mmI know that people can get heat stroke, dehydration, and can experience other impacts from over-heating. What about my loved dog? How sensitive are dogs to heat? How do I keep my pup safe in the summer? Does size or breed matter?

I already feed pup the best food, get proper veterinary care, and give the dog probably more love than anyone could hope for. I want that exchange of love to continue in as healthy a way possible, summer and winter.

Here’s guidance on keeping pup more like a pupsicle and not like an overheated suffering dog. A please do not forget that what applies to the pups also applies in many ways to humans. If you’ve never experience heat stroke or the signs of impending heat stroke, it is easy to think that is not what you are experiencing. The closest I got required a friend with a prior military leadership position, used to keeping the troops under him safe and healthy, saw immediately that I was overheating and “ordered” me to immediately go inside the air conditioned building in spite of the demonstration occurring outside.

Here’s much of what you need to know.

Dogs are indeed sensitive to heat, and it’s great that you’re looking to keep your pup safe during the warmer months. Here’s what you need to know:

How Sensitive are Dogs to Heat?
Dogs don’t sweat through their skin like humans do. They primarily cool off by panting and through a limited amount of sweating at the pads of their feet. This makes them more susceptible to overheating and heat-related illnesses, including heatstroke, which can be fatal.

In fact there ARE dog “booties” to protect the pads on paws. This protects the sensitive pads from not only hot road and sidewalk surfaces, it also provides some protection from rough surfaces such as rocks and rubble. Rescue dogs often are seen with “booties” to protect their paws and pads from injury while they are searching through difficult terrain or urban rubble.

Factors That Affect Heat Sensitivity

1. Breed: “Brachycephalic” breeds (those with short noses and flat faces, like Bulldogs, Pugs, and Boxers) are more prone to heat stress because their airways are less efficient at cooling incoming air.
2. Size and Coat Type: Large dogs and those with thick, dark coats may also struggle more in the heat. However, very small dogs can also be vulnerable because they might be closer to hot surfaces like pavement.
3. Age and Health: Older dogs, puppies, and those with certain health conditions (like heart disease or obesity) are at increased risk of overheating.

Keeping Your Dog Safe in the Summer
Provide plenty of fresh, cool water to help your dog stay hydrated. We all already know this, but in spite of how obvious this might seem, we still see dogs at summer outdoor events with no obvious sources of water. When we are hosting, for example, an exhibit tent at the Dougherty Farms Yesteryear Farm Show, we keep a dog water bowl filled throughout the day. Neither you nor your pup should miss that most interesting experience! There are “camping” dog bowls which collapse for small easy carrying.
Avoid the hottest parts of the day for activities. Early morning or later in the evening are cooler, safer times for exercise.
Choose cooler surfaces for walks. Pavement can get extremely hot and burn your dog’s paws. Grass or shaded areas are much better options. Booties are underused, undervalued, and an important part of dog paw and cooling protection.
Never leave your dog in a parked car, even with the windows down, as temperatures inside can skyrocket to dangerous levels in minutes. Regardless of how many times we hear this, people still do not take it seriously. However dangerous you think it might be, in fact it is actually MORE dangerous to the pup than that. Heat rises high and rises FAST!
Provide shade and cooling. When outside, make sure your dog has access to shaded areas. Cooling mats and dog-friendly pools can also help.
Gradually acclimate to heat. If your dog is not used to hot weather, gradually expose them to increasing temperatures to build tolerance. GRADUALLY! And don’t push it. While acclimation can help, and can assist with some adjustment, the adjustment is not so significant as to change the name of the game: keeping your family member from overheating. Personally I am not a fan of this suggestion. If your pup is kept cool enough, acclimation may be less of an issue.
Monitor your dog for signs of overheating, which include excessive panting, drooling, lethargy, red or pale gums, unsteadiness, and abnormal heart rate.

By keeping these tips in mind, you can help ensure your dog enjoys a safe and cool summer. If you notice any signs of heatstroke in your dog, it’s crucial to act quickly and seek veterinary care immediately as it can progress rapidly and be life-threatening. And by the way, keep yourself and your fellow homo sapiens cool also! Just as heat can have drastic ill-effects on dogs, the same is true of the risk to people. Stay safe, and, easy for Boulderites, Stay Cool!

Lenny Lensworth Frieling

Shared Knowledge is Power!


  • Senior Counsel Emeritus to the Boulder Law firm Dolan + Zimmerman LLP : (720)-610-0951
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