Daily exercise, including getting outside for a walk, is crucial for all dogs to keep them healthy, stimulate their minds, and to prevent boredom. However, when the temperature is very hot outside, it may not be safe.
So what temperature is too hot to walk a dog outside? If the temperature is above 89.6°F (32°C) it is too hot and even dangerous to walk your dog. This is the maximum temperature and for many breeds even lower temperatures are unsafe. This includes brachycephalic breeds such as Bulldogs or heavy-coated breeds like many of the Spitz type breeds.
In addition to brachycephalic breeds and heavy coated breeds, dogs that are overweight or obese, puppies, and larger breeds dogs tend to be less tolerant of hot weather.
Best temperature to walk your dog
The safe and enjoyable to walk a dog is 53.6°F to 59°F (12°C to 15°C). At this temperature, they are able to stay outside for a long time. It is possible to walk your dog in a little higher temperatures but it is important to monitor them and take precautions. See below for tips on walking a dog in warmer weather.
Dangers of walking your dog in hot weather
Dogs are unable to cool themselves as efficiently as we do. They don’t have sweat glands. Their cooling system is in their nose, tongue and paw pads
The three biggest concerns when walking your dog when it is too hot outside are:-
- heat sickness in the form of heat stroke and heat exhaustion.
- sunburn especially for dogs with a light color or white coat or a thin coat. Sunburn to the nose can also be a concern.
- burning under their paws. In the hot weather the tarmac, concert and even manhole covers can be extremely hot.
We will examine each of these three safety concerns in more detail.
Heat stroke and Heat Exhaustion
The dangers of heat stroke and heat exhaustion are very real and the potential for your dog to suffer from this are very high. Especially if they are not conditioned to the hot and humid weather.
Heatstroke can take several hours before it becomes deadly. Some extreme cases can cause death if the dog doesn’t receive medical care immediately.
Signs that your dog may be overheated include
- excessive whining and fidgeting
- panting with the tongue right out of their mouth and being scooped at the end.
- weariness, confusion, sluggish movement.
- red gums and tongue.
- foaming at the mouth, thickening of the saliva, and breathing difficulties.
Dehydration can set in fast. During dehydration, the dog’s mouth and gums will become dry and the skin will lose it elasticity. If you grab the skin on the back of the neck and stretch it will return slowly back into its natural position.
This is a sign that they are highly dehydrated and may go into shock. They will need IV fluids to be injected by your vet. Any signs of heat exhaustion or dehydration are a cue to stop the exercise and allow them to cool off.
Get into the shade or indoors if possible and give them small amounts of cool water. Don’t let them drink large amounts at once. Use a wet cloth to cool their paws, groin, and armpits. Cooling a dog down too quickly can cause them to go in to shock.
Heat stroke, if not treated can be fatal. If they exhibit any vomiting, weakness, or seizures get them to the vet as soon as possible.
Humidity is also a factor. Dogs cool themselves by panting, and humidity makes their cooling system less effective. Every dog as their limitations when it comes to handling the heat.
Short nose, flat-faced breeds such as French Bulldogs, Boxers and Pugs have compromised air passages which can limit their oxygen intake making it more difficult to cool off.
Dogs with thick dark-colored coats are also more prone to getting hot as opposed to a dog with a lighter color and finer coat.
Become familiar with your particular dogs’ limitations and indicators.
These risk factors will have an effect on your dog’s limitations for handling the heat.
- Being a breed with a short nose and flat faces such as Bulldog, Pug or Boxer
- Dogs that are bred for cooler climates such as Huskie or Malamutes
- Being a breed with a thick double coat such as a Collie or Old English Sheep Dog
- A puppy or a senior dog
- Being overweight or obese
- Having long or dark-colored fur
- Any sort of health issue that affects the lungs or heart
- Having previously suffered from heatstroke
Sunburn in dogs
Just like us, dogs can get sun burnt. Areas such as the nose, ears and tummy are more likely to be affected before fur covered areas. Signs to look for are dry or cracked skin, the skin is pinker than normal,or constant scratching and licking in tender areas along with whimpering.
They may even pull away if your touch or pet them. Blistering of the skin is a sign of severe sunburn. In the case of severe sunburn, a dog may have a higher temperature.
If you think your dog does have a sunburn, consult your vet. Dogs don’t burn as easily as people so if the skin is showing signs of damage it may be worst they it appears.
Dogs that suffer from sunburn the risk of developing cancerous conditions later in life is increased. Frequent sunburns can lead to skin cancers.
White dogs or breeds with a thin or short coat are at higher risk of sunburn. This includes breeds like Dalmatians, English Bull Terriers, Beagles, white Boxers, etc. Hairless breeds like the Chinese Crested are obviously at a higher risk.
If your dog is a breed that may be at a higher risk of sunburn, use a dog sunscreen. View sunscreen for dogs on Amazon.
Burning under paws
In the hot weather the asphalt, concert sand, and even manhole covers can be extremely hot. Whatever the air temperature, the ground temperature will be double.
Always check the temperature of the ground with your hand before commencing your walk. Also, check when going on to a different surface such as going from the grass to footpath.
This photo shows the damage hot ground can do to a dog’s paws. If the ground temperature is too hot to put your hand on, it is probably an indication that it is too hot outside for your dog anyway.
How to tell if the ground is too hot for your dog’s feet.
Place the back of your hand on the ground. If you can’t keep it their for more than 5 to 10 seconds, it is way too hot for your dog to walk on.
Consider putting boots on your dog or always check the ground temperature before they walk on it.
How do I know if it’s too hot to walk my dog
If the temperature outside is above 89.6°F (32°C) it is too hot to walk your dog. Humidity is also a factor. Even if the sun is not shining down, high humidity can also cause your dog to overheat.
Remember to always check the temperature of the ground, especially asphalt, concert, or sand. Place the back of your hand on the ground. if you can’t keep it there for more than 5 to 10 seconds, the ground will burn your dog’s paws. The ground temperature from the sun is double the air temperature.
Overall it is about using common sense. If you have any doubts, take your dog walking during a cooler time of day or look for alternative ways to exercise them. Monitor them during the walk. If they are showing signs of getting too hot, end the walk and move to the shade.
Safety tips for walking a dog in hot weather
Here are some tips and ways of keeping your dog safer and more comfortable when walking in higher temperatures.
Walk at cooler times of the day
Take your dog for their walk either early in the morning or late evening. The temperature will be cooler at these times as there is less direct sunlight.
Take water with you
Keeping your dog well hydrated when the weather is hot is crucial. Ensure you have a bottle of water not only for your dog to drink. Pouring a little water on your dog will also help cool them down.
Cooling vest or collar
Use a cooling vest for your dog. Cools through the science of water evaporation – simply wet the vest, wring it out and place on your dog.
View cooling vests for dogs on Amazon.
Alternatively, you can use a cooling collar. View cooling collars on Amazon. Another simple option is to put a white cotton T-Shirt on your dog, especially if they are black or dark-colored.
Walk in the shade
Look for places to walk that have plenty of shade, and avoid direct sunlight. The temperature in the shade is much cooler.
Wet your dog down
Wet your dog down with a hose before and after their walk to keep them cooler. Dogs cool from bottom to top so so be sure to cool off their stomach, chest and groin and feet.
How can I exercise my dog when it’s too hot
Just because it is too hot to walk your dog doesn’t mean your dog should stop getting their daily exercise. It should be more moderate than usual and precaution needs to be taken.
Dogs still need exercise to keep them healthy, keep their muscles strong to prevent injury, and prevent boredom that can lead to behavior problems. A well-exercised dog is calmer, has better behavior, and is happier.
These are some suggested alternatives to walking or exercising your dog outside in hot weather.
Provide plenty of activities that work your dog brain, not just the body. Mentally stimulating activities can use just as much energy and tire your dog as much as physical exercise.
This can include puzzle toys and activities, nose and scenting games, and learn new commands and tricks. For more on mental enrichment and mind stimulation, read the article “Mental enrichment and mind stimulation”
Exercise and play indoors
There are plenty of games and activities that your dog can do indoors such as fetch, tug of war or hide and seek to name a few.
If you have stairs in your house they can be a good way to get your dog moving while building strength in the hind legs walking up. Walking down will build strength and stability in the core. For more on stair exercise for dogs see here.
Walk on a treadmill
Walking on a treadmill is not going to be a substitute for going for a walk, but a least it will provide some release of physical energy. Once your dog is trained to walk on the treadmill you can fit in any other small tasks you have to do while they walk. Obviously, you will need to stay nearby and supervise for safety.
Make an inside obstacle course either with furniture or items around the house or use agility-type obstacles such as tunnels and jumps. If you don’t want to build a full obstacle course you can play Under and Over. Have your dog go under an obstacle the first time and them to jump over the second. This burns energy fast.
Not all dogs like to swim, but if your dog loves the water this an ideal way to burn pent-up energy Ten minutes of swimming can be equivalent to an hour-long walk.
Swimming is a strenuous activity and a dog can still over heat if they over do it. Keep the session short to avoid this.
Alternatively, do other water play like a game with the hose or sprinkler or splashing in a paddling pool.
Dog daycare and indoor training facilities
Consider sending your dog to a dog daycare for a few days a week or an indoor training facility or dog gym if they are available in your area. Alternatively, arrange play time with another dog if you know another dog owner who may have a good setup for hot weather such as a large basement.
Several shorter sessions
Give your dog a couple of short walks or exercise sessions throughout the day to avoid them getting too hot from one strenuous session.
Conclusion – how hot is too hot to walk a dog
Even when the weather is hot, dogs still need exercise to keep them healthy, keep their muscles strong to prevent injury and prevent boredom that can lead to behavior problems. A well-exercised dog is calmer, well behaved, and happy.
It just means that you have to be aware of the hazards and signs of heat stroke and heat exhaustion, sunburn and burnt paws and take appropriate steps to ensure that they are safe during the hot weather. Try some alternate exercise methods like mental enrichment games or indoor activity.
For more tips read “How to keep a dog cool in hot weather”