Keeping Your Dog Safe in Summer Heat

Everyone loves Summer! The long days, the vacation time, and fun in the sun make summer the most enjoyable time of year. And while we often want to include our pets in the fun, we have to be watching out for their special needs.

When is it too hot to walk my dog on the sidewalk?

We all know that asphalt sidewalks and streets can get brutally hot in the summer sun. But how hot is too hot ? How do you know when it is and isn’t safe to walk your dog in warm weather ?

Did you know that on a day of just 75 degrees on a sunny day, asphalt can reach a temperature of 125 degrees! If the temperature outside is 85 degrees, asphalt in the sun can reach over 140 degrees!

Here’s a simple five-second rule: Place the back of your hand on the pavement. If you cannot hold it for five seconds, it's too hot to walk your dog.

If I’m in a park, or on grass, do I still have to worry about temperatures?

A good rule of thumb is that pets are at risk for heatstroke once the outside temperature hits at least 80 degrees and a humidity of at least 90 percent.

Let’s say you’re throwing a ball of your dog in the park. While some dogs will stop playing if they get too hot, that’s not always the case. Some dogs and breeds will continue to chase a ball even when they are getting overheated. So we, as the pet parents, have to be aware and cautious.

How do I tell if my dog is over-heated?

  1. Excessive Panting. One of the first signs you will see when your dog is getting too hot is excessive panting. So how do you tell the difference between normal and excessive panting? If your dog is breathing as if they are from an intense run, yet they are just taking a stroll then most likely they are overheating.
  2. Excessive Drooling. Some dogs drool more than others. However, you should be alarmed by excessive and abnormal drooling when the temperature is hot. The thicker and stickier saliva helps the dog dissipate heat more efficiently when panting.
  3. Fast and Irregular Heartbeat. In normal temperatures, a healthy dog has a slower heart rate. But when it’s hot, dogs dissipate heat through vasodilation. A fast heartbeat means that your dog is pumping overheated blood away from the vital organs to the extremities.
  4. Rapid Breathing. Your dog may switch from excessive panting to deep, noisy and rapid breathing. This indicates that they are trying to get oxygen into their system for cooling relief from overheating.
  5. Lethargic Behavior. Excessive heat can cause lethargy in pets. You may notice your dog napping more or having trouble standing up and walking.
  6. Disorientation. In addition to lethargy, your pet may stumble when walking or be unaware of their surroundings and may for instance bump into furniture.
  7. Vomiting/Diarrhea. Overheating can cause severe dehydration. This causes gastrointestinal upset resulting in severe diarrhea and vomiting that may also have traces of blood.
  8. Collapse. Intense overheating may cause your dog to collapse, and there may be other signs of neurological distress such as convulsions. At this level, it’s an emergency, and you should call an ambulance to get your pet to the Vet.

What should I do if my dog is over-heated ?

  1. Immediately take your dog to a cooler area.
  2. Wet your pet with cool water, but not cold water since rapid cooling can be dangerous.
  3. Place your pet in front of a fan to dry off. Check their temperature every few minutes, and if you have a pet thermometer, you can use it. Once the temperature gets to 103 degrees (F) stop wetting and fanning them.
  4. As your pet continues to cool give them cool (not cold or ice) water to drink.

Remember overheating, and heatstroke is life-threatening. So even if your dog is recovering okay, you need to get them to your Veterinarian for monitoring and treatment. If you are traveling or can't make it to your regular veterinarian, consider a virtual vet service like Hello Ralphie to connect with a licensed veterinarian through a live chat and/or video appointment.