Certain dog breeds are more at risk when it comes to climate change. A new study conducted by Scientific Reports analyzes data to determine which breeds suffered most in high temperatures, and their vulnerability factors.
The past five years have been the hottest on record, and dogs, like humans, can suffer adverse effects and illness when temperatures climb. According to Bloomberg, at least 395 dogs in the U.K. received veterinary care for heat-related illnesses in 2016, which was the hottest year globally. Of those illnesses reported, 56 dogs died, making for a 14% mortality rate.
Scientific Reports’ study sites three main risk factors that corresponded with heat illness and death: weight, age and skull anatomy.
The study found that dogs weighing more than 110 pounds are more vulnerable to heat stress, and those 12 years old and older were much more at risk than any other age group. Age and weight are huge susceptibility factors for humans in high temperatures as well.
Breed-wise, purebred dogs are generally more at susceptible, especially dogs with flat faces and wide skulls, like English bulldogs and cavalier King Charles spaniels, which are twice as likely to become ill in hot weather compared to beagles, border collies and other dogs with longer snouts.
Other factors that played a role in heat illness include coat thickness and muscle ratio.
According to the study, golden retrievers are 2.7 times more likely than labradors to suffer from heat-related illness “despite being of similar size, temperament and purpose.” This may be due to golden retrievers’ thicker coat.
Greyhounds were found to have 4.3 greater susceptibility to heat than labradors. Jan Hoole, a lecturer in biology at Keele University, though not involved in the study, explained to Bloomberg that greyhounds have a high ratio of muscle and may be inclined to run even on the hottest days. High ratio of muscle has been shown to have correlation with greater risk of heatstroke after exercising.
“Dogs are going to be affected by climate change in incredibly similar ways to humans going forward,” said Emily Hall, the study’s lead author, who is a senior lecturer at Nottingham Trent University. “When we think about mitigating strategies to protect humans from heat, we’re going to need to consider dogs in just the same way.”
Climate change poses other risks for canines as well. According to an article published last year by USA Today, climate change is playing a factor in a wider distribution of diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, heartworm and Lyme disease, all diseases which can cause illness and death in dogs. Rises in Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever can be tied to warming climates and boosts in tick and mosquito population, while increasing natural disasters can play a role in distributing heartworm throughout different parts of the country as dogs are moved from state to state to be adopted.
The above slideshow exhibits the dogs most vulnerable to heat illness, according to the Scientific Reports’ study.