Every dog owner looks forward to summer walks and sunny days in the garden. It’s easy to underestimate how quickly dogs can overheat though. Read on for tips to help your dog to stay comfortable, cool, and safe when the mercury rises.
For this reason, it’s vital to keep your dog cool when the sun is blazing. Managing their activities, providing a cool environment, and ensuring they stay hydrated are all important.
To help your pet stay safe this summer, here are nine ways to keep a dog cool when the temperature rises.
Dogs are often at greater risk in warm weather compared to humans. But why is this?
Humans have sweat glands all over their bodies. This makes it easier for us to regulate our body temperature in hot conditions.
Dogs, on the other hand, have very few sweat glands. Instead, they rely on panting to keep cool. When panting, the moisture that gathers in the mouth and tongue evaporates, which helps regulate their temperature. Unfortunately, panting is less efficient than sweating.
You also can’t rely on your dog being ‘sensible’ in hot weather. It’s common for dogs to run themselves to exhaustion or lie in direct sunlight, despite becoming overheated. By the time the owner realises there is something wrong, it could be too late.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the reasons why overheating is dangerous for dogs.
If a dog’s body temperature rises above 104°F (40°C), they’re considered to be suffering from heatstroke. This condition, also referred to as hyperthermia, is a life-threatening emergency.
While prevention is key, it’s also important to know the signs of heatstroke. These include:
If you notice these symptoms, take appropriate steps to cool your dog (see the box below,) and get them to the vet as quickly as possible.
Severe cases can lead to your dog falling into a coma, suffering from renal failure, intestinal bleeding, or swelling of the brain. They can even go into cardiac arrest.
Any dog can suffer from heatstroke, even if they’re only in the direct sun for a short period.
Some dogs are more at risk than others though. Elderly or obese dogs, puppies, and those with certain illnesses, for example, tend to overheat more quickly.
Flat-faced, brachycephalic dogs also overheat more easily than the average dog. These breeds have a tighter bone structure that restricts airflow to the lungs. When the hot weather hits, they are not able to pant as efficiently as other dogs, making body temperature regulation more of a challenge.
In fact, studies have shown that the Chow Chow is 17 times more likely to suffer from heatstroke than the average dog, and the Bulldog 14 times more likely. If you have a brachycephalic breed, be vigilant about keeping them cool.
If your dog is displaying symptoms of canine heatstroke, you need to act fast. Taking steps to lower their body temperature safely is important, but you’ll also want to get them to the vet as a matter of urgency.
Once you’ve removed your dog from direct heat, it’s essential to cool them down using safe techniques. Some tips include:
Heat stroke isn’t the only danger for dogs in hot weather. Dehydration is another potentially deadly condition that can develop faster than many owners realise.
Dogs lose moisture in hot weather by breathing, panting, urinating, and sweating through the paws. If this fluid isn’t replaced fast enough by drinking, they become dehydrated. Water is essential for almost every bodily function, so dehydration is a life threatening condition.
The initial signs of dehydration aren’t easy to spot. Some of the most common symptoms to watch out for include:
A quick way to test for dehydration is to pull up the skin on your dog’s shoulder blades. If it doesn’t instantly ping back into place, this is a sign that your dog is dehydrated.
You should always contact a vet if you notice any of the symptoms above. Once dehydration sets in, it may not be possible for the dog to drink enough to replace the lost fluid. In this situation, your vet can provide intravenous fluids to rehydrate the dog. The faster your dog gets treatment, the better chance he has.
It can be easy to underestimate the toll that hot weather conditions can have on your dog. Even if you don’t think they’re at risk of heatstroke, being too hot can be uncomfortable and tiring.
Remember, a dog will often stay in discomfort just to be near you or other family members. So, be your dog’s advocate in warm weather and put his well-being first. Also, don’t hesitate to cancel a trip or leave your dog at home if the weather conditions are unsuitable.
There are many ways to keep your dog cool, but here are nine of the most effective methods.
It’s also worth noting that this isn’t an exhaustive list, and some breeds are worse at coping with hot weather than others. Always err on the side of caution when it comes to overheating.
It sounds obvious, but the best way to prevent heat stroke is to ensure your dog remains in a cool environment.
Always make sure your dog has access to a cool and shaded area in the house. This should be out of direct sunlight and have plenty of airflow. It also shouldn’t be in a greenhouse or conservatory, as these rapidly heat up in hot weather.
Your dog might not go to the cool spot if they’re having fun outside, so you may need to use a gate to keep them there.
On days when it’s safe to be outside, your dog should have a shaded spot in the garden. Instead of a foam bed, you may want to buy him a raised outdoor bed that isn’t fluffy and will allow air to circulate.
Even if your garden is shady, it’s still possible for your dog to overheat on hot days. Bring them inside when the temperatures spike.
Dehydration is a serious concern in hot weather. To minimise the risk, make sure your dog always has access to fresh drinking water. Keep this topped up throughout the day, and consider placing multiple water bowls around the house and garden.
If your dog isn’t a big drinker, you could encourage them by making a salt-free broth or by adding water to their meals. You could also use a cooling bowl. These bowls keep your dog’s water chilled for longer, which makes drinking more appealing.
It’s also vital to bring plenty of water when you go on walks. A folding travel bowl is often the most convenient option.
A cooling airflow can make hot weather more comfortable for your pet. If there’s a breeze outside, having the windows open can help. Fans and air conditioning are also great for making indoors more bearable for your dog.
On a related note, it’s best to keep curtains or blinds shut on windows with direct sunlight.
Giving your dog an icy treat, such as a stuffed and frozen Kong, can be a great option for helping them to stay cool.
Some dogs might even like an ice cube – especially if it contains some yummy treats.
A widely circulated myth is that you should never feed your dog ice cubes. It’s argued that this can increase the risk of them developing the life-threatening condition known as bloat.
There’s no science to back up this theory, but you should be aware that there’s a small risk that crunching an ice cube could damage your dog’s teeth. If your dog gulps down ice cubes whole, there’s also a chance of it being a choking hazard.
During hot weather, always walk your dog at dawn or dusk when the temperatures are cooler. Going out in the heat of the midday sun is a bad idea, as it’ll inevitably increase the chance of your dog suffering from heat exhaustion.
Be mindful of the surface you’re walking your dog on too. Tarmac and sand can become dangerously hot in the direct heat of the day. Your dog’s pads could blister or burn if they’re made to walk on these surfaces.
Lay your hand on the ground for ten seconds, and if it’s too hot for you to hold it there comfortably, it’ll be too much for your dog too. Using a quality paw wax won’t prevent your dog from suffering from blisters, but it can help prevent their pads from getting dried and cracked in the heat.
Even if you’re walking before the sun is at its most ferocious, it’s still possible for your dog to overheat. Make sure you stick to calm, slow and sniffy walks.
Many dogs that suffer from heatstroke have been playing fetch or jogging with their owners in high temperatures. Making sure your dog doesn’t overexert themselves will greatly reduce any risk.
If the temperatures are through the roof, you may have to stick with pee breaks only, and avoid going out for proper walks altogether. This’ll be especially relevant for high-risk brachycephalic or overweight dogs.
Keeping them occupied with games, treat toys, and other indoor enrichment should be your focus at these times. Check out our list of 24 indoor activities for inspiration.
If your dog is struggling with the heat, you could provide them with a damp towel or a cooling pet pad to lie on. Lifting up rugs to expose cooler flooring can also help, although hard floors aren’t very comfortable!
There are even cooling coats and bandanas that dogs can wear. These can be effective, but make sure you take them off before they dry out, otherwise they can actually contribute to overheating.
If you have a water-loving dog, they might appreciate a doggy paddling pool to cool off in. Spending time in water is one of the best ways to keep your pet cool – and it can be a lot of fun!
Not all dogs like swimming though. Never force your dog into water, and be aware that dog pools aren’t indestructible and won’t withstand chewing. You should also always supervise your dog when he’s in water.
Make sure you refresh the water regularly too. The water in doggie pools can quickly become stagnant, and this could lead to stomach upsets for your dog.
Some owners might be tempted to allow their dog to play with a running hose, water fountain or sprinklers. This isn’t recommended, as drinking large quantities of water too quickly could cause potentially lethal water intoxication.
Note: Only allow your dog into pools that have been designed for dogs. Regular paddling pools probably won’t cope with a dog’s sharp claws.
Many owners don’t realise that dogs can suffer from sunburn. Hairless breeds, such as the Chinese Crested, are most at risk, but other breeds can burn if they spend too much time in the sun.
The nose, ears, and stomach are most susceptible to getting burned. Aside from keeping your dog out of direct sunlight, there are also doggy-safe sun creams to protect your pup’s skin.
It’s not uncommon for owners of dogs with thick double coats to think that shaving them will help keep them cool.
Shaving your dog, however, can actually cause them to overheat more easily. The double coat helps regulate body temperature by trapping cool air, so removing it makes it harder for the dog to stay at a safe temperature. The coat also protects against sunburn.
Instead of shaving, keep on top of your dog’s grooming regime. Removing loose hairs will lighten the coat and help your dog feel cooler. Preventing mats and knots from forming also ensures the temperature regulating properties are most effective.
When the warm weather arrives, it’s natural to want to hike with your dog or just enjoy the sunshine together.
Hot weather can be very dangerous for your dog though, so always put your pet’s needs first. If you’re in doubt, it’s best to leave your dog at home in a cool environment.
Most dog owners know the risks of leaving their dog in a car on a hot day. Many don’t realise how suddenly this can become a life-threatening issue though.
Even if you leave the windows fully down, the car in the shade, and you’re only planning to pop into a store for a few minutes, you can still be putting your dog at serious risk of heatstroke.
Temperatures inside a stationary car rise to dangerous levels rapidly. On seriously hot days, even leaving your dog for as little as ten minutes could lead to fatal consequences.
A spell of hot weather can have us all rushing out for beach picnics, sunbathing in the garden, and hiking adventures. Naturally, dog lovers want to take their four-legged friends with them.
The risks of high temperatures can’t be overstated when it comes to dogs though. Their lack of sweat glands and desire to play or run makes them prime candidates for heatstroke.
Be your dog’s advocate and help them stay safe. Don’t take them out in hot temperatures and help them stay cool around the house and garden.
Gemma is a freelance writer and official dog nut. With 15 years of experience in the pet industry, she is a passionate animal welfare advocate. She has worked for the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, ran her own specialist dog shop for ten years, has volunteered for her local rescue shelter, and is studying towards completing an Advanced Diploma in Canine Behaviour. Gemma is currently travelling around Europe with her wonderful rescue dog, Annie.