Humidity is Dangerous for Dogs. Here’s How I Found Out.

I have long known that dogs cannot sweat. The only way dogs can expel heat is through panting—not the most effective mechanism for really hot weather. And I have kept that in mind when exercising my dog in the summer, taking special precautions when the thermometer hits 80 degrees or higher. But I had never factored humidity into my considerations… until I got a serious wake-up call.

It wasn’t the hottest day when I decided to go for a mountain bike ride with my young labradoodle. The temperature hovered in the low 70s—perfect for an afternoon ride. As I suited up for my 45 minute trail loop, Charlie was bucking around like a wild bronco, thrilled to be out for a good run after an entire morning curled up in the office. He loves mountain biking more than anything.

The air was unseasonably thick and humid, like a storm was about to break, so I was eager to get riding and feel that sweet breeze. We took off, the two of us moving nimbly between the trees. Charlie was flying, leaping over bushes and darting around rocks, as we bombed down the trail side by side. It was one of our fastest laps yet and, after 45 minutes, both of us were suitably wiped when we rolled back up to the car in the parking lot.

Mountain Biking with Bernese Mountain Dog

When I brought Charlie back to the office, I noticed he was panting more than usual. In fact, his panting became excessive. He was still exhaustively panting 2 hours post-ride and seemed extraordinarily lethargic. It was unusual. And then I realized it was heat stroke. I immediately called the vet. After speaking extensively with the vet and answering some questions, I was lucky that Charlie’s heat stroke wasn’t severe (he quickly recovered with a few cool-down techniques), but it was a wake-up call. He may be a badass athlete, but he isn’t impervious to his environment. The vet explained that humidity is just as dangerous as high temperatures, since it impairs a dog’s ability to cool off by panting.

Since that day, I take extra precautions. If it’s above 70 and very humid, we take it very slow on our rides. We’ve found 3 water sources on this short loop, including a lake that he gets to jump in at the halfway point. (The lake dip makes a huge difference.) On new trails that I am less familiar with, I always bring plenty of water with me. And if it is very humid, I don’t bring him out with me at all. (He doesn’t like this, but it is worth keeping him safe.)

Remember, your dog won’t tell you when it gets too hot. Still young, Charlie was too thrilled to be outside and running to give any sign that he was exhausted or slowing down. You have to be the one who is on alert, especially if you are outside exercising. Learn from my mistake and take special care to protect your beloved furry companions this summer.

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47 comments

hELEN hEARFIELD
hELEN hEARFIELD2 months ago

Tyfs

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Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson3 months ago

Thank you.

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Nicole H
Nicole Heindryckx3 months ago

@ Clare O : I never heard about dogs sweating through their bodies like we do. Their only sweating is by panting and through their paws. Not that much I think. I had my terrier clipped every late spring. But didn't help her from panting or sweating paws. When it was hot, or she had been running free on a sunny day - she was a real greyhound when she was young - we gave her a large, cold and wet towel. She laid on her belly, 4 legs stretched out for quite some time. I think she knew best how to cool down soon and avoid a heat stroke

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Nicole H
Nicole Heindryckx3 months ago

Very great article. Although I'm not a hiker, I will certainly share this info with some of my friends who have dogs.
I didn't know that at all. Very good that I learned something new again on this site. Thanks vm. for sharing this info with us.

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Glennis W
Glennis W3 months ago

Great info and help Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W3 months ago

Very informative Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W3 months ago

Great information and advice Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W3 months ago

Very interesting article Thank you for caring and sharing

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Chrissie R
Chrissie R3 months ago

Dogs "sweat" from their paws and apocrine glands...but not significantly or enough to cool their bodies through evaporation.

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michela c
michela c3 months ago

Thanks!

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