Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

How to keep your dog safe on hot days

Dog days of summer can be “ruff” on man’s best friend.

While most people know better than to leave a pet in a vehicle on a hot day, owners still need to “paws” to think about what’s best for their furry friends during the hottest and muggiest time of year.

“Prevention is best,” when it comes to dogs and high temperatures, says Dr. Elaine Degrandpre, chair of NAIT’s Animal Health Technology program.

Here are her tips for keeping your dog safe in the summer heat.

Cars aren't cool

“Even if it’s in the 20s and the sun is shining on the car, in a matter of minutes it becomes an oven and the poor dog is baking,” says Degrandpre. Cracking windows will not adequately cool a vehicle and the result can be heatstroke or severe heat exhaustion.

  • Leave your dog at home if you need to run an errand
  • If you must bring your dog, have someone sit with it outside in the shade and provide water

Give them shelter

Ensure your dog has somewhere to escape the broiling sun.  At minimum, provide a dog house and lots of fresh water. Consider bringing your dog inside on hot days.

Skip the workout

“Ask yourself, would you do a full-speed run in this weather? If you think it’s hot out there, then it’s hot for your dog,” says Degrandpre. Like you, dogs need to limit exercise on hot days. If you are out

  • don’t expect a dog to let you know they’re getting hot. Dogs are pleasers and will try to keep fetching  and running even though they’re overheating
  • don’t bike with a dog beside you – something Degrandpre, thinking of the animal’s safety, strongly advises against. Your dog may enjoy a cool breeze, but it’s working much harder

Don’t pound the pavement

“If it’s too hot for your bare feet, it’s too hot for your dog,” says Degrandpre. Hot pavement can burn a dog’s pads. If you must head out in the heat

  • have the dog walk on grass
  • go out when it’s cooler, such as early morning or evening

Protect sensitive skin

Short-coated, fair-haired or light-skinned dogs can burn easily. Unless you can find a natural product free of zinc-oxide, Degrandpre doesn’t recommend sunscreen because your furry friend may lick it. Instead, try to stay indoors during the hottest hours of the day, usually 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Act immediately

Be aware of signs that your dog is overheating, such as

  • panting more heavily than usual, which stresses the heart and respiratory system
  • appears depressed
  • slow to move or get up
  • can’t stop panting

If you see these signs, immediately move your dog to shade if you’re outside. If inside, put it in front of a fan. Offer small quantities of water. The dog should start to appear better within minutes to an hour.

Heatstroke can be fatal, even with treatment, and It comes on quickly. Signs include

  • dog is on its side and not moving
  • may or not be panting
  • eyes seem unfocused, or is staring off in space, not looking at you
  • body feels hot to touch
  • rapid heartbeat
  • the dog may collapse

If your dog is showing these symptoms, go immediately to a vet or emergency clinic, if nearby. If not, try to cool dog and seek treatment as soon as possible.

Vulnerable canines

  • Dogs with a shorter snout or squished face, like a pug, boxer or bulldog, have a higher risk of breathing troubles when they get hot
  • Older or overweight dogs, puppies and canines with health issues overheat more quickly than others




Subscribe to receive more great stories every month

Find out more news about NAIT, stories about our alumni and their impact on their communities, and useful how-to content featuring our experts.