how hot is too hot for your dog?
Spring and summer months mean more time spent outdoors and longer walks with your furry friend, but sunny days and high temperatures can also wreak havoc on your dog's health if they overheat. Heat stroke, or hyperthermia, is not uncommon in warmer months, and although you may associate it with dogs left in hot cars, the truth is that heat stroke can occur even in your own backyard.
Is it too hot outside for your dog?
Here's a handy chart to help you determine if it's too hot for your dog to be outside. I used the same system (The Tufts Animal Condition and Care system) for the warm weather safety chart that I used in creating the cold weather safety chart for dogs. The Tufts Animal Condition and Care System (TACC) was created as a screening tool for people in the animal health field—it has many different criteria, with number scales to finitely determine the presence of neglect or abuse. I used their weather data to create the warm weather safety chart below.
Hot weather safety chart for pets
Factor in humidity in addition to heat
Just as in cold weather, there are a few caveats with the warm weather safety chart, too.
In the winter, I told you to use the perceived temperature—that is, I wanted you to factor in the wind chill when you referenced the chart. In the summer, you should factor in humidity, too. A nice 85o day doesn’t feel quite as nice when it is accompanied by 90% humidity.
Age, breed, and obesity can affect how a dog handles hot weather
Old dogs who may have trouble getting around will also have trouble moving out of the sun, and some old dogs sleep so soundly that once they’ve found a sunny spot in the yard, they’re down for the count and sleep right through overheating.
If you have a brachycephalic breed, or an elderly or overweight dog, add one point to your dog’s number on the chart right off the bat.
Brachycephalic dogs, or those with short snouts like Pugs and Boston Terriers, are particularly at risk for heat stroke because they don’t cool air as efficiently when they breathe as their long nosed cousins. According to a study from Scientific Reports, dogs weighing over 110 pounds and brachycephalic breeds with flat faces are at the highest risk for heat-related illness like heatstroke.
Breeds with the highest incidence of heat-related illness include the Chow Chow, Bulldog, French Bulldog, Dogue de Bordeaux, Greyhound and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Based on the data below, Chow Chows are 16 times more likely to develop heat stroke compared to Labradors.
Signs of heat stroke
Early in heat stroke, symptoms may be easy to miss. Appearing distressed, panting, and acting restless are common signs, but you may just chalk them up to the excitement of the day. As heat stroke progresses, you may see your pet become unsteady on his feet. His gum color may also change from pink to blue or purple.
Heat stroke is an emergency which requires immediate veterinary care. It is treated with intravenous fluids and other supportive treatments, including possible plasma transfusions and treatments for kidney failure and gastrointestinal damage.
Despite aggressive treatment, there is still a 50% mortality rate in patients who present with severe heatstroke, so remember that prevention is key to keep our pets safe from this danger.
How to prevent heatstroke in dogs
Use this data and our hot weather pet safety chart, along with some common sense (after all, you know your pet best!) to avoid heat stroke and make it safely through summer.
- Keep walks short, slow and limited to cooler parts of the day during hot or humid weather. Early mornings and evenings are usually a good choice.
- Avoid sidewalks, blacktop and pavement which can burn your pet's paws. Even sand can get uncomfortably warm sometimes. Choose grassy surfaces when possible.
- Provide your dog with access to shade and clean, cool water at all times. You may even consider a portable water bottle for your pup to take on walks and a cooling vest.
- If you have a long haired or shaggy breed, ask your veterinarian if it makes sense to shave your dog during the summer months.
One more important rule: do not use this chart to determine if it is safe to leave your dog in the car in warm weather. The temperature in your car is NOT the same as the temperature in your backyard. Never leave your dog in a hot car.