It’s summertime, the sun is shining bright and the temperature is rising. And rising quickly. It’s getting pretty sweaty but your dog needs a walk. But is it actually a good idea to take them? And if so, how long for and how do you keep them comfortable and more importantly, safe? Well, here is everything you are going to need to know and consider.
So, what temperature is too hot for dogs to walk? It is generally accepted that temperatures over 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) are too hot to walk a dog. Although, a dog’s level of hydration, coat length, age, size the demands of the walk, terrain and exposure to direct sunlight will influence the risks involved. Temperatures over 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius) will come with increased risk.
Perhaps not as hot as you might have imagined.
In fact, for some of you reading, you may enjoy this kind of climate year-round.
In some areas, it may be this warm for the majority of the day.
Making it particularly challenging to find a suitable time to walk your dog at a suitable time that also fits your schedule.
But it’s essential you do.
Remember, dogs experience and regulate heat considerably differently to us humans.
They can’t sweat, for one.
There are other reasons to, as we shall now continue to explore.
We’ll also be looking at some of the things you can do should you need to walk your dog in warmer than desirable temperatures.
So keep reading; your dogs safety could depend on it!
Can You Walk A Dog In Hot Weather?
For the most part, you should not look to walk your dog in hot weather. It is strongly advised to not walk your dog during the heat of the day, and to look for cooler periods/locations if you do need to do so.
There are several reasons for this: heatstroke and burned paw pads being the primary ones.
Know the signs of heatstroke so that you’re prepared in case your dog becomes unwell.
Heatstroke can have fatal consequences, so watch for any of the following symptoms:
- Excessive drooling
- Heavy panting
- A bright red tongue
- Staggering (this can lead to collapse)
If you’ve already walked your dog in hot weather and you think your dog may have heatstroke, get him to the vet urgently.
In the meantime, get him into a cool environment and apply cool water (not ice-cold) to your dog’s paw pads, ears, and abdomen.
You could also hose him down or get him to a small body of water, such as a puddle or pond.
Even if you think your dog is feeling better, get him to the vet quickly.
Note: Don’t use ice water to cool down your dog. Ice water can constrict cold blood vessels, which prevents your dog’s body from cooling – his internal temperature could rise even more. If your dog’s temperature drops below 103°F (39.44°C), stop trying to cool him down: you don’t want him to get hypothermia. Get him to the vet asap.
Burned Paw Pads
Sadly, many dogs get burned paw pads because their owners haven’t considered how hot the ground can be!
Signs of burned paw pads include:
- Chewing or licking his feet
- Paw pads are a darker color than usual
- He’s avoiding walking or is limping
- You see visual damage to his pads, such as redness or blisters
It can take weeks for your dog’s paw pads to heal fully.
You’ll have to take him to the vet, as damaged paw pads can become infected.
How Long Should You Walk Your Dog In Hot Weather?
You should walk your dog in hot weather for short-brief periods, no longer than 30-45 minutes at a time. Although if the temperature exceeds 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) you should forgo the walk altogether.
If the weather is warm but still below the threshold referenced above, you should still take additional precautions; go slow, consider clean water sources, prioritize grass and shade, and choose the cooler times of the day.
And do consider that there is no optimum length of time for all dogs to walk: some dogs need more exercise than others.
Give your dog lots of time to sniff: this is highly stimulating for him. Smelling his world is just as important as seeing it!
Warm weather is not the time for vigorous walking – take things slowly and mindfully so that your dog can enjoy it.
Give him lots of short breaks so he can pant and cool off more effectively.
Consider Clean Water Sources
If you are lucky enough to have a clean water source nearby, such as a river or stream, your dog will probably love walking and splashing in it.
Prioritize Grass and Shade
Go for a shady outdoor area with grass, such as:
- A forest
- A park with lots of trees
- Your backyard, if there is grass and shade available
Although open fields have grass, they are heat traps and are best avoided, as they are in full sun.
Your dog will enjoy a gentle walk in these shady spots, with lots of sniffing and water breaks.
Choose The Right Time Of Day
Early morning time or late in the evening are the best times to walk a dog in hot weather.
If your dog is used to walking three or four times daily, replace the midday walks with indoor activities (see below) and lengthen their early morning and late night walks.
How Do I Know If It’s Too Hot To Walk My Dog?
The general rule is that if it’s too hot for you, it’s definitely too hot for your dog. Depending on your dog’s breed and body type, some dogs find the heat more difficult to deal with than others. You can also test the ground first and know the signs of your dog becoming too hot.
There’s an easy way to check if it’s too hot to walk your dog, with no need for a thermometer. Place your bare hand or your foot on the ground – on grass if you’re walking on grass, sand if you’ll walk on the beach, or the pavement in town.
If you can’t keep your foot or hand on the ground for more than 3 seconds, it’s too hot to walk your dog.
Dogs have very sensitive pads on their paws, which can quickly burn.
Surfaces like sand or asphalt absorb heat and remain quite hot, so you must check any surface your dog will be walking on before risking his paw pads.
Consider Your Dog’s Breed
According to this study, different breeds can tolerate hot weather. Some breeds that especially suffer in the heat are flat-faced breeds, such as:
- French bulldogs
- English bulldogs
- Boston terriers
- Shih Tzus
- Dogue de Bordeaux
These dogs suffer from BAS (brachycephalic airway syndrome): they have small nasal openings and have limited breathing capacity in any weather.
When it’s hot, these dogs are at the greatest risk of heatstroke.
Other breeds can suffer from heat because of other factors such as the shape of their skull or their type of fur:
- Cavalier King Charles spaniels
- Golden retrievers
- Chow chows
- English Springer spaniels
Note: Greyhounds, although lean and with very short coats, are also more susceptible to heatstroke. They will run around in hot weather regardless of the consequences.
Consider Your Dog’s Age and Body Type
Other dogs who suffer in extreme temperatures – both hot and cold – are:
- Overweight dogs
- Large dogs (weighing 100 pounds or more)
- Sick dogs (e.g., with a chronic condition)
- Young puppies (they can’t regulate their body temperature as effectively as adult dogs can)
Know the Signs Your Dog Is Too Hot
Here are the signs your dog is finding it too hot to walk outdoors:
He’s Panting More Often
Panting is how dogs cool down: they cool down through their saliva.
If you hear any of the following, your dog may not be getting enough oxygen, and his body is struggling to compensate.
It’s time to cool down your dog immediately (and go inside) if you notice him:
- Louder breathing
- Gasps for breath
- Panting more often
His Mucus Membranes Change Color
Your dog’s mucus membranes (gums, nose, and area around the eyes) are usually pink.
A pink color means your dog’s blood has adequate oxygen levels.
If your dog’s mucus membranes start to go a paler shade of pink, stop walking and cool down your dog.
Let him rest in a shady or otherwise cooler spot.
If your dog’s mucus membranes go red, this is one of the signs of heatstroke (see above).
Get your dog to the vet hospital as a matter of urgency.
Other mucus membrane colors that indicate an emergency include white, grey, or blue.
He’s Slowing Down
Different dogs have different limits when it comes to exercise.
You will probably know your dog’s limits: if you notice him suddenly slowing down or looking for water at every opportunity, it’s time to stop, give him water and a rest, and go home.
Your dog will be eager to please you, so he may push himself beyond what’s comfortable for him, even if there could be severe consequences to his health.
Note: If your dog isn’t in the habit of exercising a lot, don’t choose a warm day to test his limits! It can take from several weeks to a few months for a dog to build up to a comfortable level of exercise (depending on his age, overall health, and breed).
Best Practices When You Need To Walk Your Dog In Hot Weather
You can do several things to keep your dog cooler and safe when you do need to walk your dog in warmer weather. By taking the right precautions, a short trip outside can be safer.
Keep An Eye On Your Dog’s Temperature
If you know your dog is particularly at risk from heatstroke, you can ease your mind by taking his temperature routinely over a period of time, and monitoring that it doesn’t climb too high.
The best way to do this is using a rectal thermometer: you can check his temperature every ten minutes.
Avoid Direct Sunlight and Pavements
Pavements, sand, and gravel will absorb and retain heat.
Seek shady, grassy surfaces. Leafy surfaces work, too, like forests.
Limit Walking Time
Keep the amount of time that you’re outdoors short.
Better to go out for a few short periods with plenty of opportunity for your dog to rest than one long walk.
Take Plenty Of Water
Bring a portable (and perhaps collapsible) water container along with a bottle of cold (or iced) water to keep your dog hydrated.
You can put water bottles in your freezer (three-quarters full) and take them with you.
The ice will gradually melt, leaving the water fairly cool for long periods.
Apply Doggie Sunscreen
Like people, dogs can get sunburn: although it might not seem as painful, sunburn can lead to health problems like skin cancer.
Any dog can get a sunburn, but these dogs are particularly vulnerable:
- Dogs with very little fur
- Dogs with thin or white fur
- Dogs who have light-pigmented noses and eyelids
Make sure you use sunscreen that’s specially formulated for dogs, as your dog may want to have a lick!
Human sunscreens contain PABA and zinc oxide, which are toxic to dogs.
Groom Your Dog Regularly
By grooming your dog regularly, you are helping him be more comfortable in warm weather.
Brushing his fur makes it less dense and removes dead or excess hair which will help him stay cool.
Even dogs with short coats get dead hair that can be removed with brushing.
Note: Don’t be tempted to shave off your dog’s fur coat, as this will make him more vulnerable to getting sunburn.
What To Do When It’s Too Hot To Walk Your Dog
When it’s too hot outside to walk your dog, and you still want to provide exercise, you have several options. You can try some indoor playtime activities, take him to doggy daycare to play with other dogs, or seek out water sources to play about in.
Try Indoor Playtime Activities
As long as your home is sufficiently cool, you can try exercising your dog indoors if you get a bit creative.
Try putting on some music, making eye contact with your dog, and getting him to follow you throughout the house.
Your dog will quickly see that this is a game, and he’ll most likely be eager to join in.
You could also try:
- A game of tag
- Retrieval games
- Hide and seek (you go to a different room and call his name for him to find you. Reward him with a treat when he does)
The benefit of exercising at home is that your dog has access to water all the time, and he can rest when he needs to.
You can even get a cooling dog bed for an extra-comfortable nap!
Try Doggy Daycare
Good doggy daycare services include indoor facilities, air conditioning, and many canine friends for your dog to play with.
Your dog can have a lot of fun in a safe and supervised environment.
Seek Out Water
If you have a yard with access to clean water, you can let your dog splash in a doggy pool or play in a sprinkler.
Your dog will still get exercise and stimulation while staying relatively cool.
You could also take your dog swimming: swimming is excellent exercise.
One minute of swimming equates four minutes of running while being easier on the joints: perfect for overweight dogs.
Note: You’ll still need to take drinking water with you, as too much chlorine or salt water can be harmful when ingested.
If you think its hot outside, chances are it’s not the right time to take your dog for a walk.
But if you are looking for specific recommendations, the general rule of thumb is that 70 degrees F is the upper limit.
Anything warmer than this, and your dog is going to struggle. Or worse, be adversely affected.
It’s not worth the risk.
So, absolutely avoid the heat of the day and seek out the early mornings (or evenings, when the sun has set) if you can.
Otherwise do absolutely consider where, when and how you walk; ensuring you take those extra precautions and measures to keep your dog sufficiently hydrated and cool.
90 degrees is considered too hot to walk a dog. At this temperature, all dogs will be at increased risk of burning, dehydration and sunburn.
a dog should spend no longer than 5-15 minutes outside in 90 degree heat, less if they are in direct sunlight without shade and access to water.
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I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.