Hi everyone. As summer approaches, we wanted to share some essential tips on how to keep your dog cool in the heat. Temperatures are reaching extreme highs in Europe and across the world. It’s uncomfortable for humans, but it’s much worse for our doggy friends. Humans have an effective way of regulating body temperature by sweating.
Dogs sweat too. However, humans have sweat glands all over their body. Dogs only have sweat glands on their paw pads. Dogs use panting as their primary way of keeping cool. Panting causes moisture in a dog’s mouth to evaporate, which cools as it travels down to the lungs. We all want to keep our dogs safe when it’s hot outside, so what are the dos and don'ts of keeping your dog cool in the heat?
Dos of Keeping Your Dog Cool in the Hot Weather
I'm cool indoors baby
Dogs suffer even indoors if the outside is baking hot. Close curtains and doors night and day to keep them comfortable. This stops hot air coming inside. You can also put a cooling fan in the room during the day and keep your dogs entertained by hiding boredom busting treats around the room. Remember to keep a bowl of fresh water available as well.
Water, water everywhere!
Speaking of water, dogs like to drink from several places, so place bowls in the freezer then fill with fresh cool water and leave around the house and garden. If you have a plastic paddling pool, fill it with cool water. Some dogs will jump in and splash about, others will drink from it. If your dog is panting excessively, fill a watering can with cool water and gently water your dog.
Pay attention to their ears and face. A dog’s blood vessels expand in these areas, bringing hot blood closer to their extremities. By pouring cool water gently on these areas, the blood cools down, recirculates around the body and acts as a cooling method. You can also use your garden hose on your dog and make it into a game. For dogs with long, dense hair, gently focus the spray on their chests, tummies and paws. Soaking a heavy coat will trap heated air and weigh the dog down.
Wash and brush up
Dogs naturally shed their inner coat in the warmer weather. It is not advisable to shave your dog, however, regular grooming is important. Brushing regularly gets rid of dead and dirty hair, removes matted tangles and leaves a less dense coat.
Trimming the fur between your dog’s pads allows air to circulate easily. Regular bathing in cool (but not freezing) water helps to keep their core body temperature within healthy limits.
Give me shade
If your dogs are anything like ours, they follow you everywhere. But while we love to sit in the garden, it can be too hot for our dogs. This doesn’t mean you have to lock them away indoors. With plenty of shaded areas, a splash pool and access to cool drinking water, your dogs can enjoy the outdoors as much as you do. You can put damp pet towels down inside and outdoors, which provides additional relief from the heat.
Ice, ice, baby!
Ice is your friend when the temperature soars. For a simple ice cool pack, fill a plastic bottle with water, freeze then place under your dog’s chin. You can also add a few ice cubes to drinking water. And if your dog loves toys, buy some freezable toys or pop a LickiMat in the freezer and spread with something cool from the fridge.
Don’ts of Keeping Your Dog Cool in the Heat
Too hot to trot
Walk dogs early in the morning or late evening. Keep to shaded areas and off pavements. It surprises us to still see the number of people walking their dogs during the midday on hot pavements when the heat is unbearable. Vets recommend keeping your dog inside when the temperature is 20 degrees or over. This might not seem like a lot, but certain dogs have difficulty with warmer weather:
Larger breeds or obese dogs
Dogs with black coats
Breeds with flat faces
Dogs with dense fur
Qualified dog trainer, rehabilitator and behaviourist Helen Masters says:
“An important thing to remember in extreme heat is that no dog ever died from missing a walk!”
But dogs can die from heatstroke. And remember, don’t walk your dog when they are ill. They’re likely to be dehydrated and can succumb more easily to heatstroke. Check the pavement as dogs’ paws are sensitive. Place the back of your hand on the pavement for 7 seconds. If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your dog.
Not craving the shaving
It may seem like a good idea to shave your dog’s coat to make them cool. However, this is counterintuitive. Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Border Collies and Labrador Retrievers have two coats of fur. The soft inner fur is what you get on the brush when you groom them. The inner coat traps air and works in two ways. In the winter, it insulates them, keeping them warm. In hot weather, the trapped air keeps heat away, helping to regulate their body temperature.
Chief Veterinary Officer for the AKC, Dr Jerry Klein, says
“Shaving that coat to reduce shedding or supposedly to keep the dog cool also eliminates that insulating layer of fur, makes the dog susceptible to heat stroke, and can result in improper hair growth and the possibility of follicle damage. A dog’s fur coat protects him from sunburn and decreases his risk of developing skin cancer.”
Hot car + dog = heatstroke
Cars become greenhouses in hot weather, with temperatures inside significantly higher than outside. Even with windows open and parking in the shade, temperatures can soar, leaving your dog at risk of heatstroke or even death. The RSPCA advises that even a relatively low temperature of 22°C outside can quickly rise to 47°C (117°F), which is fatal.
This rule also applies to caravans, conservatories, outbuildings or unshaded gardens. Any small, enclosed space is like an oven when the temperature rises outside. And leaving dogs in the garden, unsupervised, with no shade is just as lethal.
Cool coat man!
It’s tempting to place a cool towel on your dog, but this has the opposite effect. Putting towels (however cool or damp) on a dog's back traps the heat already in the fur. It’s perfectly safe for your dog to lie on a damp towel. Dogs have little to no hair on their tummies and will benefit from lying on a cooling mat or even cool tiles. Instead, invest in a cooling coat. Cooling coats work by evaporation. As the water evaporates, it cools the dog down.
We hope our tips help to keeping your dog cool in the hot weather are useful. Remember, the signs of heatstroke include panting, drooling, lethargy, confusion, vomiting or collapse. Call your vet right away. Put them on a cool floor with drinking water, splash cool water over their body and fan them with cool air.