Summertime sure does bring back a lot of fond memories. During your childhood, you always looked forward to summer because of that long three month break from school. As an adult, you look forward to those summer vacations and outdoor activities. But one member of your family may not like summer as much as you do…your dog! As temperatures rise, the risk for heatstroke in dogs goes up with it.
Dogs naturally run hotter than humans. The average temperature of a dog is 102.5, nearly four degrees higher than a human’s average body temperature. To make things worse, dogs don’t cool down as efficiently as humans do. We have sweat glands all over our bodies to help us cool down. Dog’s only have sweat glands on the two areas not covered by fur, their nose and pads.
Since dogs naturally have a higher body temperature and they can’t cool off as well as we can, that leads to asking the following question
Factors to Consider
Although 90 degrees is a good rule of thumb, it doesn’t apply to all dogs. Many things come into play when trying to figure out how hot is too hot for your dog. Take the following into consideration.
It should come as no surprise that some breeds handle hot weather much better than others. Big dogs tend to hold onto heat much more than small dogs, so smaller dogs can handle warmer weather.
Brachycephalic (short snouted) breeds such as boxers, pugs, and bulldogs don’t do well in hot weather because they can’t properly cool themselves off. Humans sweat to cool off, dogs pant. Panting helps release heat from the body. Short nosed dogs suffer from inefficient panting, which means they can’t cool themselves off as well as a dog with a typical nose. This would be the equivalent of a human not being able to sweat.
Obese dogs hold onto heat much longer than a dog of healthy weight. If your pooch is carrying around some extra fat, be sure to keep a close eye on them during hot days. It’s much harder for them to stay cool than it is for a dog that is in the healthy body fat range.
For a dog to cool off, their body (including all the major organs) needs to be functioning correctly. Puppies have organs that are still developing. Older dogs have organs that don’t work as well as they once did. If you have a puppy under six months or an older dog approaching the final stages of life, it’s best to keep them indoors during hot days.
It’s not just about what the thermometer says. Humidity plays a significant role in dehydration. An 80-degree day can quickly feel like 95+ with high humidity. On extra humid days, be sure your dog always has plenty of cold water.
This is a big one. Generally speaking, dogs do a great job adapting to their environment. If your dog has always lived in a cold area like North Dakota, his body has adapted to cold weather. However, if you take your dog on a trip to Arizona during the summer months, your pooch won’t be able to handle anything close to those temperatures because that’s not what their body has adapted to. Be very cautious of taking vacations to hot climate areas if your dog isn’t adapted to warm weather. If they’re used to 60-degree weather, 80 is going to feel very hot for them.
There are a few other factors that impact how much heat your dog can handle, but the point of this section is to show you that each dog is different. It’s not about know how much heat can the average dog handle, it’s about knowing how much heat can YOUR dog handle.
Signs of Overheating
The only way to figure this out if it’s too hot for your dog outside is to let your dog run around outdoors while you supervise them. If they begin to show signs of overheating, that’s your signal that it’s too hot outside for them. Be careful when doing this. Don’t push your dog to the limit to see how much they can handle. Overheating can lead to heat stroke in dogs, which can be deadly.
Here are some of the signs of a heat stroke to be on the lookout for.
Excessive panting is the first thing you’ll notice when your dog is starting to overheat. Panting here and there is normal, but if it’s excessive and seems uncontrollable, your dog is beginning to overheat.
If your dog is dehydrated, the heat will only make it worse. Luckily dehydration is easy to spot. You’ll notice their eyes start to sink, and their nose and mouth become dry. You can also check for dehydration by using the skin elasticity effect. Gently pull up on the skin of your dog, if the skin doesn’t immediately go back down, your dog is probably dehydrated.
If you have high energy dog, but they don’t want to do anything but lay down in the shade, that’s a sign they’re overheating.
Digging in The Yard
One of the main reasons dogs dig during the summer is to try to cool off. They know the surface of the yard is the hottest part, so they dig up the surface to uncover a cooler layer to lay on. If you notice your dog only digs in the yard during hot summer days, it’s most likely because they’re creating a cooler surface for themselves.
Hyperventilating and Vomiting
If your dog starts to hyperventilate or vomit, that means they may be suffering from a heat stroke. If this happens, immediately get your dog out of the heat, bring them some water with ice cubes in it and call your vet to figure out the next steps.
Use Common Sense
Lastly, just use common sense when looking for signs. You know your dog better than anyone else does. If something seems “off”, then common sense should tell you that they don’t like how hot it is outside and want to cool off. Dog owners tend to follow a lot of hard set rules, but that’s not always the best thing to do. Each dog is different, and dog owners need to look for those unique signs that only their dog would give.
How to Keep a Dog Safe on Scorching Days
The key to keeping your dog safe during scorching hot days is to keep their body temperature under 104 degrees. The average dog’s body temperature is 102.5, you wan to keep it as close to that number as possible, but if it gets over 104, your pet is now at risk of overheating. Here are some things you can do to keep your dog’s body temperature low.
Provide Cold Water Throughout The Day
On those scorching summer days, you want to keep an eye on the water bowl and continue to refresh it throughout the day. Even if water is still in the bowl, empty it and put some fresh, cold water in. Cold water will help cool your dog’s body temperature much more than room temperature water.
Take Early Morning Or Evening Walks
We often think the pads of dogs feet are weatherproof. But the truth is if the sidewalk feels hot to you, it’s going to feel hot for your dog. Sure, dogs paws can handle more heat than our feet can, but not much. On days that are 90+ degrees, it’s best to walk your dog in the early morning or the evening when the sun is going down.
Don’t Leave Them Outdoors Unsupervised
The last thing you want to do is leave your dog outside unsupervised for an extended time. They may seem fine at first, but once overheating begins to happen, it’s a rapid downfall. Even if they have access to shade, they can still overheat.
Use a Cooling Vest
If you live in a warm climate area, cooling vests are fantastic! These help keep your dog cool through evaporative cooling. This technology has been around since the days of the Egyptians, and we still use it to this day in the form of swamp coolers. But we just now figured out how to use it for our dogs! We won’t bore you with the science here, but these vests are decently priced and can be a game changer for your dog in hot weather.
Have Fun in a Kiddie Pool
There are some cheap kiddie pools made just for dogs. If your dog loves taking a dip in the water, this is a great way to cool them off. On a side note, if your dog is unsure about water, kiddie pools are a great way to introduce them to swimming.
Skip The Hair Cut?
At first thought, it might make sense to cut the hair during those hot summer days, but this may not be the best idea. Dogs fur can actually keep them cool!
It does this by protecting their skin from the sun. The more sun the skin receives, the hotter their body temperature will be. It’s also true that dogs can get sunburn and even skin cancer, so shaving the hair during summer days can do more harm than good.
Those are the primary methods we use during the summer to keep our dogs safe from the heat. Notice we didn’t talk much about leaving your dog in the car because we hope you already understand the dangers of a hot car. If you ever see a pet left inside a car, call the police immediately. They have the right to break the window to get the pet out.
We also didn’t talk about what to do when your dog is showing signs of heatstroke because the ONLY thing you should do is get them to the vet as soon as possible. Heat strokes are serious and something a professional should handle.
Of course, the best way to keep your dog cool during hot days is to leave your pet in an air conditioned house.
A responsible dog owner is always prepared. We have technology that lets us know the weather days in advance, so if you see a heatwave coming and think it might be too hot for your dog, be prepared to take the necessary steps to keep them cool. This is also where a pet insurance company can come in handy. They might be able to get you a good discount on items such as a cooling vest or doggie kiddie pool. Just remember to keep your dog’s body temperature as close to 102.5 as possible. This will help them escape the dangers of overheating.
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