs begin to show signs of overheating when the air temperature is between 81 and 85 degrees F. Perhaps that is why the airlines won’t ship dogs above that temperature. But even if a dog is panting, it doesn’t mean his is uncomfortable, it just means his internal mechanism has kicked in to keep him cool. You may want to play with the thermostat and when you see that the dog is no longer panting, that may be the correct temperature for his optimum comfort.



Dear Lisa: Why haven’t Dogue de Bordeaux’s been recognized by the AKC? These “dogues” are just plain brilliant, loyal and beautiful to show! Wherever and whenever I take out my “dogues” people just go nuts. They’re a crowd pleaser for sure. – Dogue Lover

Dear Dogue: Currently, the Dogue De Bordeaux is enrolled in the AKC’s Foundation Stock Service and participates in the Miscellaneous Class at AKC Events. Each breed that seeks full AKC recognition must go though a process that shows the commitment of breed fanciers in America. Your breed is slated for full recognition in 2008.

Read more about this exciting new breed.


Bark Back ~
~ I just read your article about Pink Noses. I have a 3 ½ year old yellow lab and she too has a pink nose!! When she was a puppy, her nose was black and then as she started getting older it turned pink and then back to black and then back to pink and has never gone back to black. I would have to say that she was only about a year when these changes occurred. I lived in Northern Nevada up until about 3 months ago and I now live in the Portland, Oregon area. My vet back in Nevada said that it was nothing to be concerned about since Stella, is a healthy dog and comes from a good breading line. – L.S.C.

~ Another reason that dogs can get a pink nose seems to be related to their food bowl. We found some years ago, and with advice from a groomer/friend that a plastic bowl seems to remove the dark pigment over time.; No, I can't explain the science here, but our Kuvasz had begun to lose pigmentation in his nose.; We switched to stainless steel bowls and within a month the problem had resolved itself.; We've never experienced that issue again with the Kuvasz or any of our other dogs since. – M.A.H.

~ I am an owner/breeder/trainer of Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs. So, I field a lot of dog questions myself at work or just talking to friends. Whenever someone has mentioned a pink nosed dog, I always ask if they feed them out of plastic dishes and the answer, 100% of the time has been "yes". I had heard this can happen because of the chemicals in plastic, but, I've never really researched it. – C.W.


Lisa Peterson, a long-time owner/breeder/handler of Norwegian Elkhounds, is the AKC Director of Club Communications. If you have a question, send it to Lisa at lxp@akc.org and she may select it for a future column. Due to the high volume of questions we cannot offer individual responses.

© 2008 The American Kennel Club, Inc.