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Walking Dogs in Hot Weather: Keep Your Dog Safe This Summer

Updated: Jul 27, 2023


Dog walker and dogs sitting in the shade during a hot day

Summer is here, and the scorching weather can be both a delight and a danger for our furry friends. As a trained veterinary nurse and dog expert, I wanted to share this information to help you keep your dog safe in hot weather. As dog owners, it's our responsibility to ensure the well-being of our beloved companions, and that includes knowing when it's time to pause their daily walks.


This article explores the health hazards of walking your dog when it is too hot. We will also provide practical tips to help you make informed decisions about your dog's activities in hot weather.


What Temperature Is Too Hot For Dog Walking?

A flyer showing heat stroke information about dogs

Source: Vetsnow


The temperature and humidity are important factors to consider before walking your dog. Dogs are more sensitive to heat than people; even mild temperatures can quickly become unbearable. Generally, skipping the walk is best if the temperature exceeds 25 degrees Celsius or the humidity is high. Below we discuss what can happen if you walk your dog when it is too hot; the ramifications are all bad.


What Can Happen If You Walk Your Dog When It Is Too Hot?


The short answer to this question is it will harm and possibly kill your dog. However, we have broken down the hazards in more detail below.


Heatstroke

walking dogs in hot weather can cause heatstroke

Source: DogsTrust

  • Heatstroke is life-threatening when a dog's body temperature rises to a dangerous level.

  • When dogs are walked in hot weather, their body temperature can rapidly increase, overwhelming their ability to cool down through panting.

  • Signs of heatstroke include excessive panting, drooling, rapid breathing, lethargy, weakness, vomiting, diarrhoea, and even collapse or loss of consciousness.

  • Heatstroke can lead to dehydration, organ failure (particularly of the kidneys and liver), seizures, and if left untreated, it can be fatal.

  • If heatstroke is suspected, immediate action should be taken, including moving the dog to a cool, shaded area, providing water to drink, wetting them with cool water, and seeking veterinary attention.

Burnt Foot Pads

  • Walking dogs on hot pavement, asphalt, or sand can cause burns on their foot pads.

  • These surfaces can absorb and retain heat, reaching temperatures significantly higher than the air temperature.

  • Signs of burnt foot pads include limping, reluctance to walk, blisters, redness, and swelling on the paw pads.

  • The severity of the burns can vary, ranging from mild discomfort to severe pain and blistering.

  • Prevention is vital, such as walking dogs on cooler surfaces, using protective booties, or walking during cooler times of the day.

Sunburn To Ears and Nose

  • Dogs with lightly pigmented or thin-haired ears and noses are particularly susceptible to sunburn.

  • Exposure to direct sunlight for extended periods, especially during peak sun hours, can result in sunburn.

  • Sunburned ears and noses may appear red, swollen, and tender to the touch.

  • Prolonged sun exposure without protection can increase the risk of skin cancer in these areas.

  • Applying pet-safe sunblock specifically formulated for dogs or using physical barriers like hats or visors can help prevent sunburn.

Seizures

  • Some dogs, especially those with a history of seizures or epilepsy, may be more prone to experiencing seizures in high temperatures.

  • Heat can disrupt the normal functioning of the brain and trigger seizure activity.

  • Signs of a seizure may include convulsions, loss of consciousness, muscle twitching, drooling, and confusion.

  • Owners of dogs with a seizure disorder should be particularly cautious about exposing their pets to excessive heat.

  • Providing a cool, shaded environment and avoiding walks during hot weather can help minimise the risk of seizures.

Death

  • Walking dogs in scorching weather without taking proper precautions can have fatal consequences.

  • Exposure to high temperatures for long periods can lead to heatstroke, organ failure, and severe complications that can be life-threatening.

  • Dogs can rapidly deteriorate in hot conditions, and prompt veterinary care is necessary in case of any signs of distress.

  • It is vital to prioritise the well-being and safety of your dog by avoiding walks during extreme heat, providing ample shade, access to cool water, and monitoring their behaviour for any signs of heat-related distress.

By understanding the specific risks associated with walking dogs in hot weather and taking proactive measures to prevent them, you can help ensure the health and safety of your canine companion.


Understanding Heat Exhaustion in Dogs

Walking dogs in hot weather can cause heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion occurs when a dog's body temperature rises to dangerous levels. Dogs have a higher risk of heat exhaustion than humans because they can't sweat like us. Instead, they rely on panting and the little sweat glands on their paw pads to regulate their body temperature. When the ambient temperature is too high, or they engage in excessive physical activity, their cooling mechanisms may not be enough to prevent overheating.


Recognising the signs of heat exhaustion is crucial for early intervention. Some common symptoms include excessive panting, drooling, rapid breathing, lethargy, weakness, vomiting, diarrhoea, and collapse. If you notice any of these signs in your dog, acting quickly to prevent the condition from escalating is essential.


Heat exhaustion can progress rapidly to heatstroke, which is a life-threatening emergency. Heatstroke can happen when your dog's body temperature gets dangerously high. Seizures, confusion, loss of consciousness, and organ failure are possible at this stage. Immediate veterinary attention is required if your dog shows signs of heatstroke. You must understand the risks and dangers of walking dogs in extreme heat to protect your dog from heat stroke.


Types Of Dogs That Have A Higher Risk Of Heat Exhaustion And Heatstroke

Showing two dogs with higher risk of a heat injury from waling dogs in hot weather

Dogs with specific characteristics or health conditions are more susceptible to heat exhaustion and heatstroke, and their well-being should be prioritised. Brachycephalic breeds, such as Bulldogs, Pugs, and Shih Tzus, are at higher risk of heat-related illnesses due to their short noses and compromised respiratory systems. These breeds have difficulty breathing under normal circumstances and are more prone to heat exhaustion. Furthermore, dogs with thick coats, older dogs, overweight dogs, and those with underlying health issues are more vulnerable to heat-related illnesses.



How To Protect Your Dog In Hot Weather


I am a trained veterinary nurse who understands how to keep dogs safe in hot weather

The following advice from a qualified veterinary nurse will help you to keep your dog safe during the increasingly hot British summertime.


Protect Your Dog's Skin

If your dog has exposed skin, such as a thin coat or light-coloured fur, consider using dog-specific sunscreen to protect them from harmful UV rays. Consult your veterinarian to choose a safe and suitable sunscreen for your dog.

Never Leave Your Dog In A Car During Hot Weather

Cars can quickly become dangerously hot, so it's crucial to never leave your dog unattended in a car, even for a short time. Too many dogs die from being left in hot cars each year. See the RSPCAs hot car campaign flyer for more information.


Walk Your Dog During Cooler Hours

Plan walks for early morning or later in the evening when temperatures are lower to prevent your dog from overheating during exercise.


Make Sure Your Dog Has Plenty Of Water

Provide fresh and cool water at all times. You can encourage hydration by placing multiple water bowls around the house or yard. If your dog eats dry kibble, consider adding water to their food to increase their overall hydration.


Invest In A Cooling Mat Or Bed

Cooling mat products are designed to help control your dog's body temperature and provide a comfortable resting place.


Keep Your Home Cool

Draw curtains and blinds to minimise sunlight and heat. You can also use fans or air conditioning to keep the temperature down.


These tips can help your dog stay comfortable and safe during warmer weather. Look for signs of heat-related distress, such as excessive panting, drooling, or lethargy, and seek veterinary attention if necessary.


Factors to Consider Before Walking Dogs In Hot Weather

four dogs being walked in hot weather

Several factors must be considered before taking your dog for a walk in hot weather to ensure its well-being. These factors will help you decide whether it's safe to take your dog for a walk or opt for alternative exercise.


Assess the Temperature

Firstly, assess the temperature and humidity levels. As mentioned earlier, avoiding walks is best if the temperature exceeds 28 degrees or the humidity is high. Dogs struggle to cool down in these conditions, and the risk of heat exhaustion or heatstroke is significantly higher.

Additionally, consider the time of day. Early morning or late evening walks are preferable, as the temperature is usually cooler during these times.


dogs can get burnt feet from pavements in hot weather, picture shows ice creams melting

Pavements Can Get Too Hot For Dogs

Another risk factor to consider is the pavement temperature. Asphalt and concrete can become extremely hot and burn your dog's paw pads. Before taking your dog for a walk, place your hand on the pavement for a few seconds. If it feels too hot to touch, it's too hot for your dog to walk on. Considering these risks, evaluating the conditions and making informed decisions to keep your dog safe and comfortable during hot weather is essential.


Alternatives To Outdoor Exercise For Dogs During Hot Weather

training your dog inside can protect them from heatstroke

When the weather is too hot for outdoor walks, there are plenty of alternative ways to keep your dog active and engaged. These activities will help them burn off energy without exposing them to the dangers of excessive heat.


Indoor Games And Puzzles

Keep your dog entertained indoors is a great way to stimulate your dog mentally and physically without the risk of injury from the heat. Hide treats around the house or invest in puzzle toys that require problem-solving skills. This not only keeps them entertained but also helps tire them out.


Swimming

swimming can help dogs to cool down in hot weather

Swimming is another excellent form of exercise for dogs during hot weather. Let your dog take a dip if you can access a pool, a lake, or a dog-friendly beach. Swimming is a low-impact exercise that helps cool them down while providing a full-body workout. If swimming isn't an option in your area, consider setting up a sprinkler or a paddling pool in your garden. Many dogs enjoy running through sprinklers or splashing around in shallow water. This provides them with a refreshing way to cool off and have fun at the same time.

Indoor Agility Courses

Indoor agility courses can also be a great way to keep your dog active indoors. Use household items like pillows, chairs, and blankets to create obstacles for them to navigate through. This engages their mind and body, giving them a good workout without exposing them to the heat.


By exploring these alternatives, you can ensure that your dog stays active and engaged even during the hottest days of summer.


Summary

It is an unfortunate fact that dogs die every year from heat stroke, furthermore many of our loved pets are harmed by sunburn, hot pavements and being shut in hot cars. It remains our responsibility as dog lovers and owners to keep them safe in hot weather. By following the advice in this blog you can keep your dog safe by understanding the risks.


If you need help with your dogs for dogs walking, home boarding or doggy day care contact Norfolk Paws today.




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