Golden Retrievers In Hot Weather: Keeping Them Cool


Recently in the area that we live in, we found ourselves amid a heatwave with temperatures daily exceeding 90 Fahrenheit (33 Celsius) throughout the summer. So often, heat like that is hard to escape, especially at night, and we had to find ways to adapt.

So, while the heat can be challenging for us, it’s also important to remember it’s equally challenging for our Golden Retrievers, maybe even more so, and we need to know when they are getting too hot and what we can do to cool them.

What Temperatures Are Too Hot for a Golden Retriever? 

In the summer, when the temperature soars, it can become problematic for our Golden Retrievers. Unlike humans, they cannot regulate their internal temperatures by sweating. As such, owners must be aware of what temperatures are too hot for our Golden Retrievers, so we can take steps to mitigate any issues. 

As a general rule, when outdoor temperatures exceed 89 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius), it puts a Golden Retriever at major risk for heatstroke. Temperatures between 68 to 89 Fahrenheit (20 to 31 degrees Celsius) can also be dangerous depending on a Golden Retriever’s age, health, size, weight, and activity level. 

The infographic below shows what temperature ranges for dogs are unsafe and serves as an excellent guide for Golden Retriever owners.

Notice in the infographic that weight, health, size, and age are all factors, so we can’t just assume a specific temperature range is fine for all dogs. 

Download this infographic from Vets Now.

As a handy reference, the table below shows the temperatures converted from Celsius to Fahrenheit. 

Temperatures in CelsiusTemperatures in FahrenheitRisk Factor
32+90+10/10
28 – 3182 – 889/10
24 – 2775 – 818/10
20 – 2368 – 736/10
16 – 19 61 – 194/10
12 – 1554 – 591/10

Also, take note that even lower temperatures of 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) can be problematic, and caution must be exercised. For example, an overweight Golden Retriever that is exercised too vigorously could still suffer heat stroke at temperatures this low. 

The lesson is, don’t assume our dogs feel the same as we do. Temperatures that feel fine for us might not be so for our dogs. As owners, we must be advocates for our Golden Retrievers and be very mindful of things that can put them at risk. 

Also, be very mindful of humidity. When water vapor remains in the air as humidity, it makes the temperature feel warmer. So, while the temperature says 75 degrees, it may feel like 85 degrees if there is a lot of water vapor in the air.

Humidity makes breathing harder due to the water vapor in the air. In addition, because dogs pant to regulate body temperature, an increase in humidity can make it more difficult for them to cool themselves effectively.

While the temperature ranges noted in the infographic are specific to the outdoors, they are equally applicable indoors, especially at higher temperatures. Typically what makes outdoor temperatures more problematic is lack of shade and access to water. But indoor temperatures can be equally challenging for Golden Retrievers when temperatures soar.

When indoors, our Golden Retrievers are shaded from the sun and should have access to water, so they are somewhat protected. Dogs are less likely to be exercised vigorously when indoors. 

However, indoor temperatures can still be a significant risk when they begin to climb with outdoor temperatures. Just consider the amount of heat-related deaths for humans when temperatures soar. If it can happen to us, it can happen to our dogs. 

Humidity and lack of circulation in homes can also be problematic for our Golden Retrievers when indoors.

Be especially cautious when indoor temperatures begin to rise above 75 degrees Fahrenheit or 24 degrees Celsius, and your Golden is in poor health, overweight, a puppy, or a senior. And when indoor temperatures start to climb into the mid to high 80-degree range and especially in the 90’s the heat can become risky for both dog and human alike.  

In the upcoming sections, I discuss what to do if your dog shows signs of heatstroke and how to keep your Golden cool in the summer so heatstroke does not become an issue. 

At What Temperature Will a Golden Retriever Experience Heatstroke?

While external temperatures determine the risk for heatstroke, it is the internal body temperature of a Golden Retriever that determines when the dog is in a state of heatstroke.

For example, a healthy conditioned Golden Retriever might not experience heat stroke at 90 degrees Fahrenheit. In contrast, an older, obese Golden Retriever could experience it at 68 degrees Fahrenheit under the wrong conditions.

A Golden Retriever’s body temperature should not exceed 103 degrees Fahrenheit, after which they will experience heat stroke. Potential risk factors are excessive inside and outside temperatures, high humidity, lack of access to shade and water, and the age, size, and health of a Golden Retriever. 

Heatstroke puts dogs in imminent danger and must be addressed immediately, so it is vital to know at what internal temperature this dangerous state has been reached. 

Golden Retrievers (dogs in general) cannot regulate their body temperature the same way humans can. We sweat, but dogs do not sweat to any significant degree, and the only sweat pads they possess are in their footpads and only in small numbers.

So instead, Golden Retrievers control their body temperature by panting. 

Be extra mindful of common causes of heatstroke, such as leaving the dog outside on hot days without shade or access to water. Also, avoid exercising your dog vigorously and for extended periods when the weather is hot.

If you’re taking your dog to doggie daycare, I suggest talking to the facility to see if they keep the dogs indoors on hot days and provide plenty of available shade and water, especially outdoors.

Leaving a dog in a car on hot days should never be done and is one of the most common reasons dogs suffer or die from heatstroke. So please don’t do it. Cracking a window is insufficient (see the discussion on leaving a Golden Retriever in a parked car in the section below).

This is a bad idea. Never leave your Golden unattended in a car, even with the AC running.

Also, be careful with blow dryers. Yes, believe it or not, using a blow dryer that is too warm for too long can overheat a dog and cause heatstroke. 

High indoor temperatures can reach levels that cause heatstroke in both humans and dogs. High indoor heat is especially problematic in homes with poor ventilation or no cross drafts where temperature and humidity can climb unencumbered. Unfortunately, many apartments often fall within this category.

In addition, apartment buildings without air conditioning, especially those on higher floors, can be problematic. This is because high floors are typically hotter at night due to the hotter air rising. So keep in mind that if the indoor temperature is troublesome for you, then your dog is suffering as well, probably more.

Speaking of apartments, I wrote an article discussing some of the limitations of living in an apartment with a Golden Retrievers. While it is doable, there are some issues to beware of if you consider apartment (or condo) living with a Golden Retriever. You can read the article here: Golden Retrievers and Apartment Living: Is It Doable?

There are two ways you can measure the temperature of your Golden Retriever accurately. Both require using a thermometer. Taking your Golden’s temperature can be done either using a rectal or ear thermometer

Be advised that many dogs will be resistant to having their temperature taken by either method, but especially rectally (who can blame them). However, a Golden Retriever may allow an ear thermometer provided they have been well socialized as puppies and have become used to their ears being handed.

Don’t be forceful when taking temperature using a thermometer, and be mindful of injury to you or your Golden. If there is any difficulty taking the temperature, let your vet do it. 

However, it’s essential to be aware of signs of heatstroke. While it won’t tell us our dog’s body temperature, it can tell us that our Golden is in distress, and action must be taken immediately.

What Are the Signs of Heat Stroke in a Golden Retriever? 

Even if the utmost precautions are taken, it is essential to be aware of when our Golden Retriever may be in distress and showing signs of heatstroke. Knowing the signs of heatstroke could make the difference in saving your dog’s life. 

Signs that your Golden Retriever is suffering from heatstroke include heavy panting, excessive drooling, labored breathing, glazed eyes, rapid pulse, lethargy, staggering or lack of coordination, vomiting (possibly with blood), a deep red or purple tongue, bleeding nose, or gums, seizure, and unconsciousness.

While excessive heat is the biggest issue, its effects can become magnified or more problematic in certain instances or situations. For example, senior dogs or puppies and Goldens that are overweight or obese may be more prone to heatstroke.

Be alert if your Golden Retriever begins to exhibit extreme laziness that is out of character or if the dog’s appetite changes significantly. Some Golden Retrievers can be picky eaters, and in others, a lack of appetite may be due to the heat and is not a concern. However, if your dog does not eat for an entire day, it could be a sign of an issue, and a call to your vet is recommended.

Also, be cautious if your Golden Retriever has any heart or respiratory ailments as the heat puts additional stress on those conditions. Unfortunately, a Golden Retriever suffering any serious health issues can be more prone in high heat environments. This is because the excess heat adds additional stress to their already health-compromised systems.

If you notice any signs of heatstroke or your dog is in distress, you must take immediate action to cool down your Golden Retriever. 

How Do You Cool Down a Golden Retriever?

If you suspect your Golden Retriever is suffering from heatstroke, then you must seek veterinary care as soon as possible. In the meantime, you can take steps to cool down your Golden. 

To cool down a Golden Retriever suffering from heatstroke, immediately employ the following steps: 

  • Move the dog out of the sun and to a cooler area such as shade or an air-conditioned space. 
  • Apply cold water to the body of the dog or soak it in a bath. Do NOT use cold water – cool only. 
  • Apply cool compresses to the dog’s groin, armpits, and side of neck. Wet cold towels work well.
  • Direct a fan on the wet areas to speed evaporative cooling. 
  • Provide cool water to drink. Do not force the dog to drink. 
  • Provide ice cubes for the dog to lick. 
  • Take them to the vet immediately if they are experiencing heatstroke. Even if they seem to be improving. 

In the video below, the steps for addressing heatstroke are discussed, including the prognosis if swift action is taken (spoiler: the prognosis is great if these steps are implemented within 90 minutes).

Hopefully, your Golden Retriever is never in a situation where those steps are needed.

However, being proactive to keep your Golden Retriever cool is best. By taking a few steps in the summer to ensure your Golden Retriever remains cool, the likelihood of heatstroke should be avoided. 

Summer safety tips are discussed next.

How Do You Keep a Golden Retriever Cool In the Summer?

The summer months can often be uncomfortable for us humans, which is no different for our Golden Retrievers. But, while we may have ways to cool ourselves, we too often forget that our dogs could use some help too.

So, by incorporating these summer safety tips, your Golden Retriever will be much more equipped to handle the heat and have a much more enjoyable and safe summer. 

You can keep your Golden Retriever cool in the summer by incorporating the following summer safety tips:

  • Never, ever leave a Golden Retriever in a parked car for any duration of time. 
  • Limit exercise on hot days
  • Exercise in the morning or evening. 
  • Provide access to shade or an air-conditioned area
  • Provide accessible water at all times, including on walks. 
  • Let your Golden run through sprinklers, take a dip in a lake, or play around in a kiddie pool
  • Apply a cooling vest or cape.
  • Use fans to create circulation and to help cooling. 
  • Use freezable chew toys, doggie popsicles, ice treats or ice cubes to give your Golden something cool to chew on.
  • Be mindful of the humidity. Increased humidity makes it more difficult for dogs to cool themselves through panting.
  • Brushed them regularily throughout the week to remove any shedded hair from their bodies.
  • Be proactive. Prepare for power outages or unexpected emergencies.

Unexpected emergencies can happen, and in heatwaves especially, power outages are not unexpected.

For example, we often vacation in the Osoyoos area in British Columbia, Canada. On one occasion, the compressor for the air conditioner on the Geothermal unit malfunctioned in the home.

Temperatures during the day were in the low to mid 100’s and in the evening remained in the 80’s. Unfortunately, the home during the evening never cooled below the ’90s.

The heat was almost unbearable, and by day three, we were considering moving to a hotel room with air conditioning. Sleeping in that heat is almost impossible. Fortunately, the AC was repaired on the third day.

Even more fortunate was that we did not have our dog with us on this occasion, as it would have been extremely taxing if not outright dangerous for her.

Now we make sure we’re prepared when the dog comes along. We bought a small kiddie pool and bring along cooling toys, ice treats, and a cooling cape. The house has multiple fans, and we have a list of hotels in the area that are pet-friendly should we need to get ourselves and the dog to a cooler area.

The point is, stuff happens. Be prepared.

Can I Leave a Golden Retriever in a Car With the Window Cracked or Air Conditioning On? 

Every summer, you hear a news report of a dog left in a car, and often the outcome is dire. In many instances, the owners leave the windows cracked or the AC assuming that should be adequate.

However, Golden Retrievers owners need to know the dangers of leaving a dog in a car unattended, even for short periods. 

Never leave a Golden Retriever unattended in a parked car for any duration, even if the air conditioner is on. The temperature in a car can quickly exceed 120° Fahrenheit even with the windows partially open. As a result, your dog can rapidly suffer heatstroke, suffocation, organ failure, or brain damage.

So, you may be wondering why leaving the air conditioning on is not advisable. Consider what could happen if the air conditioner fails or the vehicle stops running?

The inside of a car can heat up in minutes on a hot day to a point where your dog is in imminent danger of death.

How fast, you may wonder?

Rate at Which the Temperature Can Rise in a Car at 10 and 30 Minutes

Outside Temperature Inside Car Temperature at 10 MinutesInside Car Temperature at 30 Minutes
70 Fahrenheit (21 Celsius)89 Fahrenheit (32 Celsius) 104 Fahrenheit (40 Celsius)
75 Fahrenheit (24 Celsius) 94 Fahrenheit (34 Celsius)109 Fahrenheit (43 Celsius)
80 Fahrenheit (27 Celsius) 99 Fahrenheit (37 Celsius)114 Fahrenheit (46 Celsius)
85 Fahrenheit (29 Celsius) 104 Fahrenheit (40 Celsius)119 Fahrenheit (48 Celsius)
90 Fahrenheit (32 Celsius)109 Fahrenheit (43 Celsius)124 Fahrenheit (51 Celsius)
95 Fahrenheit (35 Celsius)114 Fahrenheit (46 Celsius)129 Fahrenheit (54 Celsius)
Source: New Mexico State University Fire Department

I hope the table emphasizes how quickly temperatures can rise to dangerous levels. Even at temperatures as low as 70 degrees Fahrenheit, temperatures inside a vehicle can rise to levels where a dog is at severe risk for heatstroke regardless of size, breed, or condition. And all it takes is 10 minutes.

So it needn’t take long for disaster to strike. If you get caught in the checkout line longer than you think or run into someone for a quick chat and lose track of time, it could quickly spell disaster for your Golden Retriever if left in a hot car.

Are Golden Retrievers Heat Sensitive?

Most Golden Retrievers prefer cooler temperatures. However, as discussed previously, they do not sweat, and higher temperatures can become problematic in keeping themselves cool.

How sensitive a Golden Retriever is to heat depends on the individual dog and the dog’s age, health, size, and conditioning. However, most Golden Retrievers prefer temperatures that are comfortable and on the cooler side. Temperatures between 61 to 73 Fahrenheit (16 to 23 celsius) are ideal.

In fact, most dogs, not just Goldens, prefer cooler temperatures, and understandably so. Dog with their fur coats and lack of sweat glands make them ill-equipped to handle hotter temperatures.

So, just like we would be uncomfortable and sensitive to heat if we had to wear a thick sweater on hot summer days, most dogs will gravitate to settings in which they can stay comfortable and cool.

Some Golden Retrievers that are fit, younger, and conditioned to the heat might be more tolerant of the heat; whereas, an older or out-of-shape, overweight Golden Retriever may not. However, as a whole, most Golden Retrievers, with their longer, double coats, given a choice, will prefer cooler temperatures.

Not only because it feels more comfortable, but also because it is much easier on their health and well-being. Hot temperatures are taxing on dogs for the reasons discussed.

Be especially mindful of the heat when leaving your Golden Retriever alone, especially if you live in a high-floor apartment with no AC.

If you have to leave your Golden Retriever alone, I suggest you read this article: Leaving a Golden Retriever Alone: Your Questions Answered. In the article, I discuss how long you can leave your Golden Retriever alone, including vacations, at night, and some recommendations on how best to do it.

Our Golden Retriever Bailey hates the heat, so he gets exercised early in the morning and late at night when temperatures are cool.

During the day, you will find him sleeping in the bathroom on the cool tile and close to the air vent to take advantage of the cooling AC.

Bailey is so heat aversive that he will often refuse to go outside when the temperatures are in the mid-’80s and above, and he will only venture outside when it’s time for him to go potty. And then it’s quickly back into the cool of the air-conditioned house.

Bailey is a smart dog who knows exactly what he likes and doesn’t like. And what he doesn’t like is heat. So, yeah, we can count him as a Golden Retriever that is heat sensitive. I sometimes wonder if he might have a little husky in him.

And, I suspect Bailey is representative of the majority of Golden Retrievers. “AC and cooler is good, heat bad.” Woof.

Bailey’s favorite spot when it’s hot out. The cool tile and porcelain combined with the AC make this room especially cold.

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