Summer Is Coming: A Guide to Keeping Your Dog Safe in the Arizona Heat

Dogs are seen wearing booties on the sidewalk as PETA passes out free dog booties to prevent burns on July 23, 2020 in Venice, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)

By Morgan Fischer

April 13, 2023

With surface temperatures potentially reaching up to 150 degrees in the summer, Arizona’s dogs are at risk for heat stroke and burnt paw pads. Here’s how to keep your dog protected. 

As Arizona summer approaches, surface temperatures can reach up to 150 degrees in the hot sun, and for dog owners in the sunniest state, it is important to know the correct measures to take to keep pets safe.

Almost 18,000 sick, injured, and abused pets are taken care of each year at the Arizona Humane Society. During the hot summer months, the organization is especially overrun, AHS spokesperson Kelsey Dickerson told The Copper Courier. 

The organization’s field teams, which are pet paramedics and cruelty investigators, “go on thousands of calls every year,” Dickerson said. “And about a third of the calls we get from pets in distress are about the heat.” 

RELATED: 7 Dog-Friendly Places in Phoenix to Take Your Pup

The majority of these distress calls are caused by a pet locked in a hot car or tethered outside with no shade or water. 

“Arizona heats up really quickly and even though it might feel like we’re used to that, we aren’t wearing fur coats all the time, like our animals are,” Volunteer and Events Manager for the Arizona Animal Welfare League Katie Frederick said. 

Here are several precautions and actions that you can take to keep your pet safe from the Arizona sun. 

Never leave your pet in a hot vehicle 

The inside temperature of a car can rise quickly, causing distressing heat. Even if you want to run into a store quickly, never leave your pet unattended in a hot vehicle as this can quickly become a dangerous situation.

“Even on a cooler day, like 60 to 70 degrees, the inside temperature of a car can reach up to 40, 50 to 60 degrees higher than it is outside … within just a matter of minutes,” Dickerson said. “It can become very deadly, very fast.” 

In Arizona, it is against the law to leave an animal or child in a parked car if the result can be injury or death.The law also protects those that break the window of a vehicle if it’s done with the intent to save a pet or child. 

However, if you see a pet or child in a locked car, take a moment before you break the window. There are steps to take to make sure you can’t be held liable for the potential damage. This includes calling 911, making sure no doors are unlocked, and letting emergency response operators guide you through the process to remove the child or the dog safely.

Provide water, food, and shelter, both indoors and outdoors

In fact, it’s required by law in Arizona to make sure that your pet has these essential items. 

“Make sure that you are providing plenty of fresh water, cooled water, as well as cool places for them to be,” Dickerson said. “Whether that’s coverage in your backyard or them being able to access inside and outside.” 

Limit exercise on hot days

Exercising in the middle of the day, when the sun is out, can be dangerous for a dog. It not only exposes them to the heat, but hot pavement and sidewalks can also burn their paw pads, which can be a long and painful process to heal. Instead, exercise and take walks in the early morning or evening hours. 

It is suggested by AAWL to walk your dog before 9 a.m. or after 6 p.m.

When temperatures are rising at the beginning of summer, Frederick said that you should stop walking your pet outside when it is 90 degrees or higher. However, when it gets to the point in the summer when it’s always 90 degrees, Frederick suggested not walking your pet after 9 a.m.

The author’s dog Tiva wearing booties (Photo by Morgan Fischer)

In the hotter summer months—when pavement can reach up to 120 degree—6 p.m. may still be too early to take pets out for a walk. It’s recommended to test the pavement before taking walks or rely on other methods or exercise. Testing of the pavement is done by placing the back of the hand firmly on the sidewalk or asphalt for 7-10 seconds. If it’s too hot for the palm of your hand, it’s too hot for your pet’s paws. 

Instead of walking your dog on hot pavement, Frederick suggested a variety of options dog owners can use to care for their pet during the hot summer months:

  • Rely on grassy or dirt areas for potty breaks.
  • Invest in enrichment toys to keep their minds active while inside at home.
  • Get creative! Set up a baby pool or sprinklers so they can play outside and stay cool.
  • Use dog booties as an easy way to keep paw pads protected while outside.

An Arizona sidewalk on a hot day can reach up to 150 degrees, and dogs will begin to feel pain and discomfort at around 120 degrees, according to AZ Pet Vet. Even worse, burning and tissue damage to your dog’s paws will begin at 140 degrees after only one minute of contact with the hot surface.  

“I think there’s a misconception that a dog paw pad is a lot tougher than it is,” Dickerson said. “While it feels a lot rougher than maybe our own skin, their paw pads can be very sensitive and they can burn in a matter of seconds.” 

Don’t tether your pets

Tethering, which is fastening a pet to a stationary object and leaving them unattended, is not recommended by the Arizona Humane Society, as your pet can get tangled in the line which can lead to asphyxiation. In some municipalities, there are restrictions or bans on tethering animals. Allow your pet to move freely and don’t tether them. 

“Pets, when they’re trying to access water or moving around to access shade, they can be entangled in those tethers, even if they have a long line,” Dickerson said. “Our cruelty investigators have seen unfortunate incidents of a pet getting tangled.”

Take caution on hikes

Phoenix trails are closed to all dogs when temperatures reach 100 degrees and above because of the risk of heat stroke and pavement burn, according to AHS. This policy was adopted by the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department and the Parks Board to protect your dog’s health and safety on high-temperature days. 

A violation of this policy can result in a class one misdemeanor, a fine of up to $2,500, and six months in jail. 

RELATED: 8 Pet-Friendly Hiking Spots in the Greater Phoenix Area

But even in cooler temperatures, AHS warns taking dogs on hikes can be too much for them. “Eighty to 85 degrees can become overwhelming for a pet, especially if they don’t have access to water or taking breaks,” Dickerson said. “All of their vital organs are really close to the ground, so that heat is really bouncing up and getting them a lot hotter, a lot quicker, than it would for a human.” 

It is recommended to take your pet hiking when the temperature is lower, and earlier in the morning. It is also important to bring water for your pet and take breaks during the hike as well.

Don’t leave your pet unsupervised by a pool

If you have a pool, make sure to keep an eye on your dog when they are around it. Not all dogs know how to swim and the doggy paddle isn’t natural for every dog. 

In addition, you should keep your pool covered or the gate closed when it’s not in use to prevent your dog from falling in. Also, keep fresh water near the pool and make sure your dog knows to drink that water, not the pool water. 

Learn to recognize and treat heat stroke in pets 

Heat stroke is a common ailment for pets. Signs of heat stroke include heavy panting, an inability to calm down even when lying down, drooling, vomiting, glazed eyes, diarrhea, brick red gum color, fast pulse rate, and difficulty getting up.

If you see these signs, “it is absolutely pertinent to get that pet medical attention as soon as possible,” Dickerson said. “Even if you think a pet is maybe in danger, it’s better to alert authorities than it is to be too late.”

Dogs with short noses or snouts, like a boxer or bulldog, are more prone to heat stroke, according to the American Red Cross. Overweight dogs, dogs with thick fur, and pets with upper respiratory problems are also more susceptible. 

If you suspect that your dog has heat stroke, work to take your pet’s temperature down. If your animal’s temperature is above 105 degrees, bring a cool, damp towel to place over your pet. Stop the cooling when they reach 103 degrees. If they continue to be overheated, cool your pet down with something like a sprinkler or water hose, according to AZ Pet Vet. 

The best way to take your dog’s temperature is rectally. Take a digital thermometer, put a lubricant on the tip, and insert it into the rear end of the animal about an inch, until you receive a temperature reading, according to VCA Animal Hospitals

If your dog’s temperature isn’t decreasing, take them to the ​​veterinarian. 

If you think an animal is having a heat stroke due to animal negligence, you can call your local police to do a welfare check on an animal or call the Arizona Humane Society’s field team, which is open all year during business hours. 

“We just always really encourage the community to please let us know and please let local law enforcement know so that we can keep these pets protected,” Dickerson said. 

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