16 Tips for Helping Your Dog Cope with a Hot Summer

It can be really exciting when the warm weather comes around and it may seem like there could be nothing better than getting out to enjoy a long walk and some warm sun with your dog.  Often people forget that it can actually be quite a risky time for your pup if you don’t help them stay cool and it is easy to get caught out on a walk or a road trip that proves to be warmer than you expected.

Dogs don’t sweat as humans do and the only way they have of regulating their temperature is through their pads and by panting.  This means that in very hot temperatures it is much easier for them to overheat and it is not uncommon to hear about dogs that have had to be taken to the vet after suffering from heat stroke and there are some that tragically even die.

As long as you are sensible, there are lots of things you can do to help your dog cope better in the extreme heat and we have provided some useful tips below.

Our dogs often enjoy a spot of sunbathing too but they can easily overheat so it is up to us to help keep them safe in the hot weather

1.  Don’t Encourage Strenuous Activity in Very Hot Weather

Short walks or, in the very extreme temperatures, just toilet breaks in the garden are recommended.  Don’t encourage your dog to play fetch or run around energetically with other dogs in the park. Your dog will not realise that they need to regulate their temperature.  It is not uncommon to hear of people taking their dog to the park on just a relatively hot day and within fifteen minutes of their dog playing with the ball, they are needing to be rushed to the vet because they have heatstroke.

2.  Keep You Dog Inside or in the Shade as Much as Possible

On the scorching hot days, it is actually best to just keep your dog indoors as much as possible or in the garden with access to cool shady spots at all times.  Give them access to non-carpeted areas in the house if you have these as they are likely to be cooler. Make sure they can get to the coolest parts of the house.  If they normally sleep in the patio or conservatory you may want to restrict their access if these are windowed areas that get the direct sunlight. Often dogs will seek out the warm spots, again not realising that they are becoming dehydrated or overheating.

If your garden is very exposed create some shady spots with blankets, towels or tarps.

There are lots of games you can play at home to keep your dog stimulated if they are getting bored from having less exercise than normal and you can also make sure they have plenty of treat toys to keep them busy.

If your dog is in the garden on a hot day make sure they have access to plenty good shady spots

3.  Try to Limit Any Dog Walks to Dawn, Dusk or After Dark

It may sound obvious but many dogs that suffer from heatstroke are those that have been taken out for their daily constitutional at the hottest time of the day.  If you normally have an afternoon walk with your dog it would be best to change around your schedule to accommodate getting them out first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening when temperatures will be a lot cooler.  It is also good to pick shady walks like woodland areas.

Walking your dog at dawn or dusk, rather than in the heat of the day is a much better option

4.  Use Cool Coats, Bandanas and Mats

If the house is still very warm, they are travelling in the car, are in the garden or on a short walk you can consider using a cool coat or bandana.  These are normally made of a material that absorbs and holds water well and they retain a cool temperature.  I have found using a cool coat to be extremely helpful for when I have done summer road trips with my dog Annie.  They really help to keep her feeling more comfortable.

I always soak the coat and bag it up in advance of leaving and then I can pull it out when needed and it has retained its moisture.  Watch out for the coats or bandanas drying out. When this happens they can actually start to make the dog hotter and you would want to remove and resoak if you plan to put it back on.

Sometimes using a wet towel for them to sit on can also be an option if you don’t want to invest in a coat.

Cool mats are also useful.  They normally work by becoming cooler when the pressure of the dog’s body is on top of them. Not all dogs like cool mats, they are often made of a firmer, shiny material and you may need to get your dog used to using it.  Reward them whenever they stand, sit or lie on it and soon they will start to realise that it gives a cooling relief.

An elevated, non fleece dog bed can also be a nice way to help your dog stay cool.

Wet towels in a shady spot can be a nice way to help your dog stay comfortable in hot weather.  Watch that they don’t dry out or that they are too heavy though otherwise they can then end up making them hotter 

5.  Give them access to a paddling pool or other safe water sources

Using a paddling pool can be a nice way to help your dog stay cool if you are giving them access to the garden.  There are pools that are specifically marketed for dogs, they can be a bit tougher than a normal child’s paddling pool.  You may not want to go all out and spend too much at first. Try a cheap and cheerful one to see if your dog takes to it.  If your dog is not sure at first, throw in some toys or treats. Never force your dog to go in if they are uncomfortable, you will only make them more scared and less likely to use the pool and they could even start to develop a phobia of water in general.

Be aware that sometimes dogs nails or teeth can damage the pool so again, if you have a boisterous dog or a chewer, don’t go all out on the fanciest option out there.

If you are lucky enough to have a pool or pond in your garden you may want to allow your dog access to keep cool.

It is extremely important to supervise them at all times though and, if it is a pond, it should be one that is regularly cleaned.  Toxic blue-green algae can form on still pools of water in hot temperatures and, if ingested, it can be fatal.

Beach and river walks can be nice for your dog in hot temperatures if they like to dip in and out of the water to keep cool.  Don’t forget that the beach is usually a very exposed area so, when out of the water, your dog can become overheated quickly.

Also be aware that after exercising in the water, a dog’s temperature will be raised from the activity and so, when they get out, they can overheat more quickly as a result of their already raised body temperature. Excessive activity in the water is probably not recommended either on a hot day.

A paddling pool can be a great options for helping your dog to stay cool in the garden 

6.  Keep Your Dog Hydrated

Keeping your dog well hydrated is one of the most important things you can do in hot weather as they can quickly become dehydrated and this can also lead to heat exhaustion more quickly.  

Always make sure they have access to fresh and clean drinking water.  If you are out and about with them carry plenty of water and a travel water bowl for them.  If you forget the water bowl but have a poo bag, you can pour some water into this and let your dog drink from the bag (obviously not unsupervised).

If they are not keen on drinking you could make it into a bit of a broth or mix it in with their normal meals.

Dogs that are dehydrated can start to lose their appetite, they can become very lethargic, pant more (even when they are not in hot temperatures anymore), their nose and gums become dry and their skin starts to lose its elasticity.  If you lift the skin around your dog’s neck area and it holds up rather than springing back down, this could be a symptom of dehydration. Getting more fluids into your dog when they have these symptoms is extremely important. If you are at all concerned make sure you reach out to your vet for advice.

Access to plenty cool, fresh water is really important for your dog in the hot weather

7.  Watch out for Sunburn or Damage to the Eyes

Dogs can get sunburn too.  A dog with a thick dark coat is not likely to have this problem but dogs with a very light, thin coat are more at risk.  Thin coated white dogs and those with exposed skin are most at risk, so breeds like Chinese Crested or White Bull Terrier, for example.  If they are in the sun for prolonged periods it is sensible to consider using a doggy safe sunscreen or covering their skin with a light doggy t-shirt.  Don’t use human sunscreen as this can often contain chemicals that may irritate your dog’s skin.

Areas on all dogs that tend to be more at risk from sunburn are the tips of the ears, the bridge of the nose and the tummy.  So if they like sunning themselves on their back they could end up with a sore tum if you are not careful.

If your dog does get sunburned, applying cold compresses every half an hour can help to relieve the discomfort more quickly.

Some people wonder if their dogs need to wear sunglasses.  Dogs do not need to worry about the long term damage that UV exposure can have, unlike humans.  If your dog already has an eye condition which would make exposure to bright light painful then they may be in need of a pair of doggy sunglasses then.  The most popular style are called ‘Doggles’.  They are also good if your dog likes to sit beside an open window in the car and you want to protect their eyes from wind damage or possible debris.  Breeds that have more protruding eyes like Pugs may also benefit more in these instances.

They are not a natural thing for your dog to wear so we would only suggest using them if they are really needed and you will likely have to build your dog up to using them properly.  Gradually introduce them over a period of time and always have the positive association of yummy treats any time they are exposed to them.

Short coated breeds with lots of pink skin exposed, like this Bull Terrier, can be more susceptible to sunburn 

8. Protect Dog Paws From Hot Roads

This is one that a lot of people don’t think about, mainly because usually we have shoes on so don’t experience it ourselves.  In the extreme temperatures, pavement and road surfaces can become extremely hot (sometimes they even become squidgy and start to ‘melt’).  Take the time to place your hand on the road surface for ten seconds in these hot temperatures and you will quickly notice how unbearable it can be.

It can be a big problem for our pooches too.  They can often end up with nasty burns on their pads.  It is particularly problematic for breeds that don’t have as much fur covering their paws, so breed likes Greyhound and Whippets.

If you do have to take your dog out for a short time of hot surfaces like this it would be worth considering using a pair of boots or, ideally, waiting until the temperatures are cooler or sticking to grass.

Your dogs pads can get burnt on hot pavements.  Keep to grass or use boots to protect them when the temperatures soar 

9.  NEVER Leave a Dog in a Stationary Car in Hot Weather

This is HUGELY important and although it may seem like common sense there are still so many dogs dying or needing to be rescued from being stuck in a car on a hot day.

It doesn’t even have to be a super hot, sunny winter days can be a risk for your dog.  Even with windows open, temperatures can sore in a matter of minutes in a car when they are in direct sunlight.  Because of our dog’s lack of ability to regulate their temperature in the way we do they can overheat extremely quickly.

Don’t ever leave your dog in a stationary vehicle, even just for five minutes, in hot temperatures.  It is really not fair on them and can quickly become life-threatening. If you have to nip into the grocers, leave your dog at home or, if you have someone else with you, have them stay in the car with the engine and the air con on the go.

Be aware that even when you are driving the car can get very hot very quickly.  Use the air con when possible, if not keep the windows open (but have your dog secured so they cannot jump out/fall out the window).  Use a cool coat or cooling mat and have plenty of water available. If your dog seems to be getting uncomfortable, pull over and find a shady spot so that you can give them the opportunity to bring their temperature down.

Even when the windows are left open a car can heat up to dangerous temperatures in a matter of minutes.  Never leave your dog in a car on a hot day 

10.  Use Frozen Treat Toys to Help Keep Them Cool

Stuffing a treat toy and then freezing it before giving it to your dog can be a great way of helping to keep them cooler on a hot day. Some dogs like to eat ice cubes.  It is not dangerous for them to have ice but if consumed in large quantities or not crunched down properly it is not great so by giving it from a treat toy, like a stuffed Kong, they are only able to get small bits at a time.

Some dogs will enjoy a frozen stuffed Kong or a piece of ice to help keep them cool in hot weather 

11.  Be Extra Vigilant with the Breed Types That Overheat More Easily

Whilst any dog can overheat in the hot weather there are some that are much more sensitive to changes in temperature.  The flat faced, brachycephalic breeds like Pugs, French Bulldogs and Boston Terriers find it much more of a challenge because the construction of their nose and mouth means that their breathing is not as efficient as other dogs.  I have seen French Bulldogs suffer from serious heat stroke in a Scottish summer when they were not even doing any strenuous activity (and it doesn’t even get that hot over there)!

Brachycephalic, flat faced, breeds like Pugs struggle even more in the hot weather 

12.  Some Dogs May Benefit from a Haircut but Never Shave down a Double Coated Breed

Certain breeds may feel the benefit of getting a haircut when the warmer temperatures come.  I always clipped down my Cocker Spaniels during the summer months and they really felt the benefit of it.  Even just regular grooming to remove excess hair can help too.

Some people make the mistake of shaving down a Husky or a Golden Retriever or a Newfoundland.  They think that getting rid of their thick coat will help them to stay cooler.  For double coated breeds like these, it can actually put them at more risk of overheating.  You should never shave a double coated breed.

Breeds like Huskies have a short, fine, soft and light undercoat.  This undercoat is the one that causes them to shed. It is also the part of the coat that insulates in cold weather and cools them down when it gets hot.  The top coat is thicker and coarser and it is referred to as the ‘guard hair’. It insulates them from the heat and ensures that they do not suffer from sunburn.

If you think a double coated breed is overheating, follow the other guidelines above; get them into a shady spot, use cooling coats or mats, give them access to water for drinking and cooling off in.

Never shave a double coated breed like a Husky in an attempt to cool them down, it can actually make them overheat more easily 

13.  If There Is a Sudden Change in the Weather Your Dog Will Need to Acclimatise

Many cases of heat stroke are seen during the first hot weather spells in the Spring or when a dog has just arrived in a hotter country than they are used to.

It is really important to properly acclimate your dog to a sudden change in temperature.

So, if you are on a road trip and arrive in a country where the weather is much warmer than you are used to, your dog will need more time to get used to the change.  These are the times when it is really important to think about extra hydration, good cooling products and limiting strenuous exercise. You may be keen to get out there and explore but make sure you consider your dog’s needs too.

14.  Watch Your Dog’s Weight

Making sure your dog maintains a healthy weight is so beneficial for many reasons.  One of those is that dogs that are obese are likely to overheat far more quickly.

Like humans, overweight dogs will get out of breath more easily with any exertion, when you add in hot temperatures this becomes even more pronounced.  

Keep your dog at a healthy weight and they will find exercising in warmer weather more comfortable, be less at risk of heatstroke and will be likely to lead an overall healthier, happier and longer life.

Your dog can overheat more easily if they are overweight.  Keeping your dog at a healthy weight is beneficial to them for so many reasons

15. Be Aware of the Impact of Existing Medical Conditions

Overweight dogs, puppies and elderly dogs are more susceptible to overheating but there are medical conditions that can also make it easier for your dog to become too hot.

If your dog has a breathing condition, a heart problem, lung disease or is already unwell with a fever then you need to take extra care not to expose your dog to extreme temperatures as you are putting them at greater risk.

16. What to Do If You Suspect Your Dog Is Suffering from Heat Stroke

If you think your dog is suffering from heat stroke it is extremely important for them to receive medical attention as soon as possible.  Serious heat stroke can cause internal organ damage and even death and it can happen extremely quickly.

The symptoms to look out can include:

  • excessive panting or breathing problems
  • fatigue, wobbliness, confusion or disorientation
  • tongue and gums become a very bright red
  • elevated heart rate
  • excessive thirst
  • vomiting and diarrhoea
  • drooling
  • in extreme cases, they may collapse, have muscle tremors or even seizures

Make sure that you immediately remove your dog from the hot temperatures, work on cooling them down by applying cool/tepid water and fanning them.  Never use ice cold water as this constricts the blood vessels and can also cause shivering which will raise your dog’s temperature making things worse.  Get them to a vet if there is no quick improvement or if the symptoms are severe.

If your dog is exhibiting any worrying symptoms after being exposed to hot temperatures it is best to seek urgent veterinary attention.

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