Q&A: How to keep dogs cool in summer

Summer can mean lots of outdoor fun – but high temperatures can also make it a challenging time for owners and dogs alike. We answer your questions on how to keep dogs safe and cool in hot weather.

Being out in the sun can be great fun for us and our dogs, but the warmer the weather, the more important it is to adjust your dog’s routine to keep them comfortable. These practical tips will help you understand how heat can affect dogs, and how you can help keep them safe from potentially dangerous conditions such as dehydration and heatstroke.

How does hot weather affect dogs?

No matter what age or breed your dog, be mindful of how they’re likely to cope at higher temperatures. Dogs don’t sweat like humans do, so they’ve fewer mechanisms for cooling down at their disposal, and panting is the main way they shed excess heat. While some dogs will cope with hot days just fine, others may struggle to regulate their body temperature: dogs with flat faces like Pugs and French Bulldogs can find it harder to cool down during summer. Similarly, the risk of overheating is magnified in breeds with double coats and thick fur, like Huskies, which have been bred for cooler climates.

For more on how rising temperatures affect dogs of different breeds and sizes, don’t miss our expert vet’s guide to summer safety.

How can I keep my dog cool in hot weather?

Walking dogs during the hottest part of the day isn’t recommended as they can get heatstroke and their paw pads can get burnt, so plan your walks for early in the morning or later at night. Leave your dog’s toys at home, and don’t allow them too much off-lead time: running about or playing with other dogs may mean they overheat. If you can, carry water and a bowl for a mid-walk drink. And if it’s baking hot, remember there are plenty of fun activities that can provide exercise and mental stimulation inside your home, too.

Avoid car journeys where possible, but if you need to drive somewhere, bring lots of water and towels in case you need to cool your dog down. (And again, bring a bowl for regular drinks.) Never leave your dog alone in the car, even for a few moments – the temperature inside can rise extremely quickly.

In warm weather, extra grooming sessions can help some dogs feel more comfortable. Brush your dog’s coat regularly to remove tangles, which make it harder for them to release heat. Curly-coated breeds can benefit from a summer trim, but double-coated breeds such as Newfoundlands shouldn’t be clipped – because they naturally shed a lot, it’s best just to brush them regularly to prevent dead hair being compacted and keep them as comfortable as possible.

How do I know if my dog is overheating?

If your dog is unable to avoid rising temperatures, they’re at risk of overheating and heatstroke. This is a serious issue that can be life-threatening without rapid treatment.

Signs of overheating include:

  • Excessive or rapid panting
  • Bright red or blue gums
  • Mood changes
  • Increased drooling
  • Discomfort and restlessness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Seizures

If you suspect your dog may have heatstroke, take them to your vet immediately – they may need medication, fluids and additional support. When detected and treated early, dogs can recover fully from heatstroke, but lack of prompt treatment can cause permanent organ failure or even death.

How can I tell if my dog is dehydrated?

Giving your dog unlimited access to cool, fresh water is always important, but it is particularly vital in hot weather. Signs of dehydration to look out for include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Sunken eyes
  • Excessive thirst
  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Excessive panting
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Urine that’s darker than usual

If you’re concerned your dog might be dehydrated, consult your vet as soon as possible. In the meantime, do your best to rehydrate them with small quantities of water (too much, and they may not keep it down); try using a teaspoon (or a tablespoon for larger dogs), or chips of ice.

How can I cool a dog down in hot weather?

The good news is that if you pick up on signs they might be overheating early, it’s fairly easy to cool your dog down. Keep them calm and move them to a shaded place with access to cool water. You can cool your dog down by wetting them with a hosepipe, putting them in front of a fan or taking them to an air-conditioned space. Sometimes placing a towel that’s been soaked in cool (but not cold) water over their back can help, but be careful the additional weight doesn’t cause your dog distress. As the towel heats up, soak it again in cool water and replace. If your dog continues to show signs of overheating, speak to your vet for immediate advice.

Can I bathe my dog in hot weather?

Definitely! A cool bath is a great way to help your dog feel refreshed on a hot day. If you don’t have somewhere suitable at home, using one of our self-service Petplan Dog Washes is the perfect alternative. Located in popular dog-walking spots across the country, they’re an easy way to clean off mud, sand and dirt in all weathers, and in summer have the added benefit of helping your dog cool down before the journey home.

Can I put sunscreen on my dog?

As long as it’s a pet-friendly formulation, absolutely. Using sun protection on areas of light-coloured skin will help avoid sunburn and protect your dog’s nose and ears from skin cancer.

Is there anything else I can do to help my dog in the heat?

Good news – there are plenty of innovative products available to keep dogs cool in hot weather, and plenty of cheap or free ideas to make the summer heat more bearable for them, too. Why not give some of these a go?

  • Some dogs love lying on cooling mats that are filled with a pressure-activated cooling gel. You can also make your own equivalent by placing ice packs in old pillowcases and leaving them in your dog’s favourite shady spots.
  • ‘Cool coats’ – made from chamois material that absorbs water but resists heating up – can help dogs cool off. (But no matter what they’re wearing, you still need to avoid walks in the middle of the day.)
  • Try placing a paddling pool in a shady spot in your garden, and refilling it with cool fresh water each day. (If you have children in the household, only leave it filled under supervision – and it’s a good idea to supervise pets, too.)
  • For a cooling snack, why not try making the frozen blueberry yoghurt cubes from our list of homemade treats? Or simply fill a Kong with dog-safe food and pop it in the freezer.

What’s your top tip for keeping your dog cool during hotter weather? Share it with us on social media using the #PethoodStories tag.

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