How hot is too hot
for your dog? | Calgary Dog Health

Dealing With Dogs In The Summer Heat

This summer’s 5-week long heat wave in Calgary has been extreme by our summer standards. I’ve never been in a situation like this before – having to reschedule 5 weeks of sessions in a row due to heat. Crazy! I hope we don’t see this again next year or anytime soon for that matter. Since the topic of heat has been on my mind I decided to write this blog to hopefully educate more pet parents on summer safety.

Does a 10-minute neighbourhood walk in direct sunlight on a summer’s day leave you in a hot, sweaty mess by the time you get home?

You aren’t alone. 

If you’re feeling even somewhat uncomfortable – consider having that walk in a thick winter coat in bare feet on the sidewalks and roads.

That pretty much sums it up for many of our four-legged friends walking around in a fur coat. 

As much as we can sweat and dress for the weather, dogs often struggle with cooling themselves down. And in the summer heat, it is not only uncomfortable for them, but it can get downright dangerous. 

Many dogs each year sadly succumb to heat-related illnesses which could have been prevented simply by taking a few precautions and of course, never, EVER leave your dog in a car. 

In this blog post, I’ll share some information on dealing with the summer heat and look at why you need to be super-extra-careful in the hotter months. 

So How Hot Is Too Hot?

Each individual dog is different, and there are many factors that affect each one’s sensitivity to heat. However, generally speaking, this chart is a handy guide that recommends extreme caution when the temperatures reach above 23°C degrees.

In addition, temperatures above 28°C degrees are considered unsafe with the potential for fatal consequences. 

Even between 20°C and 26°C degrees, your dog can still develop heat-related illnesses. 

heat warnings for calgary dogs

Factors That Affect Heat Sensitivity

Not all dogs are the same, and certain dogs are more prone to overheating than others. Here are some factors that you should look out for, especially if your dog is vulnerable to heat. 

Age – Young puppies below 6 months and senior dogs are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses and should be observed carefully during the hotter months. 

Weight – Overweight and obese dogs are more prone to overheating. 

Physical Fitness – A fit, healthy adult dog in peak physical condition will be more resistant to certain conditions. 

Breed – Large dogs and brachycephalic breeds that have flat faces and short muzzles like Pugs, Boxers, and Bulldogs are more prone to overheating. 

Coat – Double-coated dogs with thick, long hair that come from cold climates like Huskies and Malamutes will be way less tolerant of heat. 

Preexisting Medical Conditions – Certain conditions like respiratory or breathing problems, collapsed trachea, or cardiovascular disease can make a dog more vulnerable to heat. 

Environment – A dog’s environment also plays a part. The countryside is way cooler than the cities, as concrete and asphalt absorb and retain heat much more than grass or trail. 

Activity Level – What your dog is doing at that time also plays a significant role. You really don’t want to be having your dog run around or play fetch in 30-degree heat! 

Dogs keeping cool in the summer heat

What Happens If It’s Too Hot For Your Dog?

However uncomfortable the heat is for you, it is worse for your beloved canine. In addition, your pooch can have several conditions ranging from painful to life-threatening. 

Burned Paws 

If the ground is too hot for you to walk barefoot on, it is too hot for your dog. A rule of thumb is to hold the back of your hand against the surface that you are walking on for seven seconds. If you are unable to, it is WAY too hot! 

Keep in mind that asphalt and concrete are much hotter than trail, so if you are walking, try sticking to soft surfaces like grass or dirt. 


Dehydration in dogs is a potentially serious medical condition that can occur when a dog doesn’t have enough water in its body. 

If not treated quickly, dehydration can lead to serious health problems, such as kidney failure and shock. Symptoms of dehydration include excessive thirst, dry mouth, lethargy, sunken eyes, and decreased skin elasticity. 

To test if your dog is dehydrated, gently pinch the skin between his shoulder blades, pull upwards, and let go. 

If the skin quickly springs back, you might be fine. However, if the skin remains in the pulled shape, your dog might be dehydrated. 

Make sure your dog gets plenty of fluids and isn’t at risk of overheating. At the first sign of dehydration, stop any activity and let your dog rehydrate and cool down completely.

Heat Exhaustion 

Dogs are susceptible to both heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and it’s important to be aware of the signs of each. 

Heat exhaustion is often a precursor to heatstroke, and symptoms include excessive panting, lethargy, drooling, and a mild increase in body temperature. 

If your dog is suffering from heat exhaustion, move them to a cool, shady spot and offer them small amounts of water to drink. If their symptoms don’t improve within 30 minutes, call your veterinarian. 


Heatstroke is much more serious and can be fatal if not treated immediately. Symptoms include rapid breathing, an increased heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea, disorientation, and collapse.

If you suspect your dog has heatstroke, immediately move them to a shady spot and try to cool them down with cool (not cold) water. 

Call your veterinarian immediately. Heatstroke is extremely serious and potentially fatal if left untreated. 

Outdoor portrait sessions

Many of my clients like to have their doggy photo shoots outdoors in summer – everything is green and lush and hey – it’s not snowing! (well – usually! Never say never in Calgary!).  Here at Heidi Grace Pet Portraiture the safety of your pup is my number one priority so if the temperature is over 20°C we will reschedule for a cooler day. I understand the excitement of our session date when it arrives and the disappointment of rescheduling but the health and happiness of your pup must come first. (and trust me – nobody wants to see a session full of images of their dog feeling uncomfortable and panting heavily.) Safety first. Always.

Final thoughts

As much as we want to take advantage of the warm weather and go on a long hike in the summer, consider your pup who is wearing a fur coat all day long.  There’s always going to be a cooler day to go for a romp in the park – especially in Calgary!  🙂

Pawsitive Vibes, 🐾

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Heidi Grace

Fine Art Pet Photographer

Pet Portraits with Personality

Heidi Grace is a nationally accredited and award-winning professional photographer serving Calgary, Alberta.

She’s dedicated to preserving the bond between pets and their parents with her colourful style of story-telling imagery.

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