Your dog’s lifestyle is very different from their wild ancestors who lived outdoors year round. Before domestication, dogs had tougher paw pads, less body fat, and were able to gradually adjust to warmer temperatures throughout the spring and summer. Because our modern pups live alongside us in climate-controlled environments, it’s important to be aware of how high temperatures can affect your dog before exercising outdoors on a hot day.
What temperature is too hot to walk your dog?
Generally, at temperatures above 89° Fahrenheit, most dogs are at risk of heat stroke and you should avoid walking your dog when it’s 90°F or hotter. For many dogs, outdoor activity at temperatures above 82°F can be dangerous, and for some dogs even temperatures in the 70°-77° range can be too hot.
High humidity can be dangerous too. When the air is humid panting is less effective at evaporating moisture, so dogs have a harder time cooling off. Justine Lee, DVM, DACVECC, DABT, & Board-certified veterinary specialist recommends this method of factoring in humidity as well as temperature:
If temp (in °F) + humidity level add up to 150 or higher, avoid exercising your dog outdoors. For example: an 80° day with 80% humidity is too hot to walk your dog.
As dog parents know, each dog is unique! Exactly how hot is too hot to walk your dog depends on several factors, including:
- Breed: Brachycephalic breeds (dogs with flat faces) like English bulldogs, Shih-Tzus, and Pugs, are more prone to heatstroke in hot weather because it’s more difficult for them to cool off by panting.
- Body type/size: Small dogs have a greater ratio of surface-area-to-mass, so they can dissipate heat more quickly than large dogs. Overweight dogs overheat more quickly than lean dogs.
- Age: Senior dogs and puppies aren’t able to regulate their body temperature as well as adult dogs. Senior dogs are also more sensitive to heat and humidity. Puppies are high-energy, which makes it easy for them to overexert themselves quickly on hot days.
- Overall health: Certain health conditions can make dogs more vulnerable to heat, such as heart or respiratory diseases. If your dog has been diagnosed with a chronic health issue, be sure to ask your vet if they’re at greater risk of heat exhaustion.
- Coat thickness: Double-coated breeds (like Golden Retrievers) can overheat more quickly than short-haired dogs (like Labrador Retrievers).
- Coat color: Dark-colored dogs will absorb more heat from sunlight compared to light-colored dogs.
The general temperature range your dog is already acclimated to also matters. Keeping humidity and these other factors in mind, you can use the chart below to determine if it’s too hot to walk your dog:
|100°||It’s too hot to walk your dog.|
|85°||Dangerous heat for all dogs – use extreme caution or avoid walking outside if your dog is large or at risk.|
|80°||Walking outside is potentially unsafe, and could be dangerous for larger dogs. Modify or skip your walk.|
|75°||Risk is unlikely for small & medium breeds, but use caution with large or at-risk dogs.|
|69°||Small & medium dogs have low risk of overheating, but some large breeds may be at risk|
|64°||Enjoy your walk!|
Check the pavement temperature, too
Asphalt, concrete and/or sand on a sunny day can potentially be 40°-60° hotter than the air temperature. If it’s 75°F and sunny the pavement could be 125°F, which can damage your pup’s paws in as little as 60 seconds. Puppies are especially vulnerable to hot surfaces since their paws haven’t developed callouses yet.
A quick way to check if the pavement is too hot is to place your hand (or bare foot) on a sunny part of the pavement. If you can’t comfortably keep your hand there for 10 seconds, the pavement is too hot for your dog’s paws, which can burn and blister (just like your feet would without shoes).
Contact with hot pavement also raises your dog’s body temperature, which can lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Signs of heat stroke in dogs
Heat stroke (hyperthermia) can happen to any animal whose body temperature is abnormally high. Dogs already have a higher core body temperature than people (101°-102.5°F is normal for dogs), and they’re even more sensitive to heat than we are. So it’s important to know the warning signs and help your dog avoid overheating.
The good news is that heat-related illnesses, like heat stroke, are almost always preventable. When the hot weather hits, it’s important to keep your dog cool. If your dog is outside on a hot day, be aware of some of signs of overheating:
- Fast panting
- Excessive drooling
- Bright red,blue or bruised gums
- Dry or sticky gum tissue
Heat stroke is an emergency. If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms, call or take your dog to the vet as soon as you can. You should also begin to cool your dog down slowly, to avoid shock.
Move your dog out of the sun, into the shade or air conditioning. Pour cool (not cold!) water on their body to help them cool down. Avoid laying wet towels on your dog’s body unless you can constantly replace them as they warm up – otherwise they’ll trap heat. It’s okay to offer your dog some cool water to drink, but don’t force it. Make a note of what time you began cooling your dog (your vet will want to know) and turn on the air conditioning in your car before driving them to the vet.
How to safely walk your dog on hot days
If you want to get in your daily walk with your dog, but the forecast calls for a hot day, consider some of these ways to protect your dog from the heat:
Walk early… or late
Avoid going for a walk when the day is at its hottest and opt for early morning or evening walks instead.
Plan and time your route
Take a shorter walk along a shady path or street to keep cool. To prevent paw damage, walk your dog on grass instead of hot pavement. To avoid overheating, walk at a slower pace than you normally would (this is especially important for flat-faced breeds since they have a harder time breathing).
Dog boots and cooling vests can help keep your pup more comfortable in hot weather.
Take water with you
Bring a collapsible bowl and a water bottle along on your walk. If your pup is not a big fan of water, you can encourage them to stay hydrated by adding a splash of tasty bone broth.
Try alternative activities
Does your dog like to swim? Swimming is a great summer exercise for dogs! Or, consider playing a game, like tug-of-war, inside the house and stay cool. If there are air-conditioned dog-friendly stores in your area, you could take your dog for an indoor walk filled with new sights and smells. Hot days can also be a good opportunity to work on behavior training indoors!
While your dog may not spend as much time outdoors as their wild ancestors, they’ll still benefit from an ancestral diet. Stella & Chewy’s raw dog food provides complete nutrition and much more – learn about the advantages of a raw food diet for dogs.
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