How to keep your dog cool in hot weather

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The summer brings us endless days of sunshine and soaring temperatures. Well maybe not, but even on warm, humid days it's important you're aware of the effects that the warmer temperature can have on your dog.

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What constitutes as hot weather?

 You need to be aware of the effects of heat sooner than you might expect. If the temperature is above 20 degrees centigrade, be aware of the impact the warm weather might be having on your dog, and when the mercury reaches 25 degrees, great care should be taken to prevent your dog getting too hot and risking heatstroke. Individual dogs will respond differently to the heat because of age, fitness, health and how used they are to the conditions, but all dogs rely on us to protect them from the effects of the sun.

Effects of temperature on your dog

Dogs aren't aware of the dangers the heat can bring and need you to keep them safe and protected from some of the dangers of hot weather. Remember - monitor your dog closely, particularly if they're older, overweight, or they suffer from breathing difficulties.

Dogs in cars

When we are hot we sweat in order to expel excess heat. Our furry friends, however, only perspire around their paws, so to cool down, they pant. This enables them to take air through their nasal passages, picking up excess heat from the body, which is then expelled through the mouth. The ability to do this is severely affected in high humidity or when the dog is confined, for example in a car. Even on a mild day, with the windows open, the temperature inside can reach around 49 degrees celsius in less than 30 minutes.

Heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion can rapidly progress to heat stroke and become an emergency situation. Be aware of the following signs:

  • Excessive panting
  • Your dog becoming anxious
  • Lack of response to commands
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • High fever
  • Possible vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Collapse

If you think your dog has heat stroke you must act quickly and calmly. If possible, move your dog to a cool, shaded area. If your dog is having difficulty breathing, ensure their airways are clear. Your dog’s temperature needs to be reduced gradually. This can be done by applying towels soaked in cool water to the dog, ensuring that they cover the hairless areas (groin and feet) as these areas are sensitive to heat and will quickly help reduce the dog’s temperature. Alternatively, for larger dogs, you can hose your dog down with cool water. Once your dog is stabilised, seek veterinary advice immediately.

Hot pavements and artificial grass

Dogs’ pads are covered with hard layers, but they can still suffer burns to their feet. Artificial grass is becoming more popular but is made of plastic, and under bright sunshine it heats up very quickly which risks burning dogs’ paws. Remember, Tarmac and pavement surfaces can become dangerously hot on sunny days, and retain the heat later into the evening. If it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your dog! 

Lakes and rivers

Many dogs love swimming, but be especially careful in the hot weather:

  • Keep your dog out of stagnant water because of the risk of blue-green algae ‘blooming’ in the hot weather – gently flowing streams are a much better option for a paddle at this time of year
  • Always be aware of currents in the water source and make sure your dog can and will come back if called

Exercising your dog in hot weather

Dogs need their exercise, but on warm days they can overheat very easily – and heatstroke in dogs can be difficult to reverse. In warmer weather:

  • Walk your dog in the cool of the morning or the evening
  • Always watch your dog carefully and if they seems to be panting excessively slow everything down – remember, they sometimes don’t know when to stop
  • Take a break and maybe try again at a cooler time of day
  • It's important for your dog to readily have access to water at all times of the day - take a supply with you if you go out
  • If it’s really warm, keep your dog busy at home with puzzles and games – exercise their brain rather than their body for a day or two!

Tips for keeping your dog cool in summer weather

  1. Feed your dog at cooler times of the day - your dog’s appetite may be affected by hot weather
  2. Create a cool space in your house by picking the coolest area of your home, and if possible provide a cooling mat or cold damp towel for your dog to lie on
  3. Like us, many dogs enjoy a cold treat on a hot day, and if your dog is rested, relatively cool, and clam, they can have a chilled or cooled treat. However, you should avoid giving very cold food to an over-heated or recently exercised dog, as they need to cool down gradually
  4. Ensure your dog is well groomed to remove any excess hair. This will allow your dog’s skin to breathe and trap less heat in their coat
    1. Keep your dog's water bowl topped up with clean, fresh water

Reviewed by: Tim Stafford, Director of Canine Affairs on 22 May 2024

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