When Temperatures Rise, Keep Dogs Off the Trail

We encourage people to spend as much time with their pets as possible, and taking the dog on a hike may sound like a great idea. But as we enter the hottest months of the year, be aware that hitting the trail with your pet could have tragic consequences.

“Animal Services does not track the number of dog deaths on the trails of San Diego County, but we do know they happen,” said County Animal Services Director Daniel DeSousa. “Pet owners don’t realize that dogs are very sensitive to high heat and when temperatures rise, dogs should be left at home.”

Here’s why. Dogs get dehydrated faster and are much more susceptible to heatstroke than humans. Dogs with short snouts like bulldogs, pugs and Boston terriers can have a difficult time catching their breath in hot temperatures. High heats puts too much stress on puppies and older dogs plus those with weight problems. They should also stay home.

Dogs’ main sweat glands are on their feet and panting is their way of getting rid of heat. Sometimes the two aren’t enough to fight against the heat. In addition, their paws can burn on hot asphalt or hot, rocky terrain. If the ground is too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws. If the temperature inside your house is cooler than outside, keep your dog indoors.

If you do take your dog on hikes or walks during hot weather:

  • Exercise in the early morning and return before midday.
  • Consider your dog’s fitness level. Match the trail with his endurance in mind.
  • Take more water than you think you’ll need and a water bowl.
  • Take plenty of breaks, preferably in the shade.
  • Check your dog’s paws regularly to make sure they’re not getting burned.
  • Watch for signs of dehydration or heatstroke. They can include excessive panting, drooling, vomiting, weakness or bright red gums, refusal to walk further, collapse, shaking, shock and seizures. If your dog suffers any of these symptoms, stop, preferably in the shade, and offer water. Try to cool your dog off by pouring water over them and then take your pet to the nearest vet.

Never leave your dog in the car during summer-like temperatures. On an 85 degree day, a car can reach 102 degrees in 10 minutes and soar upward to 120 degrees –even with the windows down an inch or two. Dogs can suffer brain damage, heatstroke and death.

“Dogs look to their owners to keep them safe,” said DeSousa. “When the thermometer goes up, keep your dog cool and safe inside your home. He’ll be more than happy to see you when you come back.”

For more information, call (619) 767-2675 or visit County Animal Services webpage for Summer Safety Tips.




Tracy DeFore is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact