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How Hot Is Too Hot For Dogs? Temperatures Canines Cannot Handle

Thinking about the summer may summon images of days spent outdoors, be it spending time at the beach, on hikes, or doing some other activities. Unless, of course, it gets too hot for any of that to be enjoyable. But what about our canine companions? Do they enjoy the sun as much as we do?

After all, most dogs have natural fur coats, so it makes sense that warm weather could make them feel too hot faster than humans. But how hot is too hot for a dog? Where exactly is the limit? At which point should one start worrying about heatstroke and start protecting the dogs from the heat? Today, we’ll try to answer these questions for you.

Dog drinking water

How Hot is Too Hot to Walk a Dog in Australia?

First of all, we have to get something out of the way: if you are looking for an easy rule to follow when it comes to protecting your dog from the heat, you will not find it here, or anywhere for that matter.

The truth is, different dogs have different tolerances to high temperatures and there could be multiple other factors involved. The answer is, as almost always, it depends! The key is knowing your pet and his or her tolerance levels.

Related: How To Cool Your Dog Down.

However, there are some general principles to follow. Here are some things to keep in mind when trying to assess if the weather outside is too hot for your dog:

Air Temperature

First thing’s first, the temperature outside is the obvious indicator to look out for. But what temperature is too hot to walk a dog? Well, according to some conservative estimates, you should start being cautious as soon as the temperatures go over 20°C [1]. Sounds silly? Well, yes, it might be. Still, some dogs can end up overheating and even suffering from heatstroke even at these temperatures if exercised too rigorously. This is quite unlikely for most dogs, though. If your dog is clearly fine and happy, there is no need to worry in such mild weather.

The higher the temps, the greater the risk for your dog will be. Once the mercury rises closer to 30°C, it’s time to be really careful. Some dogs can still enjoy an occasional short walk in this kind of weather, but they should be kept outside of direct sunlight. A good rule of thumb is - if it’s too hot for you, it’s most likely too hot for your canine companion too.

Humidity

Another risk factor to pay attention to is the humidity level. Dogs can overheat much more easily in humid environments [2]. If you live in a humid climate, you should take extra care to not let your dog overheat. 30°C and high humidity is quite an extreme climate for any dog.

Pavement Temperature

Another thing we don’t always think about is the actual temperature of the ground. As humans, we usually wear some sort of footwear, so we might not even be aware of how hot the ground under our feet is. Pavements, asphalt, and concrete surfaces can get crazy hot when exposed to direct sunlight. Even if it’s 25 degrees outside and the weather feels pleasantly warm, the surfaces we walk on can get quite hot. If the pavement is too hot, this can cause serious harm to your dog’s paw pads, so do keep that in mind [3].

Hot pavements can be especially troublesome for smaller dogs. They are not only often more sensitive to heat, but their bodies are simply much closer to the ground than ours, so they might feel extra hot when walking on warm pavements. 

Related: Best Cooling Dog Mats.


Why Do Dogs Overheat So Easily?

Are dogs more sensitive to heat than humans? In a way, they are. However, there is not a certain temperature threshold that is too hot for humans and dogs alike. Instead, it’s all about our internal mechanisms that allow our bodies to adjust the temperature to the outside conditions. In humans, the main mechanism that lets us get rid of excess heat is sweating. But canines function differently:

"Hot weather can be dangerous to our canine friends. Humans can sweat all over our body, but dogs can only sweat on their paw pads, which is not much use when it comes to shedding body heat.” - Melissa Starling, The Conversation [2]

Truth be told, it’s not just the paw pads that allow dogs to cool down. Their main thermoregulatory mechanism for cooling is panting. The increased air circulation leads to evaporation, which in turn cools the body. It is the same principle based on which sweating works, but it is a bit less efficient, which is why dogs overheat more easily.


Are Some Dogs More Sensitive To Heat Than Others?

Yes, some dogs are more susceptible to overheating than others. A recent study conducted in the UK tried to determine exactly which dogs are more likely to suffer from heatstroke. As it turns out, it does depend on the breed but also on other factors too.

Among the breeds that are more likely to suffer from heatstroke, the Chow Chow and the Bulldog stand out (17 times and 14 times, respectively, more likely to suffer a heat stroke than a Labrador Retriever). In general, brachycephalic breeds are those that are most at risk from overheating. The reason behind this is quite simple: brachycephalic breeds often have breathing difficulties, which lessens the effectiveness of panting at cooling down their bodies.

Other risk factors related to heatstroke mostly involve coat thickness, weight, and age. Double-coated breeds are typically more likely to overheat, as one might expect. Dogs that are obese are also at greater risk. This might be expected, but this study has shown that dogs that are not overweight but are naturally large, heavy, and muscular also tend to overheat more easily. Finally, elderly dogs can be extra sensitive to heat.


How To Tell If Your Dog Is Too Hot

Heatstroke is an extreme condition caused by overheating. When your canine companion’s body cannot regulate temperature effectively anymore, and this state continues for long enough, it can lead to serious consequences.

Hopefully, you’ll never get to see signs of actual heatstroke in your dog. The best-case scenario is noticing your dog is overheating early enough. A tell-tale sign that your dog is feeling warm is panting. Of course, panting is normal and necessary, but if you notice your pooch is panting more than usual it might be time to help them cool down.

Moreover, some dogs will show you when they are feeling too warm. They will seek shade, refuse to play fetch or exercise, or start acting lethargic. Some dogs try to cool themselves down by getting themselves wet, while others seek cold surfaces like tile floors. Some even try to dig a hole in the ground and hide in it.

If the condition gets worse, your dog might start exhibiting some extreme symptoms. These include dizziness, disorientation, overall lethargy and weakness, increased heart rate, muscle tremors, vomiting, and diarrhea. When such symptoms occur, it’s always best to seek help from a veterinarian ASAP.

References

  1. “When is it too hot to walk a dog?” Vets Now. Retrieved February 14, 2022. https://www.vets-now.com/summer/when-is-it-too-hot-to-walk-a-dog/
  2. “What can I do in hot weather to prevent heatstroke in my pet?”. RSPCA. Retrieved February 14, 2022. https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/what-can-i-do-in-hot-weather-to-prevent-heatstroke-in-my-pet/
  3. PetMD Editorial. August 17, 2016. “Paw Pad Burns on Dogs: What to Do”. PetMD. Retrieved February 14, 2022. https://www.petmd.com/dog/general-health/paw-pad-burns-dogs-what-do
  4. Starling, Melissa. December 27, 2021. “How hot is too hot? Here’s how to tell if your dog is suffering during the summer heat”. The Conversation. Retrieved February 14, 2022. https://theconversation.com/how-hot-is-too-hot-heres-how-to-tell-if-your-dog-is-suffering-during-the-summer-heat-172957
  5. Hall, Emily J; Anne Carter and Dan O’Neill. June 18, 2020. “Nine dog breeds at higher risk of heatstroke – and what you can do to prevent it”. The Conversation. Retrieved February 14, 2022. https://theconversation.com/nine-dog-breeds-at-higher-risk-of-heatstroke-and-what-you-can-do-to-prevent-it-139501
Vedrana Nikolic

Vedrana Nikolić is a professional writer, anthropologist & dog lover with a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology. Currently pursuing a Masters degree in Semiotics studying the communication between animals and humans. Vedrana is able to use her expertise to analyse and review dog products and write informative posts on canine behaviour and training.

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