Because of their history in ancient Japan as hunters and working dogs, the Shiba Inu breed was made to be outdoors and withstand an all-weather climate. Their double layered coats provide them with insulation in winter and act as a jacket to protect them from sunburn in the warmer months. Because of the thick and heavy nature of their undercoats, however, Shiba Inus tend to fare much better in extreme colder temperatures compared with extreme heat, so you need to take precautions to ensure their comfort and safety outdoors.
So can your Shiba Inu stay outside in the heat? Yes, but it is vital that you monitor your dog’s hydration levels and temperament throughout the day. Being mindful of things like how long you have been out walking with your Shiba and whether they have access to shady spots to cool down is very important. It is especially vital that they fend off dehydration as this can lead to other health complications, so ensuring they always have access to fresh, clean water both at home and on the go are vital safety measures.
Like all dogs, Shiba Inus require care in the heat, but their double coats mean they require a little extra care and monitoring on your part. Thankfully there are many steps you can take to make sure your Shiba stays healthy in the outdoor heat. Read on for tips on caring for them in the heat and the health risks of keeping them outside for long periods.
How Your Shiba Inu Dissipates Heat
To keep themselves cool, Shiba Inus will dissipate or transfer heat away from their bodies by panting since they cannot sweat it out like we do. They also dissipate unwanted heat through their paws, underbelly and nose – the reason your dog’s nose may feel especially wet in summer is due to their nasal glands secreting a watery fluid that keeps their nose moist, therefore keeping them cool.
Dangers of Keeping a Shiba Inu Outside in the Heat
Shiba Inu’s thick double coats mean they are not at high risk of developing sunburn. However, if after their shedding season they have some areas of skin exposed, you may want to use speciality dog sunscreen to protect them (or human sunscreen as long as it is non-toxic and free of para-aminobenzoic acid).
Your dog’s normal body temperature lies around 100.5 to 102.5 degrees F, so if it rises to 105 or 106 degrees, your Shiba can be at risk of heat exhaustion. This will be apparent when their panting is more labored than normal and they appear to move sluggishly.
Heatstroke in dogs is mostly caused by being left in cars on hot days. Car temperatures can shoot from 75 to 110 degrees F within 15 minutes on summer days, which can be fatal for thick-coated dogs. Shiba’s will be at risk of developing heatstroke if their body temperature reaches 107 degrees.
When your dog is dehydrated, he will appear lethargic and this is coupled with the eyes, mouth and nose appearing dry. Severe hydration in dogs includes signs such as rapid heart rate, bright red gums, weakness, shivers and eyes that appear sunken into the skull.
If you’re unsure, you can test your Shiba for signs of dehydration by pressing your index finger on the dog’s gum line so that it appears white – the time taken for the capillaries to ‘refill’ and bring the color back to the gums should be immediate in healthy dogs, but take 3 seconds or longer in dehydrated dogs.
Taking Care of Your Shiba Inu in the Heat
Provide a cool place
As well as turning up the AC for them (more below), keep your Shiba cool at home if they are staying outside at home in the garden by giving them wading pools (small paddling pools) to cool off in. You could also get them a water bed to sleep on indoors. Use common sense by keeping blinds and drapes drawn on very hot days.
Installing a home air conditioning unit is a must for Shiba Inus living in a hot climate (or an environment that experiences particularly scorching summers). The Department of Energy recommends keeping your AC unit no higher than between 78 – 80 degrees if you’re leaving your pet indoors. You can also keep a fan on while you’re at home for added ventilation.
Pack their favorite water bowl with you when you know you’ll be going on long walks. Alternatively, pack a collapsible portable water bowl so your Shiba will always have access to clean drinking water – and keep you sports water bottle next to a freezable cooling pack to keep them nicely chilled.
Temperature Safety Standards
A dog’s body temperature is around 3-4 degrees higher than humans, so a general rule for maintaining heat safety standards is if it feels uncomfortable for you, it’s going to be too hot for your pooch. When it’s between 30 and 75 degrees outside, this is good weather for going on walks without overheating. Temperatures above 75 are risky for Shiba Inus to be exposed to for long periods and should never be left in cars when temperatures reach this high.
Consider getting a pet temperature monitor so you can assess your dog’s temperature levels in real time in the home or whilst in your car. This can be handy if you’re away at work and need to check that home temperatures have not reached critical levels.
Protecting Your Shiba Inu’s Paws, Nose, and Skin in the Heat
Your dog’s skin can lose elasticity when they are dehydrated and their nose and paws can become uncomfortably dry if neglected in the sun, so it’s important to offer them extra protection in the heat with these simple solutions:
Paws – certain surfaces and sidewalks can become red hot on scorching summer days, which can sometimes burn or blister the skin on your dog’s paw pads. Ouch! Make sure to take them for walks during cooler parts of the day, like early morning or later at night. You can protect their paws daily with paw balm to keep their foot pads moisturized.
Nose – Dehydration or sunburn can cause your Shiba’s nose to become dry and irritated. To prevent soreness of their nose before they head outside in summer, give them a nourishing and hydrating nose balm – this will soothe and calm cracked or irritated noses, just like lip balm does for humans, so be sure to treat your doggies nose well too!
Skin – It’s unfortunately common for Shiba Inus to develop itchy skin on the feet, belly, folds of the skin and behind their ears. This can be caused by mite or insect bites or from sunburn and seasonal allergies, so it’s important to discuss what the cause may be with your vet. Your vet will then be able to recommend appropriate herbal medicines or skin balms to help bring down any inflammation from itching and soothe dry, cracked or sunburnt areas.
Should You Shave Your Shiba Inu in the Summer?
As much as it may seem like shaving a layer off your Shiba Inu will make him cooler, it is recommended that you never shave them, since their double coat is what protects their skin against sunburn.
Diet in the Summer
Dry dog food or ‘kibble’ can be dehydrating to dogs, so it’s wise to prioritize wet dog foods for your Shiba Inu in summer as these have a high moisture content of around 75 percent compared with the 6-10 percent in kibble.
As long as you are keeping your doh well hydrating and feeding him balanced food rich in nutrients and vitamins, there’s no reason why their diet should drastically change in summer. A good tip though is to maybe change their feeding times: Since digestion has a warming effect which affects their circulation, feed your Shiba in the cooler morning or evening hours of the day.
What You Should Do if Your Shiba Inu is Overheating
When your Shiba Inu overheats, he will seem sluggish and unresponsive. If this is accompanied by heavy panting and a bright red color in the gums and tongue and/or vomiting, you must call your vet immediately. Noticing these symptoms as soon as possible can prevent him from collapsing or suffering a seizure.
While waiting for the vet to treat your Shiba, you can keep him cool with wet towels and a cool water spray or give him ice chips to chew on. In fact, it’s a good idea to keep one of his treats or toys ready chilled in the freezer in case of such emergencies.