How to keep dogs cool, top tips for the summer
Summer in the UK is often a bit unpredictable when it comes to the weather, but sunshine and warmth usually put in an appearance at some point. With some prior planning, you can make sure that your four-legged friends stay cool and contented whatever the weather. Read on for all the latest on keeping dogs cool in the summer.
What are the signs my dog is too hot?
Keeping dogs cool in the heat is really important; dogs tend to be more at risk from the effects of hot weather than we are, and this is for two main reasons. Firstly, they have a thick coat that they can’t remove and secondly, they have far fewer sweat glands than we do, with most of these located in their paw pads. If your dog is starting to get too hot you may notice some or all of the following signs:
- Increased panting – panting is the main mechanism by which dogs can reduce their body temperature and is often the first sign that your pooch needs to cool down
- Increased thirst
- Loss of coordination
- Body feels warm
What are the signs of heatstroke?
If panting fails to cool your dog enough their body temperature may continue to rise, with an increase of as little as 2 resulting in heat stroke. The increase in body temperature tends to be either because of the environmental temperature rising, or your dog’s body generating more heat through an increase in exercise or activity levels. Frequently it will be a combination of both. Signs to look out for are:
- Excessive panting
- Increased heart rate
- Vomiting and diarrhoea
- Loss of consciousness
Top tip – you can feel your pet’s heartbeat by placing a hand on the left side of their chest behind their front leg. Practice makes perfect!
My dog is too hot, what should I do?
- Move to somewhere cooler
- Find a breeze
At home use wet towels soaked in water to cool your pooch and change these as they warm up. Or if you have access to a shower this can be a great way of cooling your dog. Whatever method you use, aim to keep your dog’s coat damp – evaporation will help with heat loss.
Top tip – use lukewarm water to cool your dog. Very cold water causes blood vessels to constrict which can slow down the cooling process.
- Offer water to drink
- Cooling products
Cooling mats and coats for dogs are a great idea for keeping your pet comfortable. The Just Chillin’ range of high quality easy to use pet cooling products are just what you need to help your pet in warmer weather. The Just Chillin’ Pet Cooling Mat is filled with a non-toxic cooling gel, why not put it in the freezer for an extra cool effect? Or how about the Just Chillin’ cooling Bandana? Soak it in cold water for as little as 1 minute then pop it around your dog’s neck; the absorbent inner layer retains moisture helping keep your pet cool for up to 4 hours.
When is it too hot to walk my dog?
As a rule, if the air temperature is 20 or less you will be able to walk your dog without undue worry. As warmth increases you need to take more care, especially if your dog is at higher risk of heatstroke (see below).
In addition to increasing air temperature, strong direct sunlight also raises the ground temperature. This can make it super-hot for our pooch’s paws, even resulting in burnt pads on hot days.
Top tip – use our ten-second test: if the ground is too hot for you to hold the palm of your hand on for 10 seconds or less, it is too hot for walkies!
Dogs at increased risk of heatstroke
Any dog can be affected by heatstroke but there are certain risk factors that make some dogs more susceptible than others:
- Brachycephalic or flat-faced breeds e.g., pugs and bulldogs. Due to the shape of their faces, these breeds can’t pant as efficiently and so are less able to cool themselves.
- Giant breeds e.g., St Bernard, Newfoundland
- Obesity – even carrying a relatively small amount of excess weight will increase risk because fat provides excellent insulation.
- Age – elderly animals are more at risk than youngsters.
- Thick-coated dogs – in cold weather a thick coat is just what you need but it isn’t ideal in the warmer summer months. The added insulation provided by a thick coat reduces a dog’s ability to cool down.
Can dogs get sunburnt?
In general, a dog’s coat provides it with excellent protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Vulnerable areas may include the belly, ears and nose where the coat isn’t as dense. Breeds with a fine coat such as greyhounds and those with white fur are at greater risk. If your dog has exposed areas of skin, keep them out of strong sunlight and consider using sunblock.
Top tip: Use a high SPF sunscreen designed for children to protect delicate skin!
How can I keep my dog cool in the car?
It is never OK to leave your dog unattended in your car on a warm day. Temperatures inside cars can rise to over 40 in a short time on a sunny day and leaving windows open will do little to reduce this. Sadly, dogs really do die in hot cars.
If you are traveling in the car with your dog, open the windows, or even better, turn on the air-conditioning and take frequent stops to offer a drink of water and leg stretch.
If in doubt, it may be best to leave your dog at home.
Keeping cool fact or fiction?
Fact 1: Giving your dog ice cubes can kill your dog! Fiction!
Giving your healthy dog an ice cube or frozen treat to keep them cool on a hot day is a great idea - it helps to cool your dog whilst keeping them entertained without lots of exertion. Even better, why not make them a doggy ice lolly using their favourite treat, or pop one of their toys in the freezer ready for a quiet game in the shade.
Top tip: soak their dry kibble in water then freeze for a cooling snack
So, is there any time when ice cubes are a definite no? Frozen treats are perfect for keeping your dog cool and entertained on a warm day but never use them if you think your dog has heatstroke.
Myth 2: Long coats help with cooling and shouldn’t be cut in the summer. Fiction!
It follows that the more hair covering your pet, the more they are insulated and the less efficient they will be at losing heat in hot weather. Shaving a dog completely is not a great idea though because their protection against sunburn will be greatly reduced.
Myth 3: Drinking too much water can make my dog unwell. Fact!
Water poisoning is a relatively rare condition seen when dogs drink large amounts of water in a short time. Prolonged periods of time playing with water from a hose or careering about in a pool often results in large volumes of water being gulped down and this changes the sodium balance within the body. Dogs can become seriously ill as a result. The key is moderation – in hot weather offer free access to drinking water but discourage the intake of large volumes at any one time.
As temperatures rise our four-legged friends may need a little help to keep cool so plan ahead on any doggy days out so that you can enjoy the summer together!