Is It Too Hot To Walk My Dog?
May 23rd, 2020
Table of Contents
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How do we know if it’s too hot outside for our dogs?
While dogs are very good at many things (like eating, sniffing, barking…), handling the heat is not one of them.
Hot weather can be extremely dangerous. It can harm your dog in the form of burned paws and heatstroke.
So if it’s hot outside, it’s important to gauge whether it’s a good idea to take that walk right now.
Even if it doesn’t seem that hot to you, your dog has a much lower heat tolerance. After all, they’re equipped with a fur coat, and walking on their bare paws.
In this post, you’ll learn if it’s too hot to walk your dog today, depending on the specific conditions where you live.
Is It Too Hot Outside To Walk My Dog? On Its Own, Temperature Can Be Misleading
Now obviously, temperature plays a huge role in determining if it’s too hot to walk your dog. However, temperature can also be misleading.
This is because the “temperature” reported by weathercasters and weather apps is the air temperature. It doesn’t reflect the temperature of various surfaces, like asphalt.
Thus, if we truly want to know if it’s too hot to walk our dogs, we have to consider two different temperatures: air temperature and surface temperature.
A high air temperature can lead to overheating in your dog’s body.
A high surface temperature can lead to burning your dog’s paw pads.
Let’s take a deeper look into both of these.
Air Temperature & Overheating
We’ll consider general air temperature first.
Petplan has a very useful infographic to help owners decide if it’s too hot for their dogs outside. We display it here.
Like their infographic for cold temperatures, this is a very handy resource to quickly determine how dangerous the heat is for your dog.
However, let’s try to improve on this. We think there are some factors that PetPlan left out. Let’s walk through some of them, and come up with our own final infographic.
"If It's Too Hot For You, It's Too Hot For Your Dog"
When we talk about cold temperatures, a common rule of thumb is “if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your dog.”
We brought this up in our own discussion of cold temperatures. While such guidelines serve as good general guidelines, it’s also a little too simplistic.
For hot temperatures, it’s a similar story.
We certainly can give you a similar rule of thumb: as long as your dog has access to shade and fresh water, and it’s not too humid, most dogs will be fine in temperatures up to around 80F (27C).
Indeed, 80F is about the temperature where we humans begin to feel hot. Definitely pay close attention to your dog for any overheating symptoms.
However, some dogs start facing risk of heat stroke in temperatures as mild as 70F (20C), as evidenced in PetPlan’s infographic.
So it’s important to note that temperatures can start getting dangerous for our dogs far earlier than we even begin to break a sweat!
In order to regulate body temperature, our dogs pant. Panting helps evaporate moisture from the mouth and lungs, and is the natural way your dog stays cool.
Under humid conditions, this process becomes hindered. Your dog will have a much tougher time keeping themselves cool, and this puts them more at risk of overheating.
If you live in a humid climate, be sure to take this into account. Don’t just consider temperature alone.
Snout Length - Brachycephalic Breeds
Brachycephalic breeds are those with short noses. Examples include Pugs and Boston Terriers.
Unfortunately, brachycephalic breeds are more at risk in the summer months. Due to their facial structure, it’s tougher for them to draw in enough air to cool their bodies.
An obvious one, but if your dog has a thick coat, they’re more built for the cold than the heat.
Examples include Huskies and Samoyeds.
Age & Condition
Just as in cold temperatures, puppies and senior dogs are more sensitive to wild temperature shifts.
For puppies, this is because they’re just smaller and underdeveloped. Elder dogs may have conditions (specifically those that relate to the heart or respiratory tract) that put them more at risk in the heat.
Obesity plays a role here as well. Dogs that are obese may have constriction in their respiratory airways, making it harder for them to regulate body temperature. Just another reason to keep your dog in shape!
Does Size Matter?
When we talk about cold tolerance in the winter, large dogs are at an advantage because they can generate more body heat and retain it more easily.
What about for heat tolerance in the summer?
Size still does play a role, albeit smaller. This time, however, it’s the larger dogs that are slightly more at-risk.
Larger dogs may have more fat compared to smaller dogs, making it tougher to expel that excess body heat when temperatures rise.
So Is It Too Hot Outside To Walk My Dog?
Let’s combine all this information that we’ve learned into one handy chart for reference!
As we mention in the infographic, these are just general guidelines. Your specific dog and situation may make them more at-risk.
When reading the chart, make sure you take into account not just the air temperature, but also any of the conditions that apply on the right.
We have six distinct tiers here, which I’ll explain more in detail:
- Tier-1: Safe temperatures for your dog to enjoy the great outdoors.
- Tier-2: Temperatures are still safe, but we recommend bringing along water if you plan on going on any longer walks.
- Tier-3: Temperatures are beginning to rise; hints of summer are fast approaching. Certain dogs may be more at risk.
- Tier-4: Summer is here. Temperatures are hot. Anytime you go outside, be sure to monitor your dog for symptoms of overheating, and get your dog indoors if needed.
- Tier-5: It’s the dead heat of summer in most climates. Such temperatures put all dogs at-risk and are life-threatening for some dogs. Limit time outdoors, and only go outside if absolutely necessary.
- Tier-6: It’s freakishly hot! In nearly all scenarios, it most definitely is too hot outside to walk your dog. We recommend that no dog goes outdoors under these conditions.
The following conditions push your dog UP one tier (they make your dog more at-risk in the heat):
- The weather is humid (i.e. 70% humidity or higher).
- Your dog is brachycephalic (short-snouted).
- Your dog has a thick coat built for winter (i.e. Huskies, Samoyeds).
- Your dog is a young puppy or a senior, or has a condition that makes them more at-risk, such as obesity.
The following conditions push your dog DOWN one tier (they make your dog less at-risk in the heat):
- Water and shade are readily accessible.
- Your dog is well acclimated to the heat.
Let us know what you think of our chart!
Heat Stroke In Dogs (Hyperthermia)
Generally speaking, if a dog’s body temperature exceeds 103F (39.4C), it is considered abnormal.
It’s important to know the warning signs of heat stroke. These include:
- Excessive panting
- Difficulty breathing
- Agitation, restlessness
- Abnormally high heart rate
- Abnormally colored gums (blue, white, very red), or bright red tongue
- Lethargy, collapsing, general weakness, refusing to walk
- Dizziness or mental confusion
- Muscle tremors
If you notice these symptoms, get your dog to an emergency vet immediately.
The good news is, proper care will prevent heat stroke in a majority of cases.
Make sure your dog has constant access to shade or shelter, fresh water, and air circulation. Avoid exercising them in extremely hot temperatures. Do these things, and your dog will probably be fine.
Oh, and one very important note: one of the most common ways dogs get heat stroke is when they’re left in a car on a hot day. Never do this!
Even on a mild 80F day, the inside temperature of a car can reach 110F in 10 minutes, and 130F in 30 minutes. These are fatal temperatures for any dog.
Hot Surfaces - Protect Those Paw Pads!
Now let’s discuss hot surfaces–namely, the ground.
When you take your dog outside for a walk, the air temperature may be relatively mild. However, the ground may have been baking in the sun for hours!
Whereas shoes protect your feet, your dog’s paw pads are making direct contact with these surfaces.
Enough exposure will result in burned paw pads, and that’s no fun.
Let’s consider some of the surfaces you’re likely to encounter on your upcoming walk.
Blacktop & Asphalt
Ah, blacktop and asphalt–the paw pad killers.
Seriously, think twice before you set foot on them. The mixture of stone, gravel, sand, and bitumen is great for building roads, but terrible for your dog’s paws.
Naturally, blacktop and asphalt absorb a lot of heat due to their dark color: in fact, the surface temperature of asphalt can be 40-60 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the air temperature!
Just look at these alarming statistics:
- At 77F (25C) air temperature, the temperature of asphalt can get as high as 125F (51.7C).
- At 87F (30.6C) air temperature, the temperature of asphalt can get as high as 143F (61.7C).
A freakin’ egg will fry on 131F (55C) asphalt in 5 minutes!
Bottom line: asphalt is not your dog’s friend. Avoid it in the summer at all costs.
Concrete & Cement
Concrete and cement is a lesser evil than blacktop, though it can still reach high temperatures in the summer.
You’d be right to assume concrete is safer for your dog’s paws because of its lighter color. However, consider these numbers:
- At 88F (31C) air temperature, the temperature of cement can get as high as 93F (34C).
- At 95F (35C) air temperature, the temperature of cement can get as high as 125F (51.6C).
Note that just a small difference in the air temperature can cause an exponential increase in the surface temperature of cement.
It’s not uncommon for temperatures to hit the mid to high 90s in summer. Even though the cement may look friendly, still try to avoid it if at all possible.
From firsthand experience, we know that the sand can burn our feet! But that doesn’t stop us from flocking to the beach (and taking our dogs with us) in the summer.
Let’s take an “unofficial” and “unscientific” look at temperatures of sand on a beach in Florida:
During the warmest part of a summer day (presumably at around 90F, or 32C), sand temperatures can reach 120 to 130 degrees F (49C to 54.4C).
Don’t let that ocean breeze distract you from the fact that the sand temperature is still very uncomfortable for your dog.
If you head to the beach this summer, make sure you have some towels for your dog to lay on, and lots of fresh water.
Grass is the friendliest surface of them all. In fact, Yuna likes to lay on it on a hot day, probably because of how cool it is!
Consider these numbers:
- In the sun, at 95F (35C), grass temperature can get to about 105F (40.6C).
- In the shade, at 95F (35C), grass temperature gets to about 91F (32.8C)
Ding ding ding! We have a clear winner for best surface. Wherever possible, prefer to walk on the grass with your dog–it’s much easier on their paws.
How Hot Is Too Hot For Those Paw Pads?
Now that we’ve discussed 4 of the most common surfaces, we know what we should try to avoid.
You may be wondering, how much heat can our dog’s paw pads tolerate exactly?
It definitely varies from dog to dog, but consider this.
One common guideline people like to use is the five second rule: namely, if you can press your hand against the ground for five seconds and not feel any pain, then it’s probably okay for your dogs.
Also note that the human skin begins to suffer burns at temperatures around 44C (111.4F).
Given this, it would seem that any surface temperature above around 110F (43C) has the potential to severely harm your dog.
Here’s a summary of the various surfaces we discussed.
Burned Paw Pads
What are the consequences of too much contact with a hot surface? Burned paw pads.
Inspect your dog’s paw pads regularly in the summer. If any part of them are red, or darker than usual, these are common signs of burned paw pads.
Your dog may also indicate their discomfort by refusing to walk, limping, or constantly licking at their paws.
Stop your walk immediately if you notice any of these symptoms. Get your dog onto grass or carry them. Dip them in cool water as soon as possible.
If the burn is relatively minor, apply some Paw Soother balm to the affected areas. It’s a natural, all-purpose ointment for dog paw injuries.
If the burn is serious, see a vet immediately.
One possible preventative measure would be to have your dog wear booties on a walk. These dog boots by QUMY are not only waterproof and durable, but they’ll protect your dog’s paws from heat or cold.
Not all dogs welcome boots, and it may take a while for them to get used to wearing them.
To conclude, definitely avoid hot air temperatures to prevent heat stroke in your dogs. Especially if you live in a humid climate and your dog is more at risk!
We also took a look at some common surface temperatures. Avoid hot surfaces, particularly asphalt, cement, and sand. Prefer grass whenever possible.
But also, it’s prudent to avoid the hottest times of day as much as possible. Choosing to walk in the early morning and late afternoon is one of the best preventative measures you can take to protecting your dog!