How Hot is Too Hot For Your Dog?

By Sarah Hinds Friedl on August 4th, 2022

With excessive heat warnings popping up all over the US, dog owners are wondering: how hot is too hot for my dog? Should you bring Fido along on your outdoor adventure? Or would it be better to leave your pooch at home with the air conditioner on?

In this article, we’ll talk about the dangers of heat exposure for dogs and how you can keep your pup safe when temperatures rise.

How hot is too hot for your dog?
Just like humans, dogs can suffer from heat stroke, a condition in which an animal’s internal temperature rises to dangerous levels. In dogs, the upper limit is 105.8 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything above that can be potentially life threatening, and you’ll see signs of lethargy, excessive panting, and delirium.

But, does that mean that your dog will be fine as long as the external temperature is below 105 degrees? Unfortunately, no. The truth is, if the temperature outside is anywhere above 80 degrees, dogs can start to experience rising internal temperatures. Here are a few factors to explain this phenomenon:

  • Humidity. Dogs pant as their primary method to keep cool in the summer months. And this works by wicking heat from a dog’s airways through a process called vaporization. The problem is, when the air your dog breathes is humid, this method becomes much less effective.
  • Sun exposure. Your pup will have a much easier time regulating their internal temperature in the shade rather than in direct sunlight.
  • Exercise. Some dogs just won’t quit, even when it’s hot out. If you have an overactive dog, they might be more vulnerable to heat stroke.
  • Weight. Unfortunately, obesity is a risk factor when it comes to heat-related complications. 
  • Individual factors. Just like humans, each dog has a unique tolerance to heat. Some will naturally be better at regulating their internal temperatures than others.

Remember, just because a dog looks to be fine doesn’t mean they aren’t struggling. It’s always best not to assume that your dog is able to regulate their body temperature on hot days.

Does breed have anything to do with it?
Yes! Although all dogs can be susceptible to heat stroke, it is true that some breeds fare better than others.

Dogs that were originally bred to thrive in very hot conditions, such as Greyhounds, Chihuahuas, and Australian Cattle Dogs, are better at staying cool in high temps. That’s because they typically have a very short coat or, in the case of the Aussie breeds, a double coat that facilitates good air flow. When it comes to sighthounds, like Greyhounds and Whippets, their long snout can also make panting more efficient.

On the other hand, there are some breeds that are less tolerant to heat than the average dog. Owners of dogs in the brachycephalic category—i.e. flat-nosed doggos, like Pugs—should consider taking special measures whenever temperatures rise about 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Likewise, dogs with heavy winter coats, like Siberian Huskies, will be more prone to heat stroke.   

Still want to bring your pooch? Here’s how to keep them safe
As you can see, there are a few different factors that will determine if it’s safe to take your dog outside. A good rule of thumb is that if you’re going to be outdoors for an extended period of time in anything above 90 degrees, leave your pup at home. 

And, until these heat waves subside, make sure to follow some of these tips for keeping your pooch cool:

  • Opt for air conditioning over a fan. Fans are great for animals that sweat, like humans, but not so much for dogs, who only sweat through their paw pads. Instead, it’s better to lower the ambient temperature to keep them from overheating.
  • Avoid hot surfaces. As we mentioned, dogs only sweat through their paw pads. But that doesn’t mean that they will enjoy walking on hot surfaces. If possible, always stick to shaded areas. If that’s not an option, consider investing in some summer doggy shoes.
  • Schedule exercise in the early morning. Even though it’s tough to get up at the crack of dawn, this is the best time to exercise your dog during the hottest days of summer.
  • Increase mental activities. Your dog will still need their daily walk/exercise session, but you can keep them entertained inside with less strenuous activities. Short, fun training sessions or mental activities like chew toys and frozen treats are great for burning off some excess energy. 
  • Hose ‘em down. If your dog loves water, that’s a boon for keeping them cool during a heat wave! Whether you hose them down in the backyard or fill up a kiddy pool with cool water, they’ll have a much easier time managing their body temperature.
  • Roll those windows down. Okay, we know what we said about air conditioning over fans, but when you’re driving in the car, it may be worthwhile to give your doggo some high-speed fresh air. This doesn’t mean, of course, that you should let them hang their snout out the window. Instead, make sure your windows are covered with BreezeGuards so that your dog can enjoy the cooling effects safely. Remember, also, that parked cars get hot quickly, so only visit dog-friendly places during your outings.
  • Have a plan for power outages. Unfortunately, heat waves can sometimes trigger power outages, which can make the situation even more dangerous. It’s a good idea to have a backup plan in place in case you need to get yourself and your dog somewhere cool, such as a pet-friendly hotel or a friend’s house.

Heat waves are tough for everyone, but especially our dogs!
Heat waves are uncomfortable and dangerous for ourselves and our furry friends. And it’s important to remember that dogs have an even more difficult time regulating their body temperature than we do.

So, if possible, consider cranking up the AC, sharing a few ice cubes with your dog, and taking it easy until these heat waves have subsided.  

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