How Does the Summer Heat Affect My Dog?

The truth is that dogs are more susceptible to the summer heat than we are. They have to wear a fur coat all year round. Whereas we can sweat to cool ourselves down, our dogs sweat only through glands on the nose and paws and try to release heat by panting. “They can’t cool themselves off like humans,” says Kelly Connolly, an issues specialist with the Humane Society of the United States. “They can’t roll down the windows of a car or turn on the air conditioning. It’s up to humans to make sure that their dogs are comfortable enough and that they can live healthily in the summer heat.” It’s essential to make sure as a dog owner, we help our dog cope with the summer heat.

As global warming brings more extreme temperatures to all corners of the planet, dog owners need to do what they can to keep their furry friends cool and recognize signs of discomfort.

Veterinarians say signs of overheating include panting hard. But heatstroke symptoms can include a staggering gait, rapid heartbeat, listlessness, restlessness, vomiting, and a darkening of the gums and tongue. Suppose your dog’s body temperature rises above the normal range of up to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. In that case, it may be time to take the dog to a veterinarian or animal hospital, says April Guest, DVM, of the Meyerland Animal Clinic, near Houston. 

Does Hot Weather Affect Dogs Appetites?

You may notice that your dog eats less when the weather’s hot, and that is because dogs can experience a loss of appetite during the summer months. Along with this loss of appetite, dogs tend to show a decrease in their energy levels as well. Take notice of your dog’s appetite level, and if it is less than usual, reduce the portion sizes or even skip the occasional meal.

How Hot is Too Hot for Dogs?

As a very general rule, dogs will do okay in temperatures up to 90 degrees. However, if the temperature gets above this, then there is a risk of heatstroke in your dog.

To test if it is too hot to walk your dog, first slip off your shoes and stand on the pavement with bare feet. If it’s not comfortable or too hot for your feet, then the same goes for your dog. 

What Can Dogs Do in Hot Weather?

There are also steps and extra measures you can take to keep your dog comfortable in the heat and humidity of summer. Experts suggest these tips:

Tips To Keep Your Dog Cool in the Summer Heat:

  • Put warm (never cold) water on your dog’s paws to help them cool down. 
  • Turn on a sprinkler outside for your dog to run through. 
  • Brush your dog’s coat to get the knots out, and add a bit of water to help cool your pet. Your dog will feel cooler as the water evaporates. 
  • Fill your dog’s bowl regularly with cool water. 
  • Set up an old beach umbrella in the yard for your dog to lie underneath. 
  • Plug in a portable electric fan and aim it toward your dog. 
  • Encourage your pet to lie down indoors on a tile floor, such as in a bathroom or kitchen. Ceramic tiles stay cooler than wood floors or carpet. 
  • Take a cool, wet towel and wipe down your dog. 
  • If your dog will be outside for part of the day, provide a large bowl for water that can’t be tipped over, leaving your dog without it. 
  • Instead of playing outdoors in the heat, toss a ball for your dog indoors.

Tips To Keep Your Dog Even Cooler in the Summer Heat:

  • Try rubbing alcohol instead of water on your dog’s paws. It will cool as it evaporates from your dog’s pads. 
  • Buy a pool for your dog. Place it in the shade and fill it with a few inches of water for splashing and fun. 
  • Schedule a grooming session for long-coated dogs or those with a dense undercoat. 
  • Toss a few ice cubes in the water bowl, so your dog has something cool to gnaw on. 
  • Buy a well-ventilated dog house and keep it in the shade. Some pet stores now sell misters that attach to a doghouse and spray water throughout the day. 
  • Fill a spray bottle with water and gently mist your dog. Some may try to bite the spray or stream playfully. 
  • Wet a towel for your dog to lie down on and place it on a surface that stays cool in the shade, like concrete, marble, or tile. 
  • Take a cold, wet towel and wipe the inside of your dog’s ears. Body heat is dispersed in the capillaries that line your dog’s ears, making coolness there especially important. Make sure to wring out the towel first because pooled water can lead to ear infections. 
  • Place that large bowl of water under a slowly dripping spigot to continually replenish the supply with more refreshing H2O. 
  • Plan your playtime or your daily walk for early in the morning or at dusk. “The odds are your pet will enjoy it a lot more,” Connolly says, “and so will you.

Can Hot Weather Make Dogs Sick?

The hot and sunny stretches of summer can bring a whole set of health concerns for your dog. From parasite-spread illnesses to heatstroke and paw problems caused by walking on hot surfaces, many summer hazards can plague dogs.

Should You Walk Dogs in Hot Weather?

You should plan your playtime or daily walk for early in the morning or at dusk during hot weather. “The odds are your pet will enjoy it a lot more,” Connolly says, “and so will you.

Chasing sticks or a Frisbee, or even a long walk, can put extra strain on a dog during peak sun times, so best to avoid doing activities such as these during the heat of the day.

What Temperature is It Safe to Walk a Dog?

Generally, it is probably safe to walk your dog in temperatures up to 68 degrees. Temperatures above this put dogs at risk of heatstroke. Some dogs will be more susceptible than others of developing heatstroke, so keep an eye on your dog for signs he is overheating.

Summer Heat Don’ts for Dog Care

There are several summer hazards dog owners should be aware of. Here are five things you should never do with your dog:

  • Don’t Leave Your Dog in a Parked Car

Even with the window cracked, temperatures can rise to 30 degrees in a few minutes, says Connolly. “Pets are in danger of heatstroke when the indoor temperature reaches 110 degrees,” she says. “Even when it’s 70 degrees outside, it is going to be suffocating in a quick amount of time in that car.” 

  • Other Enclosed Areas Can be as Dangerous as a Car

Don’t leave your dog in a tent while camping. It can become just as hot under the sun as in a closed car.

  • Don’t Tie Your Dog Up Outside in the Blazing Sun

Our dogs need an escape during sunny summer months, so if you plan to let your pet outside, make sure that it can find shelter under a tree, shade, a porch, or another structure. The heat is not only a danger to your dog, but your pet can also become sunburned if it’s a thin-coated or wire-haired breed.

  • Don’t Put Sunscreen Made for Humans on Your Dog 

Chemicals in some sunscreens can be harmful if pets ingest them, says Dr. Guest. What dog won’t try to lick off the gooey white substance if given the option? Pet stores sell sunscreens formulated especially for dogs.

  • Don’t Exercise Your Dog Under the Midday Sun 

Chasing sticks or a Frisbee, or even a long walk, can put extra strain on a dog during peak sun times. “The heat of the day can take a toll particularly on dogs who are overweightolder, or who have certain diseases,” Dr. Guest says.

  • Don’t Walk Your Dog on Asphalt Unless You’ve Tested the Temperature 

A dog’s paw pads are susceptible to burns, says Elaine Acker, CEO of Pets America, a nonprofit animal rescue organization. “Slip off your shoes and stand on the pavement with bare feet first,” she advises. “If it’s not comfortable for you, it’s not going to be comfortable for your dog either.” 

Here’s How You Can Keep Your Pet Safe in the Summer Heat.


“If we’re hot sitting outside in T-shirts and shorts, our dogs are certainly going to be hot sitting outside in a heavy fur coat,” says Adam Goldfarb, director of the Pets at Risk program for the Humane Society of the United States. Be mindful of what type of dog you have and how old it is; these factors may determine your dog’s tolerance for heat. Senior dogs, puppies, and northern breeds with heavy coats may have a harder time withstanding heat. Heatstroke symptoms include; panting, drooling, restlessness, red tongue, vomiting, diarrhea, and breathing distress.

What to Do if Your Dog Has Heatstroke:

  • Walk or exercise your dog in the early morning or early evening when it’s cooler out.
  • Never leave your dog in the car. A car can heat up within several minutes to more than 100 F, causing heatstroke or even death, says Lisa Peterson, communications director of the American Kennel Club.
  • Don’t shave your dog’s coat during the summer. “A dog’s coat helps insulate them from the heat in the summertime,” says Peterson. Without their protective coat, dogs can also get sunburned.

Fleas and Ticks

Some dogs have flea allergies that make them scratch until their skin is raw or bleeding in extreme cases. Ticks are even more dangerous because they carry various diseases, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis, and Ehrlichia. Symptoms of tick-borne diseases can range from fever, and swollen joints that afflict Lyme sufferers to possible death, as in the case of Rocky Mountain spotted fever victims.

What to Do if Your Dog has Fleas and Ticks:

Paw Problems

The pads on your dog’s paws are very sensitive, so the heat on concrete, asphalt, beach sand or other surfaces can be a big problem during the summer. The pads can burn, dry, and crack.

What to do if Your Dog Has Burnt Paws:

  • Walk your dog on the grass, Peterson recommends. That way, your pet doesn’t have to deal with the intense heat of the pavement.
  • Try doggie booties. Some pet stores sell booties for your dog to wear in winter, but these shoes may also help protect your dog’s paws during the summer.
  • Apply a paw balm to your dog’s paws regularly to help keep them moist and prevent cracking, which is painful and can increase infection risk.

Water Safety

Wherever your family goes during the summer, be it the beach or backyard pool, be aware of the risks these bodies of water hold for your dog. Dogs may drink from stagnant ponds and contract intestinal ailments, such as giardia. Dogs may also jump into a lake or pool and panic when they realize they don’t know how to get out. What’s more, pools contain chlorine, which can be harmful to your dog’s health.

What to do to Keep Your Dog Safe Around Water:

  • If you have a pool, consider using dog-friendly pool chemicals, which are now commercially available.
  • Keep a life preserver on hand in case your dog jumps in. Dog life vests are also available.
  • Don’t leave your dog alone when there is an open body of water, as you wouldn’t leave a child in a similar situation. Make sure fresh drinking water is available at all times. 

Wildlife Contagions

Dogs can pick up diseases like rabies from infected animals from the wild, including bats, raccoons, foxes, skunks, cattle, and coyotes. The transmission of rabies is through saliva, usually after a bite. The virus affects an animal’s central nervous system, and common symptoms are erratic movements, partial paralysis, and unprovoked aggression.

What to do to Keep Your Dog Safe From Wild Animals:

  • Keep your dog’s vaccinations against rabies up to date. “Your city or county likely requires your dog to be vaccinated anyway,” Peterson says.
  • Don’t let your dog roam free and unsupervised, mainly when you are in areas where your dog is more likely to encounter wildlife.

Supervision is the key to summer dog safety. “Be mindful of where your dog is,” Peterson says. “If you let them off the leash, keep them in visual contact.” That way, the “dog days” might be some of the best days of the year that you and your dog will enjoy.

Article written by Authors: Elizabeth WassermanDarcy Lockman, Margaret Bonham, and The Dog Daily Expert

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