How to Keep Dogs Cool in Hot Weather

  • A Dog Running in a Sunny Field

We all love the summer months, including your dog. With any luck, it means longer days spent outdoors with friends and family, enjoying the good weather. However, it’s important to keep an eye on your dog in hot weather to keep them safe from heat exhaustion, or even heat stroke.

Dogs can’t regulate their body temperature as well as humans. Dogs can only sweat through their paws and release most of their heat through panting. This makes it really easy for your pup’s temperature to spike if the weather gets too hot. Thankfully there are a few steps you can take to help keep your dog cool in warmer weather and prevent heat stroke.

How to Care for your Dog in the Summer

Whilst dog heat stroke and exhaustion are genuine risks for most dogs if temperatures rise above 23 degrees, there are some easy things you can do to reduce the risk and help your dog stay nice and cool.

  1. Never leave your dog in a car by itself, even if the windows are cracked.

The same can be said for caravans, conservatories and out houses. The temperature in these environments can rise rapidly and are extremely dangerous for your pet so don’t risk it. You wouldn’t want to sit in a car on a hot day, so why would your pet?

  • Avoid walking at the hottest point of the day.

If it’s a particularly hot day, try to walk your dog outwit the hours of 8am – 8pm if possible. Try to stick to shaded areas as much as possible, take breaks and bring water with you. If your dog starts to look more exerted than usual, take a break and then head home.

  • Avoid walking on the pavements.

Walking your dog on hot pavements can burn and blister their pads, which will cause your pup a lot of pain and impact their ability to walk and play in the following weeks. Before going on a walk, try the five second test – place your hand on the pavement for 5 seconds and if it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws.

  • Avoid overexerting your dog.

Don’t run, cycle or play games with them for too long when it’s hot. Even the liveliest of dogs will tire quicker in the heat. Instead, use frozen toys, water sprinklers and paddling pools to keep them entertained.

  • Make sure there is a shaded area available both inside and outside your home for your dog to retreat to if they get too hot.
  • Avoid leaving your dog alone.

If you need to go out, make sure you leave your pup in the coolest room in the house with lots of shade and keep the windows on the latch for air flow. If you’re going to be out all day, try to bring your dog with you or make sure you get a pet sitter.

  • Always ensure that you have fresh cold water available – dogs need to keep hydrated too!
  • Use pet friendly sun cream on the tip of your dog’s nose and ears if they have white or light fur.
  • Brush them regularly.

This will help to keep your dog’s coat as thin as possible by avoiding any knots and matting. It’s also a good opportunity to check for flystrike, which is another fatal condition you should be aware of to protect your dog in hot weather.

What is Dog Heat Stroke?

Dog heat stroke develops when your pet is unable to regulate their body temperature by panting and becomes too hot as a result. If not immediately treated, this can lead to serious conditions such as organ failure and even death in as little as 15 minutes.

Every dog is at risk of heat stroke once temperatures go above 23 degrees. Remember that your car can reach this temperature quickly, even if it is cooler outdoors.

However, some dogs are more at risk of heat stroke than others if not looked after properly. These dogs include:

  • Very old or young dogs
  • Dogs with pre-existing health conditions
  • Dogs with thick, heavy coats
  • Dogs with short, flat faces such as pugs and bulldogs

These dogs are at risk of developing heat stroke from as little as 20 degrees. Check out this really useful infographic  for more information.

Dog Heat Stroke Symptoms

There are a number of dog heat stroke signs and symptoms to look out for during the summer months. These include:

  • Heavy panting (more so than usual)
  • Excessive drooling
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Dizziness and incoordination

Before it gets to that point, keep an eye out for signs of dehydration such as a dry noose, sunken eyes and a lack of urine. At this point you can still prevent dog heat stroke by taking your pup out of the sun, into a cool room and giving them nice cool water.

What to do if your Dog has Heat Stroke?

If you think that your dog has heat stroke, it is vitally important that you seek Veterinary attention straight away. If you live in the Kensington, London area call our emergency vet phone number for 24 hour assistance.

Before bringing your dog to the vet, you need to slowly lower their body temperature for the best chance of survival. To do this:

  1. Move your dog to a shaded and cool area
  2. Pour cool water over your dog – make sure this is cool water, not cold, to avoid shock
  3. Use wet towels and a fan if possible
  4. Give your dog small, cool (not cold) amounts of water to drink
  5. Continue pouring cool water over your dog until their breathing starts to settle, but not to the point where they are shivering
  6. Then immediately take them to your closest vet

Once you’re at the vet, your veterinarian will treat your dog with intravenous fluid therapy to replace the fluids and minerals lost. They will also continue to monitor your dog for secondary complications such as organ failure and blood clots.

Every year we treat dogs with heat stroke, many of which end tragically. Thankfully, it is preventable if you follow the advice we’ve given on how to look after your dog in the heat. For more advice, please call us on 020 7221 3093 or book an appointment online for non-emergency procedures.

Photo Credit: Joe Caione