how hot is too hot for your dog?
We worry about frostbite and hypothermia in pets during the winter months, but spring and summer sun can also wreak havoc on best friends. Heat stroke, or hyperthermia, is not uncommon in warmer months, and although you may associate it with pets left in hot cars, the truth is that heat stroke can occur even in your own backyard.
Last winter, I put together a handy chart to help you decide when it was safe for your pet to spend time outside in the cold weather. Here's another chart to guide you safely through the dog days of summer. I used the same system for the warm weather safety chart that I used in creating the cold weather safety chart. The Tufts Animal Condition and Care (TACC) system 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.
Just as with the cold weather safety chart, 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 also play huge roles in how hot days are handled. 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.
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. If you have a brachycephalic breed, or an elderly or overweight dog, add one point to your dog’s number right off the bat.
Use this chart, along with some common sense (after all, you know your pet best!) to avoid heat stroke and make it safely through summer. 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 unattended in your vehicle.
Summertime should be all about carefree fun in the sun. The last thing you want is to rush your dog to the vet for heat stroke or an unexpected injury, but it does happen. When it does, having a pet insurance plan to cover the vet bills can help protect your family. Put your worries away and enjoy the best months of the year with peace of mind.
For more information about heat stroke and hot cars, point your paws to our Driven to Bark page.