A Guide to Safely Walking Your Dog in the Heat
Author: Keren Dinkin
It’s summer, and that’s usually synonymous with sweltering temperatures —
While we may be enjoying the opportunity to get outside without having to bundle up, our dogs may be suffering in the heat, and it’s important to know how to safely walk your dog outside while temperatures are high.
Walking Your Dog on Hot Surfaces
Before heading out on your walk, it’s helpful to understand the makings of your dog's paws, which are fundamental to their function and wellbeing. Each paw has five main structures—digital pads, claws, dewclaws, metacarpal pads, and carpal pads.
Each foot has six paw pads or digital pads—one under every claw except for the dew claw. The oversized central pad is called the metacarpal pad. These pads act as shock absorbers.
The carpal pad is a smaller pad above the dewclaw that acts like a heel. It functions as a brake and helps your dog maintain balance.
Notably, dogs have sweat glands on their paw pads to help keep them cool.
Every step your dog takes on a hard surface applies pressure on their paw pads, which can be painful. To top it off, walking on hot concrete, asphalt, and even turf and other surfaces can cause pain and burns on their paws, and it’s common for these types of surfaces to be significantly hotter than the surrounding air temperature because they trap heat.
If your dog is limping after walking, they’re likely in pain. You can expect their paw pads to be pink or red, marking the beginnings of a blister. In worse cases, you may see bits and parts of your dog's paw pads torn because they were burned.
Walking your dog on hot surfaces is best avoided during summer, especially during peak sunny hours, but if you do decide to take your dog on a stroll on hot surfaces, it's important to protect their paw pads, which can be just as sensitive as the bottom of your feet.
The Safe Temperature for Dog Walking
Walking on pavement, gravel, and hot asphalt is not recommended during the summer, as they can hurt your dog’s paw pads. Check the temperature before you take your dog out for a walk.
You can go for a brief stroll if the temperature doesn’t rise above 68 °F. Anything higher than 77 °F is risky, so at these times, it's best to put off your walk for later.
Here's another way to check if the pavement is too hot for your pet’s paw pads:
Allow your palm to rest flat on the ground for ten seconds. If it's too hot for you, it will be hot for your dog, too.
Other Notable Heat Hazards
While it’s easy to understand how dogs can harm themselves on hot surfaces, you may not think about dehydration and heat stroke when your dog goes out on a hot day. Not only that, but dogs can develop sunburn. These heat-related risks should always be kept in mind, and they represent a few of the reasons why you probably shouldn’t shave your dog’s fur in the summertime, as their fur offers a natural protective barrier against the sun and heat.
View the infographic below created by the American Kennel Club for more information on how to spot dehydration and heat stroke in your dog as well as a guideline for understanding surface temperatures relative to air temperatures:
Ways to Keep Your Dog Safe During Summer Walks
Yes, you can still take your dog on daily walks in the summer, but you probably need to tweak to your normal routine:
- Always bring along water and your dog's drinking container. You must keep your dog hydrated during the summer, especially when they’re engaging in physical activity.
- Take your dog for early morning walks instead of midday, so you don't have to deal with hot pavements. Another option is taking after-dinner walks when the weather and pavements are cooler. Scout out new areas where you can walk your dog and opt for grassy and wooded places as opposed to pavements.
- If you are bringing your dog on an extended outdoor activity like hiking or trekking, ensure that you are aware of the temperature, and carry an emergency pack for your dog's needs.
- Some days, your dog may not be in the best of spirits because of the weather, so pack a few of your dog's favorite chicken chew treats or beef bones.
- You can invest in some doggy boots for your dog to wear. However, please be aware that although this will provide your pup with an additional layer of protection, there is no guarantee that your dog will be comfortable with or get accustomed to their new kicks.
- After the walk, clean your dog's paws. Ensure that nothing is lodged between their toes, like sand or dirt.
The ideal time to walk your dog is not set in stone, and it can vary greatly depending on your location, the breed of your dog (some breeds are more prone to experiencing difficulties with heat), among other factors.
During summer, make room for adjustments. You can always take your dog on a walk a little later or earlier in the day, you can choose to plan some activities near the water, or you can explore new locations to walk in that aren’t as prone to trapping heat.
With a little planning, you and your pup can safely enjoy the summer without much compromise!
Don’t forget to tag us using #LetsChewNatural so that we can follow along with all your summer adventures!