During winter, it’s not uncommon to find a lot of dog owners bringing their pets indoors. Normally this means keeping them inside your home. Other times it means keeping them in a garage, storage shed, or dog house. There’s some controversy about whether leaving your dog in a garage is a good idea, but for some people it’s a necessity. Some dogs are just too rambunctious to be kept the main house without chewing on the furniture or damaging your belongings. In these situations, a properly heated garage or storage space may be the best solution.

If you do decide keeping your dog in a garage or storage shed the right choice, you’ll want to make sure the space is properly heated: not too hot, not too cold. Infrared heaters or NewAir garage heaters are often the best choice because they’re designed to work in areas with high exposure to the elements, such as sheds and garages. As effective as they are, these sorts of heaters can also cause problems if you don’t use them properly. Many dog owners are so concerned with their dogs getting too cold, they don’t pay attention to whether the heater they’re using is too hot. Overheating your dog can cause some very serious health problems, including dehydration, vomiting, and in extreme cases, even death. If you want to keep your dog safe and happy this winter, make sure you know the signs your dog it too hot, the best heater features to look for, and how best to use your heater to keep your dog safe and warm during winter.

How to Tell If Your Dog Is Too Hot

Below are all the signs telling you when your dog is too hot. If your dog displays any of the following symptoms when you come home, it may be time to adjust the heat settings on your heater or switch altogether.

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Rapid Panting
Tongue Bright Red
Extreme Thirst
Heavy Drooling
Saliva is Thick and Sticky
Elevated Body Temperature
Eyes are Glazed
Gums are Red or Pale
Rapid Heartbeat or Pulse
Exhaustion or Lack of Energy
General Weakness or Collapse

If you notice your dog is overheating, the first thing you need to do is cool it down. Move him or her to a cooler location and soak them with cool water, if they’re big, or lukewarm water if they’re small. Avoid very cold water. Cooling your dog down too much or too quickly is just as dangerous as letting them overheat. You can speed up the cooling process by using a fan to increase air movement over their fur. If you have a rectal thermometer, check your dog’s temperature as well. It should be between 101 and 102.5°F. Anything over that and they’re suffering from some form of heat exhaustion. Keep up your efforts until your dog’s temperature starts falling. Once it hits 103°F, you can stop. Your dog’s natural cooling mechanisms should be enough to bring its temperature under control all on its own. If your dog’s temperature remains far above 102.5°F, take it to the vet immediately.

The good news is that dogs are a lot more heat resistant that you think. They don’t enjoy big swings in body temperature, but, just like humans, their bodies know how to cope. They have a few sweat glands in their feet and ear canals, but those don’t how a major impact on their body temperature. Panting is their primary method of heat control. If you’re not familiar with how it works, when a dog breathes through its nose, the air it pulls in picks up moisture (that’s why dog’s noses are always wet). That moisture absorbs heat from the dog’s body and then when the dog exhales, the heat gets expelled out through the mouth. This is why you should pay attention to how rapidly your dog pants when it’s under a heater. The faster it pants, the harder it’s working to keep its body temperature under control.

How to Keep Your Dog From Getting Too Hot

The easiest way to keep your heater from making your dog too hot is to make sure your heater is properly sized. This can be more difficult than it sounds. Most heating guidelines assume someone will be there to turn down the heater when it gets too warm, so they’re more concerned with whether the heater has enough heating power, not whether it’s going to be too hot. The best way to size your heater is to calculate the heat rise and the amount of power needed to achieve it. Heat based on heat rise: the difference between the temperature outside and the temperature you want it to be inside. For example, if it’s 40°F outside and you want it to be 70°F inside, the heat rise would be 30°F.

It takes 0.24 BTU to raise the temperature of 1 cubic foot of air 1°F. BTU is a measure of energy – the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. Heaters are normally rated according to the amount of BTUs they can produce. In order to find how many BTU you need to raise the temperature to your desired level, multiply the volume of the space by 0.24 and then multiply that number by the heat rise.

Room Volume * 0.24 * Heat Rise = Required BTU

For example, if your garage was 20 x 20 x 8 ft. (3200 cubic feet) and you wanted to raise the temperature by 30°F, the formula would be:

3200 *0.24 * 30 = 23,040 BTU

So in order to heat the garage from 40°F to 70°F, we’d need a heater rated for at least 23,040 BTU. Heaters, particularly electric heaters like the NewAir G56 and NewAir G73, are also rated according to watts. Watts measure the rate of energy flow. One watt is the equivalent of 3.41 BTUs. Convert BTUs by dividing by 3.41.

23,040 BTU/3.41 = 6757 Watts

These formulas tell you the minimum amount of power your heater needs to heat up the space where you’re keeping your dog, but they don’t tell the whole story. The amount of heat a dog requires depends on its size and the thickness of its coat. Smooth coated breed lose more body heat than thick coated breeds, which is why a greyhound needs more heat than a Siberian husky. Brachiocephalic (short-nosed) breeds like pugs, boxers, and bulldogs are also vulnerable to high temperatures because it’s harder for them to breathe and pant, so they have a harder time cooling down when they get hot.

The best advice? Try your heater out with your dog. Adjust it until your dog isn’t panting or shivering. That’s the heater setting they’ll be most comfortable at.

The best advice, once you know how big your heater should be, is to experiment. Set the heater up in the garage or storage shed and spend some time there with your dog. Turn the heater up to a comfortable temperature and see how it reacts. If it starts shivering, turn the heater up. If it starts panting, turn the heater down until it stops. That will be the best temperature for them.Puppies also have different heat requirements than adult dogs. Most dogs begin experiencing symptoms of heat stroke at 80°-85°F, but not puppies. Because they can’t produce their own body heat, puppies require temperatures of 85°-90° for the first week of life, falling to 80°-85°F for the next week, 75°-80°F for the third week, and finally 70°-75°F for the fourth week. After that, they’re normally capable of surviving at ordinary room temperatures.

Things Watch Out For

Heaters can be dangerous for dogs in other ways too. Dogs are curious creatures, so if your heater isn’t insulated or has exposed heating elements, it might burn them if they sniff it or paw at it. Buy a heater that has protective grills over the heating coils and is cool to the touch. If you can, keep it out of reach so they can’t knock it over. Wall mounted heaters like the NewAir G73 are ideal in this regard. They’re attached to the wall, away from your dog, and can be angled to provide heat to the entire room.

Unattended heaters can also start fires. The best way to avoid this is to buy a heater with overheat and tip over protection. These feature shut the heater down if it gets too hot or if it gets knocked over, preventing fires and burns. Fortunately they come standard on most modern heaters such as the NewAir G73 and the NewAir G56 Garage Heater. Make sure you also keep them at least six inches away from the walls and three feet from anything combustible (curtains, clothes, rags, paper, cardboard, etc.).

How to Setup a Heater for Your Dog

The best way to keep your dog warm in a garage or storage shed is to position the heater so it heats as much of the space as possible. That way your dog can move around freely without getting cold. The easiest way to do this is to place the heater on a wall mount or ceiling mount, to place it in a corner, facing out into the room. NewAir garage heaters work using a combination of infrared heat and fan-forced convection, so they’re very effective at transferring lots of heat very quickly. If your dog sleeps in a crate, it may be a good idea to position the heater nearby, to heat their bed.

Infrared heat diminishes in proportion to your distance from the heat source, so if your garage is very large, placing several heaters around the room is the best way to make sure it’s heated evenly. If you’re dog likes to run around, the last thing you want to do is create cold zones for them to avoid.

Infrared heat is also directional. You have to be standing in front of it to feel it, so if you’re still worried about your heating being too hot, you can direct the heat into one corner or one half of the garage. That way, your dog has a cool zone to retreat to if it starts getting a bit too warm.

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