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How hot is too hot for my dog?

Written by Ella White


Dog in hot weather

When the temperature rises, we know we need to drink more water and avoid the sun during the hottest times of the day. And the same goes for our dogs. Like humans, they can quickly become dehydrated in weather over 20ºC/68ºF… and since they’re covered in fur and don’t wear protective shoes, their bodies and paws can get especially hot if they’re outside in the midday heat.

With every degree of temperature, your dog’s risk of overheating increases. The general rule of thumb is to keep your dog indoors if the weather rises above 25ºC/77ºF, though many choose not to walk their dogs in anything over 20ºC/68ºF.

Puppies under 6 months, dogs over 8 years, overweight dogs, and those with breathing issues should be paid special attention to in hot weather. But it’s safest to avoid walking them between 8am and 8pm during the summer months.

Not only will your dog feel uncomfortable when they’re out in the heat, there are a number of health issues that can arise from taking them out in the sun without adequate shade and water.

This is because dogs are covered in thick hair, and they don’t sweat in the same way as humans. Dogs sweat through the tiny glands in their paws, and they also pant a lot. Neither of these methods help them to cool down in excessive heat.

For an insight into how your dog feels when being walked in hot weather, take your shoes off and stand on the patio. Though their paws are designed to withstand more than the soft skin on the soles of our feet, their paw pads are still sensitive and can burn on hot pavements.

There are five easy ways to keep your dog happy in the heat of summer:

  1. Plan your walks for early morning or late evening, when the sun isn’t out. This will help avoid the risk of heatstroke.
  2. Test the asphalt with your hands. If it’s too hot to keep your hand on for 5 seconds, it’s too hot for your dog to walk on.
  3. Keep your dog in the shade, and if they have any exposed skin invest in a doggy SFP to prevent burning.
  4. Keep their water bowl full and make sure they always have access to it, even if they’re lying out in the shade.
  5. Keep an eye on the weather so you can be prepared for extra-hot days and plan your walks and days out around the forecast.

Untreated heat stroke can lead to death, so seek medical attention if you notice any of these symptoms in hot weather:

  • Excessive panting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Lethargy and drowsiness
  • Unusual lack of coordination
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Collapsing

Because dogs rely on inefficient panting to cool down, they can easily suffer from heatstroke if they get too hot. Heatstoke can affect all dogs, but brachycephalic and flat-faced breeds face a higher risk. If you think your dog is overheating, you should try to lower their body temperature immediately. 

Owners of pugs and English or French Bulldogs should be especially aware – breeds with these characteristics are 14x more likely to suffer from heat-related illnesses than Labradors, and more than a third of brachycephalic dog owners say their pet struggles to regulate their heat.

Old, sick, and overweight dogs can also have issues with heat control and should be kept inside during hot weather where possible.

If you think your dog’s heat stroke is mild, you can take steps to cool them from home without visiting the vet. Putting your dog in the shade or in a cool room with a fan can quickly lower their temperature. Give them a cooling mat or a cold wet towel, and give them room-temperature water to drink and splash on their body – cold water can cause too much of a shock.

If possible, you should avoid car trips with dogs during hot weather. But if you do have to travel, make sure you take breaks, leave the windows open, and never leave them alone – even if you’re nipping into the shop. Dogs can suffocate to death in just 20 minutes when left unattended in a hot car, and open windows don’t offer enough breeze or cool air to regulate their body temperature effectively.