11 ways to keep dogs cool on hot days
Dogs don't regulate their temperature quite like humans do - they only sweat through their paws, and mostly cool themselves down by panting. Being uncomfortably hot can quickly lead to heat exhaustion and potentially fatal heatstroke.
Our vets have put together these tips on how to keep your dog cool during hot weather, allowing you and your pup to enjoy summer safely.
1. Walk during cooler times of the day
Temperatures up to 20°C are generally suitable for walking your dog, but it's a good idea not to over-exert them (especially if you have a senior dog, a puppy, or a flat-faced breed). Keep walks shorter and slower in warmer weather.
The best time to walk your dog is at cooler times of the day, either early in the morning or late in the evening. And remember, no dog has ever died from missing a walk, but they have died from heatstroke.
When walking your dog, be careful the pavement isn't too hot. Artificial grass, pavements and roads can cause serious heat-related injuries to your dog. This is because they retain heat, so much so that if the air temperature is 25°C, the road temperature can be as much as 50°C.
To check if the road, pavement or place you want to walk your dog is safe, put the back of your hand on it. If you can't keep it there for more than five seconds, it's too hot for your dog.
@thepethealthclub Look at those temperatures on a 30° day. These surfaces can cause a lot of pain and injury so don't walk your dog in the heat! #dogs #heatwave #summer ♬ original sound - Pet Health Club
Giving your dog ice cubes, frozen treats or putting ice in their water bowl is a surefire way to help them cool them down on a hot day. A frozen Kong toy will do a great job of cooling down your dog and will keep their brain engaged, which can be as beneficial as taking them for a walk.
Only give your dog frozen treats if you're around to supervise them because although the risk of choking or blockages is slim, it's always a possibility. You can counter this by using large ice cubes that are too big to fit in your dog's mouth or small ones that can be easily swallowed.
Frozen fruit and vegetables can also make a nutritious and delicious cooling snack. Apples, bananas and carrots will keep your dog happy and are suitable for them. Be aware some fruit and veg, such as onions and grapes, are toxic to dogs and should never be offered to them. Make sure you research what foods are safe for your dog and always introduce new things such as frozen treats slowly just in case they don’t tolerate them too well.
Avoid feeding your dog processed human snacks such as ice lollies. These can be poisonous if they contain a sugar substitute such as xylitol (often found in peanut butter).
3. Treat your dog to a summer trim
Being furry might be an advantage in winter, but it can become a health risk in the summer.
If your dog's fur is extra-thick, long, or dark, having them cut short will help them regulate their body temperature and help keep them cool. A well-groomed coat will pick up less pollen and other particles from the air, which is extra helpful if your pet suffers from hay fever or other allergies.
If your dog's fur is thin or light-coloured (or if they've just had a fresh trim), they may be at risk of sunburn. Prevent this by adding a special pet-friendly sun cream to exposed skin areas. You should pay careful attention to their ears and nose. Your vet will be able to advise further about dog-friendly sun cream.
Cool coats for dogs are a great way of ensuring your dog can still do lots of fun activities whilst keeping them cool.
A cool coat is worn like a harness or dog coat. You just submerge the coat in water and squeeze out the excess. If you're out for a while, you'll have to add more water throughout the day.
Like panting, dog cool coats work through evaporative cooling. As the water evaporates, it creates cool air that helps your dog cool themselves down. In addition to this, the damp coat on their back and sides will keep their fur from getting too hot.
You can also get a dog cooling mat. These mats typically contain a gel-like substance that takes the thermal energy from your dog and cools the mat down. It helps to put it in a dark room before you use it to get the full benefits.
Some dogs won't like the mat, but allowing them to try it for themselves is a great way to help them cool down. Remember these products should be introduced gradually and used under supervision, as some dogs may not tolerate them well.
5. Give them access to a paddling pool
Using a paddling pool or sprinkler can also help them stay cool if you are just staying in the garden. Some dogs love to paddle and play in the water, so they'll be staying safe from heatstroke and having fun at the same time. Just remember the water in hoses can get really hot if left unattended so make sure to run the tap for a few minutes before you spray your dog.
When it's hot outside, bringing your dog indoors is a no-brainer. If you've got air conditioning or even a fan, you're all set. You could also set up a 'chill-out zone' away from sunlight with a cooling mat and their favourite toys.
7. Always provide fresh drinking water
Just like us, dogs need to stay hydrated, especially when it's hot. Water is super important — it helps them digest food, absorb nutrients, and cool down. But remember dogs can get dehydrated quickly in hot weather, leading to serious health issues. So, always ensure fresh water is available.
@thetpethealthclub It’s going to be a hot, hot week. Keep your pet safe with these tips from Kath, one of our vets. #veterinarian #veterinary #dogowners #dogcaretips #hotweathertips #dogadvice #petadvice #dogmom #dogsoftiktok #vetcaretips #vetadvice ♬ original sound - Pet Health Club
If your dog is getting hot, take them to a cooler area as quickly as possible. Offer water to drink, and douse their entire body in cold water. Keep reapplying cold water so that their skin is in constant contact with it. Seek urgent veterinary attention if your dog is showing signs of heatstroke.
Be aware that if you have a flat-faced dog, a young puppy or elderly dog, then they should be protected from the heat even more. Flat faced dogs struggle to breath in normal conditions, so be especially aware of their health issues when the temperature begins to rise.
If you’re worried about heatstroke, call your vet straight away.
9. Don't leave your dog alone in the car
Dogs die in hot cars. It's a fact. If your car is left parked in the sun and the temperature outside is 24°C, then in 10 minutes, the interior can reach 34°C. In just half an hour, that can climb to 48°C. That's hotter than a July day in Death Valley. Never leave a dog in a parked car, even if it doesn’t seem that warm.
Parking your car in the shade won't help, nor will opening the window. The only thing to guarantee your dog doesn't die of overheating in your car is to leave them at home with fresh water, shade and shelter.
If you have to travel with your dog when it's hot, make sure you have the air conditioning or some cool air coming into the car, stop for regular breaks where they can get some shade and fresh air and always have fresh water on board. Consider a cooling mat or cool coat for them to wear while securely strapped in, as this will help reduce their temperature considerably.
10. Always provide shade
It is important to make sure your dog has plenty of shade to cool down in. This could be a tree, a shady spot in the garden, or even an umbrella. Consider bringing them inside during the hottest parts of the day.
It goes without saying that overweight dogs or those who suffer from respiratory issues or underlying health conditions will struggle more in the heat than healthy dogs. Your dog is also more likely to interact with other people, pets and parasites during the summer, so it's extra important to make sure they're up to date with their preventative healthcare such as:
Pet Health Club members receive all of the above as benefits of their plan.
If your dog is a natural adventurer and often gets carried away, make sure their microchip information is up to date too, this will increase your chances of reuniting with them if they wander off a little too far.
Why do dogs overheat?
When we get warm, we can easily regulate our body temperature. Dogs can't. While they can sweat through their paws, it does little to help cool them down. This is why they have to pant, a rapid, open-mouthed breathing technique. Combined with the fact they are constantly wearing a fur coat, it's easy to see how they can overheat before you're aware.
How does panting work?
Water circulates along your dog's tongue and into their mouth when they pant. This water then evaporates, leaving cool air behind which then flows over the mucous membranes found in their nose and mouth. If they pant long enough, they will eventually lower their core temperature.
However, your dog can get so hot they can't cool themselves down. When this happens, they begin to overheat and are at extreme risk of heatstroke. This can be fatal.
Signs of overheating in dogs
Knowing the signs of overheating in dogs could help you cool them down before they get heatstroke, which could save your dog's life. It's essential to act quickly if your dog displays any of these signs:
- Heavy panting
- Bright pink/red tongue or gums
- Lethargy and reluctance to exercise
- Dizziness and stumbling
If you think your dog is showing signs of overheating or suffering from heatstroke, remember, 'Cool first, transport second'. Studies have revealed that the best methods to treat heatstroke are to immerse your dog in cold water and use evaporative cooling. Putting a young, healthy dog in water can cool them down rapidly. If your dog is older or has health issues, pour water over them and aim a fan or cool breeze at them.
Need more advice on keeping your dog cool during the summer?
For more help and advice, why not have a chat with your local vet?