How Hot Is TOO Hot to Walk Your Dog Outside? An Expert Explains
In many places, it's hardly cooling down even well into September, so when it comes to walking your dog, it's important to know when and when it's not actually safe for them on the sizzling streets. It may be perfectly comfortable for you in your shoes, but if you were barefoot like your dog is, it might be a different story.
We were curious about the topic, and we got the chance to reach out to an expert to answer all of our most burning questions. In this interview with Dr. Andy Chiang, veterinarian and RIFRUF endorser, we learned all about how dogs fare in the heat, and the best ways to maintain their health, both mentally and physically, when the temperatures rise every year.
Sweety High: How hot is too hot to walk your dog outside?
Dr. Andy Chiang: There is not a straightforward answer as it depends on several factors: breed of the dog, the type of pavement, availability of water and shade and normal lifestyle of the dog. Generally speaking, as ambient temperature creeps into the high 70s, pet owners should start paying attention to heat-related problems.
SH: What are some of the risks of walking a dog in high temperatures? Are there any signs we should look out for to make sure our dogs are well and safe?
AC: Walking in high temperatures can put your dog at risk of nasty burned paw pads. When the paw pads peel, it can be extremely painful. Even worse, it can lead to an infection. Heat stroke is another major concern that can actually become life-threatening in severe cases.
Signs of burned paw pads can include limping, sensitivity to touch, licking paw pads, crying in pain, slowing and a gingerly gait. Signs of overheating or heat stroke can include excessive panting, difficulty breathing, dehydration, excessive drooling, elevated core temperature, discolored gums, lack of urine, elevated heart rate, muscle tremors, weakness, lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea.
SH: At what point do asphalt and concrete become too hot for dogs' paws? How can foot protection help when the ground is extra hot?
AC: I tell my clients to place the back of their hands on the pavement. If you have trouble holding it there for more than five to 10 seconds, it may be too hot for your dog. Always err on the side of caution, and use well-padded dog shoes like RIFRUF to significantly reduce the likelihood of paw injuries.
SH: When we do take our dogs outside on hot days, what are some strategies for keeping them safe and protected? What times of day are best for these walks?
AC: Dog shoes are a must if you intend to walk your dog on a hot day. Make sure the shoes contain comfortable padding and the sole is durable. Shoes should be made with high-quality, breathable material. Also plan to time your walk so your pup is not in the heat for too long. Always have water available and look for shades to rest under.
On a hot day, especially in the summertime, it's best to go on longer walks in the early morning and in the evening, and save mid-day for a short walk to avoid overheating.
SH: How can we keep our dogs best hydrated when it's hot out?
AC: The most obvious way to keep your pup hydrated is to have water available and stop for water breaks when you're out. Hydration should be maintained throughout the day, even before your pup heads out, so make sure you have plenty of water bowls available at home. If your dog is not a great water drinker, you can always trick them by adding some water to their food.
Dogs primarily cool down through panting, but excessive panting can also lead to loss of fluid and dehydration, especially on a hot day. So if your dog is panting very heavily, be sure to find a shade, or even better yet, a cool indoor place.
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SH: Are there any types of dogs that need extra care during hot months?
AC: Brachycephalic (smushed face) breeds like French bulldogs, boxers, English bulldogs, pugs, etc. are all extremely sensitive to heat due to their malformed airways. On a hot summer day, I advise you to keep them indoors as much as you can and only walk them when it's cool out, in the early morning and late evening. They're the poster children for heat stroke in vet hospitals during the warm months.
SH: When it's not safe to walk dogs outside because of heat, what are some exercise alternatives at home?
AC: Dogs can benefit from mental exercises just as much as physical ones. Get their brain working with a puzzle toy or teach them a new trick. For working breed dogs, nose work is a great way to mentally exhaust them.
For physical exercises, you can play tug-o-war or even fetch indoors. We've all heard of goat yoga, maybe it's time for you to try some puppy yoga at home?
SH: Is there anything else we should know about the topic?
AC: Enjoy the beautiful weather responsibly. Because paw injuries are painful, our doggy patients often require sedation for us to properly treat the injured paw. It can easily be avoided with high-quality dog shoes like RIFRUF. Also be mindful of how your dog is tolerating the heat. Severe heat stroke cases can end up in the ICU for days. I hope you and your pup soak in as much sun as possible before it gets chilly again!
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