Thank goodness for acclimation…

I breed bulldogs, have done so since 1995. Anyone who knows the breed will tell you that summer can sometimes be a bulldog’s worst enemy. Yet, I’ve always done my own thing with our dogs, and been censured because of it at times. They’re outside every day in the summer unless a smog advisory (drifting our way from Toronto, no doubt) hits the Grey Bruce shores, or if the temperature is going to be over 30 C. Then, the dogs are inside. The other day, this practice ended up being a life saver for our dogs.

We’ve been building – again, it never ends, but that’s a tale for another post – and had to rearrange fencing. All outdoor runs were dismantled and so release time meant being out in the big back yard together. On the hottest day of the year the other day (it hit 33 C that day, nevermind the humidex) I let our four youngest dogs out at one time, at noon. I went twenty minutes later to let them back in and…poof, no dogs. They had slipped between the fence and the garage and were gone. My heart was in my mouth and my stomach at my feet because a resting bulldog may be able to tolerate higher temperatures when acclimated, but to be out lost and running in 30+ weather is a recipe for disaster.

Guess I should qualify, we live on a farm with 25 acres of bush to the south of the house and 40 acres of open pasture to the north. Of course, they were not running around in the pasture, that would have been too easy!

After an hour of slogging through mucky creeks, scratchy hawthorn, and prickly thistles while yelling their names accompanied by various epithets, I tracked down two of my four escapees. Opal and Meridian met me at the fence surrounding the horse pasture, emerging from the bush unscathed but breathing heavily.  The first indicator of heat stroke in a bulldog is colour, and thankfully both girls had great colour to their tongues and tissues. I put them inside, piled ice for them to lay on, and kept watch for twenty minutes to ensure they cooled down. They were well pleased with themselves, and fell asleep shortly.

My husband came home at 3, and together we drove the farm truck through the rough trail in the bushes, looking for the two missing dogs. Earlier this year he dragged a trailer into the woods so the kids could camp out if they wanted, and although I had already checked the trailer before on this pass we found two exhausted and panting dogs waiting underneath the camper. Izzy and Notty rode home in the truck then we put them on ice and watched as they settled. Again, both pups had good colour and although panting did not have laboured breathing.  I’ve dealt with bulldogs for fifteen years and know how to handle them, I recommend anyone worried about heatstroke get their dog to the vet right away rather than try to manage themselves.

Everyone was fine, and the very next time they were outside went right back to check and see if their escape route was still open. Now, their mission is to find a new exit, but we’ve finally got the runs back up so they can’t get out en masse.

The moral to the story is, keeping a dog completely restricted to indoor air conditioning predisposes them to having trouble handling heat when they do actually get outside. I am certain that the time spent outside ensured the survival of those puppies because they were acclimated to hot, humid weather, and have said this to my puppy purchasers for years. At least once a season we hear of a bulldog going into respiratory failure during the summer show circuit because of the heat. Running from super-cool air conditioning to an outdoor ring is uncomfortable for humans, and downright dangerous for dogs. In my opinion, if a dog cannot acclimate to the weather by spending time outside, then they certainly shouldn’t be showing in it.  And probably shouldn’t be bred, either.  Don’t turn the temperature down thinking you’re doing the dog a favour by keeping it cool…you’re better to let it get a little warmer so its body can adjust when you take the dog outside.

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