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Dogs and Hot Weather/Desert Heat

Updated on August 19, 2012

When Dogs Get Hot

This is a really hot (excuse the pun) topic where I live. Central Oregon is one of the most beautiful places on the face of the earth but in the summertime, wow is all I can say in July and August.

The mercury regularly climbs to the 90s but when we get quite a few days where it's 100-105 degrees does everyone ever complain!

That old saying "but it's a dry heat" really doesn't hold any water (again excuse the pun) with me as let's face it, folks--hot is hot!

My feeling though is that if I'm complaining about a little thing called heat, what are my dogs thinking? How are they faring in this weather?

As Alaskan malamutes, I can tell you from my perspective, not very well indeed. Especially my long hair malamute Griffin who's a 3-year-old big boy weighing in at 95 pounds most of which I think is hair! My usually gregarious and very vocal mal is dragging around like Atlas--he has the weight of the world on him and it's his fur!

So how do we keep him and my other two malamutes cool? Very carefully and with a great deal of effort.

The temp hits about 85 on our back deck by 8:00 a.m. My dogs literally have nowhere to go except down on the lower level patio to find shade, but even then, the heat is unbearable on the east side of our house. As humans, if we go outside, it quickly becomes stifling.

Come about 2:00 or 3:00, it's almost tolerable on the deck again because the sun has moved over the house but now the front of our house on the side facing west is so hot it burns your hand to open the front door!

Our dogs have the luxury of owners who work at home for the most part. At least one of us is usually here to let them in out of the blazing heat. They are grateful as evidenced by them sitting at the door or windows whining, howling, or giving a knock on the glass as if to say "hello in there---did someone forget how hot it is out here--I'm melting!"

When it's this hot out, dogs need our help to stay cool.
When it's this hot out, dogs need our help to stay cool. | Source

Dogs and Hot Weather

My dogs' exercise routine is at a virtual standstill except for playtime inside and outside either early morning or late evening. When our temps go above 90, even though we cool down to 50s or 60s at night, it's too hot to run them or sometimes even walk them because the pavement is hot enough to burn your feet.

If the pavement burns a human's feet, it's certainly going to burn a dog's feet. There have been times when I've tried to walk our dogs at 7:30 at night and there is so much heat radiating off the asphalt and the sidewalk that I've come right back in the house. (This would be a great time for dog booties!)

It's recommended that dogs should not be heavily exercised if the temp is above 60 degrees because it can dehydrate them quickly. A lot has to do with the general health of the dog and their age, but it's just not the best idea to overexercise especially a heavily furred dog in that kind of heat--unless it's in the water.

Some of that has to do with the highest temperature of the day or preceding day. If the temperature has been 105 the day before and it's still 100 degrees and expected to remain that way, sidewalks, asphalt and even dirt roads aren't going to cool down completely.

TIP: If you can walk on the sidewalk barefoot without burning your feet, it's now safe to walk your dog on the same pavement. If not, it's burning your dog's feet.

On the other hand, a day that's 70 degrees and was 30 or 40 degrees overnight is probably not going to tax your dog as much but it's still recommended to keep heavy exercising to 60 degree weather. Walking is generally not considered heavy exercise though on hot desert days, it can be extremely taxing on your dog.

No matter what kind of exercise you do in the heat, always have plenty of water available. There are all kinds of foldable dog bowls or plastic dog watering troughs that you can strap to your belt. A dog without water can possibly become a dehydrated dog and you don't want that as dehydration can lead quickly to renal failure.

Leaving a dog out in the yard without shade or adequate cool water is inhumane. Any dog needs plenty of fresh cool water and easy access to shade whenever they need it.

If you have a dog that has little to no hair or very short hair, the dog can sunburn and burn badly just like humans. Imagine sitting outside all day long in 115 degree heat--you'd probably look like a lobster. So can your dog!

Dogs in Cars and Trucks When It's Hot

Don't even get me started on this subject! With all the information that's out there about leaving pets in hot cars, I can't believe people are still so uninformed.

On a cooler than average day a few months ago, I called the police to report a dog in a van with the windows rolled all the way up at the shopping center. He or she was barking insanely and I could see through the windows that the dog was even in a crate. Why the owner would have rolled the windows all the way up is beyond me but the dog was barking frantically.

The temperature inside a car can go to 160 degrees Fahrenheit in minutes--not hours but minutes if it's 100 degrees out.

In this case, I marched into the store and asked for security to come out to the parking lot while I waited for the police. The security guard informed me that probably nothing would happen to the dog's owner--which incensed me to no end. However, they would be issued a warning and the store (Best Buy) left a notice about leaving dogs in cars on the windshield for good measure.

In some states (though not enough), leaving a dog in a car with inadequate ventilation for the weather is a crime--it's called animal cruelty folks! Dogs die every day because people leave them in the car when they just "run in for a minute" to a store. A minute is too long for your beloved dog to be in a 160 degree oven!

If you watch the informative video below, on an 80-degree day, after only a few minutes, with the windows cracked, the temperature was measured at 115 degrees in the demonstration.

When we take our dogs with us--and we take them virtually everywhere--we both go. If it's cool enough, we leave them with the windows all the way down in their crates and we park in the shade where there's a breeze. That's on days when it's in the 70s.

If it's 105 degrees out though, no matter where we go, it's too hot! So one of us goes into one store, one of us goes into the next store, and we leave the AC running with us still in the car if only for a few minutes. Otherwise, we drive around the parking lot. We don't take chances with our dogs because they're too important to us. If we both can't go--one of us stays home with the dogs.

Crate fans or misting fans for travel with dogs in the car work wonders too. Don't forget about the sun and UV rays coming through the windows either. Even if the AC is on and working, the sun beating through the windows is just as hot on them as it is on you.

We live in ranching country here in Central Oregon. I could probably count 100 dogs a day in the backs of pickups and on flatbed trucks. It makes me a little crazy in hot weather and the thought of citizen's arrest comes to mind for me frequently.

Imagine how hot the metal in the truck bed gets. The sidewalk is bad enough and dogs walking on it in that kind of heat should have booties on. But here are dogs laying or sitting, standing on the boiling hot metal of truck beds or tool boxes without any protection.

TIP: If you want to know how hot your dog is getting, leave your truck out in the full sun for 2 hours and then go stand barefoot in the bed--or better yet, sit on it--without any protection! You'll quickly get the picture and maybe think twice about subjecting your dog to that kind of burning heat.

Think About Leaving Your Dog in a Hot Car

Heat Exhaustion Symptoms in Dogs

Hopefully your dog will never experience this syndrome as it can be fatal. Note the warning signs, treat as noted and call your vet immediately.

Remember that this can happen to any dog any time in the heat--on a walk or in the backyard.

Early signs:

  • While panting is normal to cool a dog's body temperature, rapid breathing and heavy panting are not normal
  • Salivation

Time to call the vet signs:

  • Fatigue
  • Muscle tremors
  • Staggering

Treatment for Heat Exhaustion in Dogs:

  • Put the dog in a cool place out of the sun
  • Cover with wet cool blankets to bring down the body temperature
  • Call the vet immediately
  • Try to give small sips of cool water

Heat exhaustion can kill a dog in a very short period of time. Their body systems start to shut down and even veterinary attention may not be able to save the dog. The best cure is prevention!

Are Certain Dogs More Intolerant to Heat?

Amazingly yes. Some of the dogs who should probably try and avoid extreme heat at all costs:

  • Dogs with obviously no fur or little fur--because of sunburn
  • Older dogs--they just can't stand the heat as easily
  • Overweight dogs
  • Dogs on any kind of medication like steroids--they become dehydrated very quickly
  • Heavy coated dogs--like malamutes--they should not ever be shaved but their body heat is enormously increased over the average dog
  • Snub nosed dogs like boxers, bulldogs, pugs, some terriers, Lhaso apsos and shihtzus. In general, dogs that have poor panting mechanisms and have a harder time breathing--it stands to reason that if they can't cool themselves down, they are at higher risk

Keep us cool no matter what you have to do!  We're counting on you!
Keep us cool no matter what you have to do! We're counting on you! | Source

Keeping Your Dog Cool in Hot Weather

Try many of the products that are on the market for keeping your dog cool in extremely hot weather--like dog misting fans, dog pools, kennel shade covers, or even sun shades for car windows.

Keep in mind that during hot weather, cool water is more important than food--and as much as they can drink. Always make sure your dog has ample access to water--it's recommended that they have several sources in case one isn't working or they run out.

Test surfaces with your bare body--if you can't stand it, your dog can't tolerate it either! Don't ever forget that they will experience the same temperature you will--and they have more fur to make them even hotter.

Think about cooling collars or cooling pads as a source for cooling instantly.

If it's too hot out, leave your dog home in the house in a crate with the AC running rather than take the risk of brain damaging your dog in a 160 degree car oven--or worst case scenario, of coming out to find a dead dog!

Remember that there are other dangers too associated with extreme hot weather. For instance in Central Oregon, rattlesnakes abound in the heat and are only too willing to give your dog a venomous warning which could also be fatal.

Our dogs depend on us to take care of them and protect them from all things. Let's not forget how toxic heat can be to our best friends and have a care when the temperatures climb.


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    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 5 years ago from Central Oregon

      Maria - Oh how SAD---insane people if you ask me--I think common sense seems to be on the decline. Seriously--if it's too hot for people, don't they get that it's too hot for dogs?

    • Maria Cecilia profile image

      Maria Cecilia 5 years ago from Philippines

      Akichner the truth is I hate stories like dog's death in a car, there are similiar stories i know, like there's this family going to a particular place via airconditioned bus, but the man or conductor (the one assisting the driver) said dogs are not allowed inside the bus by the can be placed in the place of the bus where the luggages were also placed... I hate the family who agreed to placed their dogs inside the compartment, and I also hate the stupid man who said dogs should be placed in that..... If bus company has a rule about not allowing animals inside then, that's it, no more any suggestion where to place him.... to the family how dare them still bring their dog in spite of the bus restriction.... Imagine the travel time is 4 hours, but the dog did not reach the destination, it was found dead on the stop over..... and the family now complaining against the bus company, when they are the most hateful in my eyes....

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 5 years ago from Central Oregon

      Maria--Thanks for being a good pet owner~~~ I just feel so badly because people don't think about their pets the way that they should...or their kids sometimes either. How sad!

    • Maria Cecilia profile image

      Maria Cecilia 5 years ago from Philippines

      the most heartbreaking stories I read about dogs are dogs' death because they were left in a car.. I mean heartbreaking already for dogs how much more for a child's death. Anyway I agree with this, I am also very careful during summer time, as much as possible I walk the dog in the morning when the sun is still tamed, and second walk in the evening... water is always available, we really need to be sensitive during summer..

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 5 years ago from Central Oregon

      I definitely would tend to agree!!! I couldn't believe the person in Bend that left their dog in the car like that actually because Bend is one of the most dog friendly/pet friendly towns in the universe. I guess it takes all kinds and you'll always have someone who IS an idiot! I just want to say to them...come on..seriously? You didn't think this MIGHT just be a problem? Good lord!

    • writer20 profile image

      Joyce Haragsim 5 years ago from Southern Nevada

      The couple that left the child in the car are in prison. This kind of thing happens here all the time whether it's pets and kids. I want to call these people idiots.

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 5 years ago from Central Oregon

      Good lord--I thought about adding children left in cars as well but since I was supposed to stay "on topic" I did not - I honestly wish someone would empower me to go about and make citizen's arrests on a daily basis!! I can't believe people can be this stupid but there ya go....never a perfect world.

      Thanks so much for the comment and the vote up~

    • writer20 profile image

      Joyce Haragsim 5 years ago from Southern Nevada

      Great Hub that every dog owner such read.

      I live in Las Vegas and cars parked on black asphalt can get up 140f in no time. We have people here who have left a child in a closed car and gone into a bar for 1 drink, haha that person got caught.

      Voted up, useful, awesome and very interesting