Border Collies and Heat

We recently posed the question to you, our customers, how do you deal with your Border Collies and heat? Is it safe to run them in trials when the weather gets above 100 degrees? How do you prepare the dogs for the heat?

Many of you asked that we share the answers we received. Here is a listing of some of those answers. We make no guarantees that any of these work. We are just passing along information from fellow Border Collie owners.

Border Collies are prone to exercise increases in temperature because of their (1) high activity levels combined with a relatively small body mass in dog breeds resulting in a (2) smaller surface to mass ratio (worse in smaller young dogs therefore, like Mickey) and a greater tendency for heat storage and made worse in a hot environment by (3) their largely dark (back) colour increasing radiation heat absorption. That's it esentially although there could clearly be a genetic component. With regard to optimising thermoregulation certainly adequate rehydration is critical as dogs lose almost all their generated excess heat by panting (huge diversion of their cardiac output to the tonge region) with huge water losses (much of which does not evaporate and therefore is useless in terms of heat loss --as in humans). Forget the electrolytes, Gatorade, etc. Now hot humans divert a huge percentage of their increased cardiac output duirng exercise to the skin where there are numerous dilated vessels and this dilatation is a DIRECT consequence of the increased sweating -- a great response although the mechanism is totally unknown. Hence if you use ice vests or pour water on your body, get into the water or a cold bath, etc. this will increase your heat loss enormously (but a conductive process and a different and less effective heat loss mechanism than the evaporation of sweat). But dogs don't have such a plethora of sweat glands (almost none), and hence do NOT (cannot) divert large volumes of blood into their skin blood vessels (and the skin is covered with hair anyway) when their body temperature starts to rise, so pouring cold water over them, thorwing them into a lake or trough -- is frankly a TOTAL waste of time and may make the dog continue its activity, increasing heat storage and making the situation worse. Ideally you need to run a stream of cold water through their mouth if that were possible and put them in a cold environment and/or blow a fan on them -- BUT ONLY TO INCREASE THE AIR FLOW through their open, panting mouth and decrease local humidity, increase evaporation and increase cooling (in humans of course a fan increases the rate of evaporative heat loss from the dilated blood vessels as the sweat evaporates). Panting is not a gas exchange mechanism in dogs -- it is a thermally dependent response designed exclusively to increase air flow over the local structures in the mouth and increase water evaporation from these areas which have a huge blood flow (enormous actually). So while placing a person with imminent heat stroke into cold water or whatever is a good idea it is totally without ANY scientific foundation in dogs.

For cool dogs - if they don't chew - I freeze a 2 liter pop bottle & put it in the crate - they can lick the condensation as it cools the crate. I give them a bit of salty something to help encourage drinking. I also shave bellies on the roughs leaving side, rear & front fringe so no one can tell.

While traveling we use crate fans, frozen, wet towels in the bottom of the crates,and make sure they have cool water in front of them. If it gets really hot, we open the sliding rear window of the pickup and the sliding rear window of the camper shell, put a 'boot' between them to direct the cold air from the pickup to the camper shell and 'share' the air conditioning. We are not as comfortable that way but it does provide some relief to the dogs.

I use a small amount of top quality electrolytes and have been doing so for years.
I also have a kids wading pool out where my dog can get cooled off whenever she chooses, although that isn't really an option during trials.

I ran my guys over the 4th of July heat and it was in the high 90's with a heat index of over a 100. I invested in fans for each crate and I used the Proselect ones that you can add a frozen insert to the front of the crate so they get 'cold" air blowing on them. They also immediately came off the field and got to get into a stock tank or kiddie pool with cool water in it.

It should be your job to ensure that they are shaded and restricted from excessive exercise when they are not trialing. Of course, if overheated, they should be hosed down and flushed with cold water until they appear to have stabilized. Ask the vet exactly how to handle overheating and pack whatever you need to accordingly.

I have never used electrolyte products for dogs, but a quick search revealed such products. To prevent dehydration and encourage water intake, consider such a product, under advice from your vet. I would try it on the dogs before they head out to the trials to make sure they tolerate it.

Well, we runners prepare to run in the heat by training in the heat. 1) Get fit, 2) Train at altitude, and 3) Do some training in the heat. I have absolutely no idea if dog physiology is similar to human physiology.

My vet advises me to give my borders gatorade to prevent / assist in cases of dehydration (if you can get them to drink it - I have 2 who will, and two who won't!). I also cool them down with wet towels, especially around the head/neck area.

I don't know if you can purchase Goji Juice in the US or not. I have started putting it in my dogs water and she loves it. I give her about a her home at 9 weeks so I guess she thinks that is the only choice of water she has.

If you have been feeding the Canine Essentials consistently for 3-4 weeks it should help with heat tolerance. Reports from others that are trialing in the heat say that it is helping.

One thing I've used with my Border Collie, is a sports energy drink such as Powerade, it contains B vitamins which will keep their energy level up and electrolytes to help handle fluid deficit. It helps to keep from dehydration while keeping their energy level up.

We have two active Border Collies.... even though they are mostly pets. Being from Florida where the summer temps are frequently in the mid to high nineties and humidity is the same....
I've found keeping them hydrated and wet with a fan seems to work the best for them. My black and white is a thick rough coat and he frequently take a dip in our pool 4 and 5 times a day....I think whether he needs the cooling or not! Both love their ice cubes too as an extra treat!

I had my Open dog heat stroke a couple years ago and we almost lost him. We weren't trialing, but were doing chore stuff like worming and sorting for rams. I have always allowed my dogs freedom to go to water whenever they feel the need and I kept a cooler with water open for him to drink. Apparently he still lost too much fluid and didn't stay cool enough;the next day I couldn't discount his quiet for tired and ran him in to the vet. Even though she didn't see anything abnormal she trusts my opinion and did a quick blood check finding his buffy coat almost nonexistent. He spent two full days in ICU with an IV pouring fluids into him before he was pronounced well enough to come home. One of the things she said to look for is a bad smell coming out of their mouth. I know that isn't too scientific, but a healthy dog shouldn't have an odor to his breath. My dogs always have a small ice chest of their own now with ice and water. They love it. I have added broth to the water at times to encourage drinking, but it has a lot of sodium so you should be careful.

The biggest help is to get your dog used to the heat and have your dog wet BEFORE you run. Good and wet so that the evaporation will keep him cooler. Keep him in the shade, but not necessarily in a dog box or crate, they don't have much air circulation. Most importantly, know your dog!!!! Don't ignore the signs of heat prostration: weaving, heavy panting, ignoring commands, forgetting where he was, general lack of focus. I realize that all dogs can do that and be normal, that is why you must know what is normal for your dog. The bad thing about BC's is that they will literally work themselves into a grave.

If you suspect it, immediately get your dog big time wet, preferably immersing him in water rather than a hose. They cannot disperse that heat quick enough and the water bath will help pull it out. Keep them on wet towels and/or move them to AC. Squirt water in their mouth in small amounts or feed them ice. Keep them cool for several days after because it takes a while to get over the heat.

Two good articles:

Try the Cool Vests ( has some as does and possibly others) u soak it in and it doesn't drip. Place it on the dog and as the dog gets hot the water evaporates and cools down the dog. There is also two different cool beds. One you fill with water and it automatically cools the dog another you soak in water wring and it uses the same concept as the vest. Crate fans, fan misters, ice pack holders that go over fans. Especially read up on heat exhaustion and it's symptoms because it can lead to heat stroke which can be deadly. Know how to cool a dog effectively and immediately if need be. Know the cooling zones and not put ice water on those zones, just cool water. Might want to dip the dogs in a kiddie pool before a run. Let them drip dry so they aren't sopping wet. I did this for my dog at the last trial and it worked pretty good. Granted it wasn't nearly as hot... Check out shop and their supplements. I believe they had a bunch for rehydrating dogs.

I put ice in their water dishes, place them in the shade, and try to get fans or wind over them. I was thinking a wire crate rather than my normal crates. I am thinking of putting a 30" by 12 in metal tub in the kennels so the dogs can wet themselves if they want and a putting the sprinklers near them so they have the wind blowing off the sprinklers and into there kennels. I also have been playing with the misters I pick up at Costco that is said to cool the area 15 degrees or more when it is on. But that would be hard to travel with. So battery fans, ice water in a spray bottle, and shade are musts when the temp is this high .

I work my dogs in the heat of the day.... start off very short sessions and then build it up. The more they get used to it, the more they tolerate a little more heat. Of course, you still have to be careful about overheating even if you think they are more tolerant.

"Balanced Fat" a supplement made originally for sled dogs by Red Paw Feeds. It's made the difference between hitting a "wall" at 10-12 minutes of hot work, and lasting much much longer.
If you feed dry food it needs to be wet thoroughly to increase hydration and prevent dehydration by trapping the water in the dry kibble in the stomach.

I make sure that all my animals use a good antioxidant, and that's especially important during work in the heat. I order a greens food antioxidant "cookie" from KV Vet and would be happy to forward that link if you're not familiar with that catalog. That's not a quick fix, for sure, but such hard work produces tons of free radicals, and it would be important to boost the body's already taxed stores.

Get the dog's body temperature down before running it by providing ice water to drink and by putting frozen towels in the crate. Use fans if you can running over ice. Vitamin E and fat are important in their diet to help them in the heat.

These are just a few of the suggestions we received. Like we said at the start, we are not guaranteeing the accuracy of these suggestions, just passing along what other Border Collie owners have reported to help them.