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Happy smiling dog taking selfie on the beach

The essentials

  • Excessive heat can be harmful to a dog’s health — Heat affects dogs similarly to the way it affects humans, capable of causing sunburn, dehydration, and heat exhaustion after prolonged exposure.
  • Some breeds have a higher risk of developing heat injuries — Larger dogs, older dogs, and dogs with short snouts have a harder time regulating their internal body temperature than young, healthy breeds.
  • Exercise caution when taking your dog outdoors — Whether you’re hitting the pool, the lake, beach, or mountains, it’s essential to take the necessary precautions for the places you’re going to keep your dog cool and hydrated.

After months of cold and precipitation, you’re probably eager to enjoy long summer days full of walks, playtime, and outdoor adventures with your furry best friend. But while the arrival of summer can be one of the happiest times in a dog’s life, the summer heat can be harmful without enough water, air, or shade.

These summer safety tips will help your dog avoid unwanted complications from dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke — and keep them safe no matter where your summer travels take you.

Precautions to take from the backyard to beach

Summer is the perfect season to spend some quality outdoors time with your dog. From road trips to hot days outside, there are steps you can take to make sure your pup stays safe and happy.

Luckily, many of the precautions you should take for your dog are the same ones you’d take yourself. Dogs can get overheated and sunburned just like humans, so hydration and minimal exposure to extreme heat are critical. And more time outside means more risk of exposure to unfriendly critters like snakes and insects, especially for curious pups who like to explore wooded areas.

As with any adventure, being prepared for summer outings with your dog is key. Read our guide to learn some of the most common pitfalls you might encounter, how to prevent them, and how to respond.

Understanding heatstroke in dogs

When your dog’s body temperature exceeds the normal range of 101 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit, their body enters a state of hyperthermia. If a dog’s body temperature exceeds 105° F, they may be suffering from heatstroke. This is a life-threatening condition that can result in serious health complications including brain swelling, kidney failure, intestinal bleeding, and abnormal blood clots if the appropriate steps aren’t taken to treat it.

Look out for these symptoms so you can catch heatstroke early and keep the condition from getting worse:

  • Excessive panting. Dogs use panting as a cooling mechanism since they can’t regulate their body temperatures using sweat like humans do. Excessive panting and rapid breathing are two of the most common signs of overheating in dogs.
  • Drowsiness, lethargy, and loss of coordination. Heatstroke causes brain malfunctions that can result in confusion and disorientation. Dogs experiencing heatstroke may also have trouble maintaining their balance.
  • Elevated heart rate. Dogs suffering from heatstroke commonly experience an elevated heart rate, or tachycardia, because the heart pumps faster and harder in higher temperatures in order to send more blood to the skin and cool the body down by promoting heat radiation.
  •  High temperature. Heatstroke overloads the body’s ability to regulate its internal temperature, resulting in a host of fever-like symptoms including skin and/or ears that are hot to the touch. Monitor your dog’s temperature with a thermometer, and take them to your vet immediately if it exceeds 104° F.
  • Bright red gums and tongue. Redness of the tongue, gums, and mucous membranes is a common indicator that a dog’s body is undergoing distress as the result of excessive heat.
  • Drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea. A rapid rise in a dog’s body temperature can lead to dehydration and other electrolyte imbalances that cause nausea and other forms of gastrointestinal upset.
  • Seizures and coma. In extreme cases, heatstroke may trigger seizures that subsequently cause a dog to fall into a coma. This is extremely serious and requires immediate attention by a medical professional.

What to do if your dog has heatstroke

If you think your dog is suffering from heatstroke, you’ll want to seek professional care as soon as possible. We recommend taking steps to lower their body temperature in a safe, controlled manner before you attempt to move them anywhere. Stop any activity as soon as you detect signs of heatstroke and cool your dog off by doing the following:

Take them to a cool place — Walk or carry your dog to a shady, well-ventilated room equipped with a fan or air conditioner. If you have a portable fan, place it close to your dog to blow a steady stream of cool air on them.

Use cool, clean water — Spray or sponge your dog’s body with cool water to help relieve their fever, but be careful not to use overly cold water. You can also cool them off by placing a soaked towel on their back or underside.

Monitor their temperature — Give your dog plenty of drinking water and time to rest. Use an ear thermometer to keep an eye on their body temperature while they recover. When their energy level starts to return to normal, it’s usually okay to take them in for a veterinary examination.

Plan ahead —  Fill an emergency first aid kit with essentials like a water bowl, ice packs, and contact info for your vet in the event of future heat injuries. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

🚨 Skip these steps and immediately see a doctor if your cat shows advanced signs of heatstroke or is unresponsive.

Common illnesses and injuries to look out for

Heat poses many of the same risks to dogs as it does to humans. But unlike a human, your dog won’t be able to directly tell you they’re in trouble. Here are a few common summer illnesses and injuries for dogs and how to spot them.

Dehydration. When dogs lose more water than they take in, they become dehydrated. And when it’s hot, they’re prone to losing water through increased sweating and panting. Symptoms of dehydration include heavy panting, dry gums and nose, thick saliva, lethargy, sunken eyes, and loss of skin elasticity.

Heat exhaustion. Usually signified by rapid panting and a body temperature above 103 degrees, heat exhaustion is the precursor to a heat stroke, which can be fatal. Dogs experiencing heat exhaustion may also exhibit vomiting, diarrhea, glazed eyes, lack of responsiveness or coordination, drooling, or rapid heart rate.

Snake or bug bites. Unfortunately, snakes, mosquitoes, and other insects enjoy warm weather, too. If you notice a bite mark or swollen area on your dog’s skin, check their behavior for irregularities. Some poisonous snakes can cause swelling around the body, a lack of coordination, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, or irregular breathing. Conversely, if you notice the symptoms first, check for a bite (though some bites are too small to be seen). In any case, most bites are worth a visit to the veterinarian — even nonlethal bites can cause long-term side effects.

Often, ticks can be found still attached to a pet’s skin. Ticks can transmit harmful diseases as Lyme or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Dr. Bruce Armstrong

Drowning. Even if you rescue your dog from drowning, they may develop respiratory problems or electrolyte imbalances due to inhaling water. If your dog has a near-drowning experience, it’s best to take them to a veterinarian, who can identify signs of near-drowning complications, including labored or irregular breathing, posture changes, a weak pulse, or loss of consciousness.

Paw pad burns. A dog’s paw pads are thick skin on the bottom of their feet. Though paw pads are made to withstand rough terrain, they are prone to burns from scorching pavement during the summer. Dogs with burnt paw pads will often limp or lick the area. You also may be able to see the burn, which can look like a dry or discolored patch of skin.

Sunburn. The symptoms of canine sunburn will probably sound familiar: reddened skin, blistering, and skin tenderness, to name a few. Sunburn is most likely to occur in areas with little hair. Lack of direct sun exposure is best, but dog-safe sunscreen does exist.

Anxiety. Around the fourth of July, you’re likely to hear fireworks at night. This is a common anxiety trigger for many dogs. There are several tried-and-true methods for calming your dog in this scenario.

Common dog breeds susceptible to the summer heat ☀️

In general, larger or older dogs tend to struggle in the heat.  Another risk factor is snout shape. Brachycephalic dogs (those that have a short head and snout) can’t pant as efficiently as long-snouted dogs, which means they aren’t able to regulate their body temperature as well. Breeds that have a hard time in the heat include:

How to keep your dog cool ❄️

The best way to beat the heat is to stay inside. But with the right know-how, you and your dog can still have a great day outdoors. It’s all about taking breaks — a few minutes in the direct heat likely won’t harm your dog, but prolonged periods can.

Classic heat relief strategies like fans, shade, and hoses work well for lowering a dog’s body temperature. Here are a few more tips for cooling your dog off quickly:

Take a dip — If you’ve got a cool source of water nearby, let your dog stand in it. Your dog’s paw pads help regulate their body temperature, so even just submerging their paws can help. If your dog is really hot try not to let them get submerged too quickly. Rapid changes in body temperature can be harmful.

Use a wet blanket or ice pack — If you plan to go on a walk, a damp towel stored in the freezer may be a welcome surprise when you get home. You can drape it over their head,  neck, or groin for a quick cool down. You can also use an ice pack wrapped in a towel to do the same.

Make popsicles — Dogs tend to love frozen treats, too. And for many dogs, an ice cube will do the trick. If you want to make a special treat, try freezing some water mixed with a bit of beef bullion for flavor — just don’t mix them up with your fruit pops! 🍧

Where are you bringing your dog?

If you plan to take your dog to the pool, beach, or somewhere outside — be sure to plan accordingly to ensure your pup is properly cared for and supervised. On top of bringing water, here are a few safety tips for popular summer outings.

Pool safety for dogs 💦

Avoid pool covers — While they’re a good solution for cleanliness, pool covers are very dangerous for dogs. Most are not strong enough to support the weight of a dog, despite the fact that they appear solid. Once a dog falls in, it’s often impossible to find their way out.

Teach your dog to use the steps — Building a habit of cannonballing into the pool is dangerous because it doesn’t require your dog to have an exit strategy before being submerged. If they know how to walk their way into a pool, they’ll also know how to get out.

Use a flotation device — Even good swimmers can get caught in a bad situation, like being injured or trapped. Doggie life jackets help protect from the worst-case scenarios and make swimming a little bit less exhausting. A good personal flotation device (PFD) for dogs will be brightly colored, reflective, and comfortable enough for them to spend hours wearing. A handle on the top is a nice feature for easy lifting.

Boat safety for dogs ⛵

Plan for accidents — If your dog decides to take a swim or gets bumped into the water, you need to have a recovery plan. To start, they should be wearing a PFD. You can also use a tether to keep them attached to the boat. This is especially useful if your dog isn’t the strongest swimmer. Don’t jump in the water to save your dog — they may be panicking and unintentionally harm you. Rather, get the boat close enough, cut the motor, and call your dog over to the boat. When they’re close enough, reach over and pull them up by their flotation device.

Check local laws — While there are no federal laws about bringing pets on boats, it’s a good idea to check local and state regulations just in case.

📷 by Josh Rakower

Beach safety for dogs 🏖️

Check the beach’s regulations — Two beaches within the same town may have different policies about whether dogs are allowed. Many beaches require leashed dogs at all times, while others only allow dogs during certain hours or not at all. Always make sure to clean up after your dog when you take them to the beach.

Secure a shady area for your dog to rest — Even if you love to bake in the sun, your dog probably doesn’t. Beach tents and pens can provide a cool area for your dog to relax when they need a break.

Ensure the water conditions are safe — Check with a lifeguard before allowing your dog to swim in the ocean. Riptides and jellyfish can easily injure your dog.

Bring sun protection — Ears and noses are very susceptible to sunburn, especially on light-haired and fair-skinned dogs. Be sure to bring dog-approved sunscreen and reapply after they go in the water. Sunlight can also cause eye damage, so a pair of “doggles” may be useful if you spend a lot of time outdoors.

👉 Do not let your dog drink salt water. Too much salt water can cause an electrolyte imbalance, which can lead to seizures or cerebral edema if left untreated.

Walking safety for dogs 🦮🚶

Stick to the cooler hours — You can avoid the worst of the heat by taking your summer dog walks during the cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late evening. In general, the warmest part of the day usually falls between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Keep your walks outside this window to minimize your dog’s exposure to excessive heat and give the pavement a chance to cool down so it’s not so harsh on their sensitive paw pads.

Carry water — Staying hydrated is just as important for dogs as it is for humans, especially when their bodies are working to keep cool in sizzling summer temps. To make sure you always have enough water for both of you on hand, we recommend carrying a portable water bottle and a collapsible dog bowl for them to drink out of. Take water breaks every 15 to 20 minutes whenever you go outside together.

Protect paws from hot pavement — Concrete and asphalt get so hot during the summer months, they can actually cause burns and blisters on a dog’s paw pads. You can help them avoid hot surfaces by limiting their outdoor time to the cooler parts of the day, investing in a pair of dog booties for them to use during the summer, and applying a soothing paw balm to their pads before and after walks.

Always use a leash — Outdoor activities can be super stimulating for a dog, which can easily land them in a potentially dangerous situation if their pet parent isn’t careful. We suggest walking your dog on a leash while you’re out on summer walks to keep them from running after alluring scents and squirrels.

👉Go ahead and take precautionary measures by signing up for FidoAlert, the free nationwide pet alert network you can use to rescue your dog if he or she escapes.

Hiking safety for dogs 🌳

Bring a first aid kit — Dog first aid kits do exist, and they include many of the same components as human first aid kits — gauze, hydrogen peroxide, tweezers, bandages, etc. However, a dog first aid kit may also include some pet-safe wound ointment, an extra leash and collar, a muzzle, and travel water bowls.

Check the local regulations — It’s never safe to assume your dog is allowed on a public trail. Even if they are, walking them off-leash can be dangerous for both your dog and other people. Make sure you follow trail etiquette.

Be prepared for insect or snake bites — Insect bites from mosquitos and other pests are common, and will produce a similar reaction in dogs as they do in humans — itching, swelling, hives, or pain. Ask your veterinarian ahead of time for the proper dose of Benadryl in such a case. Inspect bites and remove any stingers with tweezers. If you spot a tick in their fur, remove it with a tick key. Snake bites are less common, but you need to visit a vet ASAP if you suspect one.

Be sure your dog is up-to-date on medications — Prevention is nearly always easier than treatment. Before you go into the woods, be sure your dog is adequately protected with flea, tick, and heartworm medications.

Car safety for dogs 🚗

Never leave your dog in the car — Even parking the car in the shade and rolling the windows down is not okay. It only takes a few minutes for a car to heat up to a temperature that can cause your dog to have a heat stroke.

Don’t drive with windows wide open — A cracked window is nice for airflow, but you should avoid letting your dog hang out of the window or ride in a truck bed. Despite how cute they look catching some air, they’re in danger of falling out.

Crate your dog if needed — Some dogs get car anxiety. If that’s the case, it’s best to limit car time. When you have to go for a ride, it may make sense to put them in their crate. Not only will it keep them safe from harm, but it will also protect you and your car. If you don’t want to bring a crate, doggie seat belts can accomplish the same thing.

When is it too hot to bring your pup outside?

There is no one-size-fits-all temperature for dogs. What might feel okay to a small, young dog may be very uncomfortable for a larger, older dog. Get to know your dog’s heat threshold before bringing them along on a long expedition outdoors.

In general, the average dog will be alright up to 90 degrees, provided that they have great air flow, plenty of water, and shade. On days that exceed 90 degrees, you should limit outdoor activities and recover properly.

🚨 Asphalt pavement can become scorching hot — 140 degrees or hotter — on summer days, which is hot enough to cause permanent damage to your dog’s paw pads. Paw balms can minimize damage by providing a protective barrier between the ground and your dog’s paws

Don’t leave the house this summer without these items

Summer brings on a world of possibilities — and challenges — for dogs. With the right toolkit, you can feel good about towing your pooch along on all of your summer adventures. Here are a few items you should always keep with you:

  • Leash + collar
  • Tick key
  • Poop bags
  • Collapsible water bowl
  • Water bottles
  • First aid kit
  • Dog paw balm
  • Food storage bag or container

Special gear for your dog this summer

A few specialty items can make a big difference on longer or more involved excursions. These include:

  • Dog shade. Like a portable, more breathable crate, dog shades provide a safe place for your dog to retreat when they’ve had enough sun. We love the Niubya outdoor dog shade because it keeps your dog off the ground, which can relieve pressure and tension for older dogs.
  • Dog sunscreen. Human sunscreen usually isn’t safe for pets if ingested. Consult your veterinarian about a quality sun protector for dogs. This dog sunscreen from Bodhi is one of our favorites because it’s non-greasy and dog-friendly.
  • Life jacket. Whether you’re playing at the beach, the pool, or spending a day on the boat, a PFD can give you peace of mind and help your dog enjoy the day. This life jacket from Outward Hound is handy because it’s got two handles on the top, making it easy to tug your dog aboard if needed.
  • Doggles. If you plan on spending lots of time in the sun with your pup, consider buying a pair of doggles, like these waterproof sunglasses.

Frequently asked questions

How can I keep my dog safe in the summer?

The best way to keep your dog safe from scorching summer heat is to make sure they have access to nearby shade and fresh water both inside and outdoors. Avoid leaving them in a hot car when you’re out running errands with them, and take your walks during the cooler hours of the day so the concrete doesn’t burn their paw pads. If your dog has a finer coat, you should also look into buying a quality dog sunscreen to protect their skin.

What temp is too hot for dogs?

While a dog’s individual heat tolerance depends on factors like their breed and age, any temperature above 90 degrees Fahrenheit is generally considered unsafe for them. If it feels hot to you, there’s a good chance it feels even hotter to your dog. Exercise caution during the summer and limit the amount of time they’re allowed outside if it feels too hot.

What temperature is unsafe for dogs in summer?

Most dogs are at an increased risk for heatstroke in outdoor temperatures exceeding 89 degrees Fahrenheit. Outdoor activity should be avoided in temperatures hotter than 82°, though some older dogs may still be at risk for heat injury in temperatures between 70° and 77°.