Climate change and dog welfare part one
In one of our last podcasts we recently spoke about different topics and current affairs. It was a really good chat. One of the topics raised was climate change. How climate change is currently impacting dogs and how it can impact them in the future.
I was stumped, I don't mind saying it. This is a topic I have not come across, I haven't seen colleagues raise it or discuss it and I haven't seen any research papers on it.
So I began a little project, because I love researching and I love answering questions, especially the hard questions.
I was dismayed to find only a few papers! I found a few scholar papers and lots of bloggers sharing how your dog's carbon paw print is affecting the environment, but not solutions or support which I found super disappointing.
I don't know if this is because I am very eco aware, such as being enrolled in Ecology for several years now, using natural cleaning products etc and being more herbal based and aware and conscientious of protected or endangered species. Of course purchasing recycled goods at every opportunity and recycling as much as I can. So I just assumed everyone is doing their part. How wrong was I? The main culprit being pet businesses (the large conglomerates, not small businesses and of course manufacturers).
For me as a millenial my whole life at school was centred around climate change, the ozone layer and being recycle conscious and planet friendly.
People who have followed me for years of work with me know I often talk about the weather, how hot it is and unsafe for dogs, how winter can be brutal with the sudden change in the weather and how it seems to postpone each year making it worse for the dog's as well as their coats and of course how the weather such as the wind and atmospheric pressure can alter dog behaviour.
Anyway, I'm going to circle back to this area.
It's 2023 and still people are reporting dogs in hot cars, dogs passing away from heat stroke, collapse, needing emergency care, being walked or run in hot weather!
2023! I cannot personally get my head around this. I did say on the podcast in my little geek brain that obviously genetics will affect evolution and adaptability to hotter weather, but what about our current dogs?
How long will it take for genetics to adapt enough to keep up with the hot weather each year? If for example a litter is born every year, what if the heat rises further each year? Our dogs and animals are going to be constantly struggling.
So back to the research: military dogs were recorded as having the highest fatalities due to heat related deaths and pet dogs living in the UK and Israel are reported to suffer the most from heat related illnesses due to physical activity. (1)(2)(3)
From this information we know that temperatures rising are affecting dogs across the globe, which could potentially alter the relationship between dogs and their human bond and dogs roles within society as we know it today.
This research paper specifically was concerned with activity levels for dogs amongst different countries from the UK to Australia and the impact that the hot weather has vs winter weather, activity levels, canine health and obesity.
To summarise the researchers found that 80% of the guardians they spoke to, were more mindful of the heat than the winter and many carried water with them. But would throw balls for the dogs to chase and retrieve which of course means high intensity activity once a day which negatively impacts dogs and their recommended exercise allowance per day. As their bodies cannot cool down as rapidly as they could just going for a walk on lead.
Unless we use Pitpat as an example we cannot monitor how much exercise our dog has had and if they have reached their goal, whereas early morning walks and late evening in the cooler periods means that the dog can have their recommended amount of exercise and reduced risk of repetitive injuries or heat related illnesses.
They also found that dogs who were unfit or classified as obese struggle with thermoregulation and high intensity activity, which causes the dogs body to overheat as their temperature runs higher. Also that there was a misunderstanding of guardians understanding their dogs capabilities due to their breed, with springer spaniels and collies being at higher risk of overheating. (4)
Conversely the other problem they found was the guardians willingness to take their dog out in winter due to the cold weather and wintery conditions. Meaning all year round that dogs are struggling to get the daily activity that they need to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle for their welfare. (5)
Which concluded for both the researchers and myself that there has to be better education campaigns whether this comes from us or the media.
So following more research, as always I will do a mini series on this, for solutions as to how we can support our dogs to have their best welfare needs met year round. As dog professionals we have a duty of care to educate guardians to promote the best welfare for their dog. The weather is changing and global warming is a real problem, coming up with solutions and supporting guardians, is so much better for everyone rather than just listing problems.
Miller L., Pacheco G.J., Janak J.C., Grimm R.C., Dierschke N.A., Baker J., Orman J.A. Causes of Death in Military Working Dogs During Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, 2001–2013. Mil. Med. 2018;183:e467–e474. doi: 10.1093/milmed/usx235.
Hall E., Carter A., O’Neill D. Dogs Don’t Die Just in Hot Cars—Exertional Heat-Related Illness (Heatstroke) Is a Greater Threat to UK Dogs. Animals. 2020;10:1324. doi: 10.3390/ani10081324.
Segev G., Aroch I., Savoray M., Kass P.H., Bruchim Y. A novel severity scoring system for dogs with heatstroke. J. Vet. Emerg. Crit. Care. 2015;25:240–247. doi: 10.1111/vec.12284.
Nazar K., Greenleaf J.E., Pohoska E., Turlejska E., Kaciuba-Uscilko H., Kozlowski S. Exercise performance, core temperature, and metabolism after prolonged restricted activity and retraining in dogs. Aviat. Space. Environ. Med. 1992;63:684–688. doi: 10.1360/zd-2013-43-6-1064
Daniels T.J. The social organisation of free-ranging urban dogs. I. Non-estrous social behaviour. Appl. Anim. Ethol. 1983;10:341–363. doi: 10.1016/0304-3762(83)90184-0
Hall, Emily J, and Anne J Carter. “Exploring Owner Perceptions of the Impacts of Seasonal Weather Variations on Canine Activity and Potential Consequences for Human-Canine Relationships.” Animals : An Open Access Journal from MDPI, 19 Nov. 2021, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8614552/....
Image description: A dark blue background. Cream text in capital letters reads - Let's fight climate change. Climate change and our dogs. Learn what you can do to help.
There is a 3d image of the planet earth with a sad face and crosses for eyes. The earth has orange and yellow triangles behind representing fire. There is a 3d thermometer to the left of the image with the mercury at the maximum level.
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