The National Weather Service has issued an excessive heat warning for New York City for Wednesday from 8am to 11pm — and for dogs, the upcoming heatwave poses an increased risk of heat-related illnesses and paw-burning sidewalks.

It’s important to keep your dog cool in the heatwave. Photo: Maura Lynch.

Climate change is making our summers hotter and longer — and that creates dangerous conditions for all pets. Climate Central reports that when the air temperature reaches 77°F, asphalt surfaces can reach 125°F. That’s enough to burn human skin and is dangerous for the unprotected paws of your pet. As air temperatures rise, pavement gets much hotter in the sunlight. At 86°F, the surface temperature jumps to 135°F. At 87°F, only one degree more, the asphalt temperature rises to 143°F. 

You can check if the sidewalk or roadway is getting too hot for your pup by placing the back of your hand on the pavement. If it’s too hot to hold it there for more than 7 seconds, find somewhere grassy or shaded to walk your dog. Another recommendation is to change your walk time to early morning or late in the evening, when the temperature is cooler and the sun is lower in the sky.

Climate Central analyzed temperature trends for 246 U.S. cities, and found that, since 1970, 94% (232) have seen an increase in days that were 77°F or above. New York now has an extra 5 days a year hotter than in 1970.

The other important warning is to never, ever leave your dog in a car. On an 85°F day, a car with the windows opened slightly can reach 102°F in just 10 minutes.

As the sun gets lower, it’s safer to take your dog out for a walk. Photo: Maura Lynch.

But tt’s not just hot cars that pose a threat to your pooch — physical activity during high temperatures increases the risk of heat stress or heat stroke in dogs. A study of veterinary records of dogs in the UK found that exercise triggered nearly three-quarters (74.2%) of all heat-related illnesses, compared to 5% that were due to being confined in a vehicle. Older and flat-faced dogs (brachycephalic breeds, such as bulldogs, shih tzus, and pugs) were at greater risk of developing heat-related illness just by sitting outside in hot weather. Other risk factors for heat stroke in dogs include:

  • Being a large breed dog (over 33 pounds)
  • Being overweight, regardless of breed
  • Lack of acclimation to hot or humid conditions
  • Lack of fitness 
  • Additionally, some large breeds are more susceptible, including Golden and Labrador retrievers, and military or working dogs such as Belgian or German shepherds

Mirjana Vicari, who owns dog walking service Tilly’s Walks in Hell’s Kitchen, told us: “As the temperatures rise, we make sure to walk in the shade as much as possible. The hot asphalt can burn a pup’s paws. If you touch the ground and it’s too hot for your finger it’s definitely too hot for your dog’s paw pads. Always keep your pup hydrated. Depending on age and health, you may have to shorten walks for your angels. Also, there are special summer booties that are ventilated for hot pavement and cooling vests they can wear on walks.”

And don’t forget about the kitties…
Cats enjoy and are naturally attracted to heat and sunny spots. The average internal temperature range for cats is between 99.5 and 102.5°F. When the ambient temperature rises above that, your feline friend could be at risk of heat stroke. Make sure your cat has access to fresh, clean water and cool, shaded areas.

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