My #1 Fear For Dogs This Summer


Hot days kill dogs.

Most of us know enough not to leave our dogs in the car on a hot or sunny day, but did you know in some states it is illegal?  AZ, CA, IL, ME, MD, MN, NV, NH, NJ, NY, ND, SD, VT, and WV all have laws concerning leaving your animal unattended in your vehicle.   Although the penalty is usually not nearly enough in my opinion!

So we can admit we know not to leave our dogs in a hot car on a sunny day! Please?

But… did you ALSO know that just being left outside without shade (or sometimes even with shade) or exercise on a hot day can kill your dog?

My husband and I are avid hikers and geocachers.   When we have a day off we are often found hiking through the mountains with our K9 friends at our side.

But as the temperature climbs we are sometimes unknowingly putting our dogs at risk.

Dogs are AT RISK of heatstroke at much lower temperatures than you might suspect!

When I was a vet tech and worked with my friend (the vet at the local vet clinic) she used to tell all of her clients that anytime the weather is over 70 degrees, your dog is at risk for heatstroke.

Think about it:  70 degrees is not hot at all for us humans!

But your canine friend has fur and did you know he can’t sweat like us?  Dogs can only expel heat through their feet, and by panting.

If you exercise your dog above 70 degrees he should have constant access to water, not only that he can drink but also the kind he can submerge himself in to cool his body temperature.

As we were hiking the other day, the temperature climbed up over 80 and I watched as our dogs went from pond to pond to mud hole and then to the river to cool their temperature.

How Do You PROTECT Your Dog? 

Be knowledgeable about where you are taking your dog and make sure there is shade and water is available.

If you haven’t hiked there before, go without your dog if it is hot.  Even hiking trails that are near water may not be very shady for hundreds of feet or even a mile or more.  Your dog can overheat during this time!

Bring cool water.  Either carry your dog’s water for him or let him carry his own chilled water.   There are backpacks that distribute the frozen or chilled water over your dog’s body to help him stay cooler and an added benefit is that he can also drink some of the water when you stop.

Monitor your dog closely.  Heatstroke begins with heavy panting and difficulty breathing.  The tongue and mucus membranes appear bright red.  Saliva becomes thick and dogs can have bloody diarrhea.  The temperature can climb to 104 degrees very quickly and will become life-threatening.

Carry a rectal thermometer.  I am sure some people think it is gross or would never want to take their dog’s temperature but having one with you and being familiar with how to use it can save your dog’s life!

symptoms of heatstroke in dogs

Recognize long, fat tongues, and other signs of heatstroke!

What Can You Do If You Suspect Heatstroke?

Get your dog out of direct sunlight and heat.

Take your dog’s temperature with a rectal thermometer every 10 minutes until it is normal.   Normal body temperature for your dog is between 101 and 102.5 degrees.  Anything over 103 is abnormal and needs to be cooled.

If your dog’s temperature is over 104 you will need to help cool him by using cool water, the hose, a pond or body of cool water but not ice water!  Even a muddle of mud or muddy water may be cool, you can worry about bathing him later.

Once his temperature is under 103 stop your cooling efforts or he may go into shock and hypothermia.

Following an episode of heatstroke make sure to take your dog to the vet for a health check, even if you have gotten his temperature under control.  Heatstroke can cause spontaneous bleeding, irregular heartbeat, kidney failure and seizures.

My Rules For Protecting Dogs From Heatstroke:

Go early in the morning or late evening if you take your dog so it will be cooler and there will be less direct sunlight.

Always take drinking water to avoid overheating and dehydration.

Make sure a body of cool water is available.

If it is over 80 to 85 degrees depending on your dog, leave your furry best friend home it is way too hot for him to be comfortable even in cool water!

This previously published post was UPDATED June 26, 2020

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