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How to Keep Dogs Cool in the Summer

overheated dog in grass
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Summertime means sunshine and outdoor play for both people and their pets. However, summertime also means hot days and high temperatures. While our canine companions greatly benefit from and enjoy the summer sunshine, pet parents must use caution during these warmer days to avoid harmful, heat-related summer risks. 

Let’s discuss the risks of high temperatures to our dogs, how to recognize heat related problems in dogs, how to keep a dog cool and cool a dog down quickly, and some product recommendations to help prevent your dog from overheating to begin with. 

Dogs and Summer Heat: 3 Dangers to Be Aware Of

Golden Retriever suffering from heat

Heat and warm weather activities can become dangerous for dogs if pet parents don’t take the proper precautions or learn to recognize signs of trouble. Here are some summer dangers for dogs to be aware of:

Overheating and Heat Stroke

A dog mainly loses heat through panting, or evaporative cooling. As the outside air moves over moist airways, it evaporates the warm moisture and heat is lost. This relies on good hydration and rapid breathing to move the air quickly. On humid days, this system is even less effective since evaporation is not as efficient. Dogs are also able to lose heat through conduction, or by sitting or lying on a cool surface to help bring their body heat down.

Since neither of these cooling mechanisms are as effective as sweating, dogs can overheat quickly and easily, especially on hot, humid days. In temperatures as low as 75 degrees, a dog’s internal temperature can rise to dangerous levels quickly, resulting in heat stroke. Heat stroke, also called heat exhaustion, is a serious medical emergency that requires aggressive, supportive treatment. 

Dehydration

Dogs are also at risk of dehydration during summer play. Not only are they losing water through normal body functions and exercise, but panting requires moisture to evaporate to work. This moisture evaporation results in additional water lost. The longer a dog plays outside and the more aggressively they pant, the more likely they are to become dehydrated.  

Burns

Paw pad burns are another common summer threat for dogs. Surface temperatures can be 40 to 60 degrees warmer than ambient air temperatures. Asphalt and concrete temperatures can reach 125 degrees when in direct sunlight at temperatures as low as 77 degrees. This is warm enough to burn a dog’s paw pads, especially if they stand and walk on it for more than a brief moment. 

Dogs can also suffer from sunburn – especially those with light or white coats. Dog-safe sunscreen should be applied to exposed areas. 

Signs of Heat Related Problems in Dogs

Pet parents must be able to quickly identify the signs of heat stroke so they can take actionable steps to reduce their dog’s temperature and save their life. 

Signs that your dog might be struggling to cope with the heat or developing heat exhaustion include:

●   Excessive panting

●   Refusing to stand/walk

●   Dark or bright red tongue and gums

●   Stumbling

●   Collapse

●   Bloody diarrhea

●   Vomiting

●   Seizures

If you notice these signs, you must take immediate steps to help cool off your dog (keep reading for tips), and find a veterinary clinic as soon as possible. 

Numerous body systems and major internal organs, such as the liver, kidneys and the brain, are all affected by extreme body temperature elevation. Some complications like clotting disorders may not appear for up to 48 hours after the event. It is best to have your veterinarian examine your pet – even if they are no longer showing signs of heat stroke – so that no complications are overlooked and a care plan can be established. 

How to Cool a Dog Down Quickly

Dog sitting by fan

If you notice any signs of heat stroke in your dog, or if they simply seem to be too hot, use these steps to help cool them quickly:

Step 1: Use cool (but not icey) water by either submerging them into a pool or bath or simply hosing them down.

Step 2: Aim a fan towards your pet to improve airflow and aid in heat loss.

Step 3: Provide cold drinking water or even ice cubes for your pet to lick and chew. 

Sept 4: Wet their paws and ears to help with heat loss.

Step 5: Find a well shaded, cool area for them to lay down. 

Step 6: If possible, rush them inside an air conditioned building or vehicle. 

A few things you should NEVER do include:

Cover a dog with a wet towel. Covering a pet with a wet towel as this actually traps heat close to their body.

Shave double coated breeds like Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, or Huskies as their coat actually aids in keeping them cool. 

How to Keep a Dog Cool in the Summer

Dog drinking from water bottle

The best way to keep your dog safe in the summer is to avoid allowing them to become overheated to begin with. Follow these best practices so that your dog can enjoy summertime safely:

Stick to morning and evening activities. Avoid outdoor exercise or play during peak daylight hours. Instead, take advantage of cooler temperatures in the early morning or late evening. 

Watch the humidity. Keep an eye on the humidity index and avoid long walks or play on humid days. 

Keep water handy. Always have plenty of fresh drinking water on hand to avoid dehydration.

Never keep dogs in hot cars. Never leave your dog in a parked car for even a short amount of time, as internal car temperatures can reach dangerous levels quickly.

Look for shade. Choose shady paths, trails, or fields when possible.

Try water-based activities. Opt for water activities to help keep them cool, even if it’s just setting up a sprinkler in the backyard for your dog to run through or setting up a dog pool for some wading. 

Pause for breaks. Take more frequent breaks on hot days for your dog to rest and cool down. 

Fan them off. Add a fan to their crate or environment for added airflow.

Try cooling beds. Use cooling mats or raised mesh beds to help dogs lose heat through conduction. 

Be careful with brachycephalic breeds. Be particularly careful with flat faced dogs (i.e. Frenchies, pugs, etc.), older dogs, and those that are overweight, as they develop heatstroke more easily than other dogs. 

Summer Must-Haves for Dogs

In addition to taking proper steps to keep your dog from overheating, there are some awesome products available to make this even easier for pet parents.

Here are my top product recommendations to keep your pets cool and safe while you’re out having fun this summer

Pet parents are definitely not restricted to “dog only” cooling products. A good old fashioned backyard sprinkler and shade canopy are also easy items to add to your toolbox to help keep your furry friend cool in the summer. 

Summertime does not mean your dogs have to sit in air conditioning all day, instead, it simply means pet parents have to be a little bit more diligent and careful while enjoying the sunshine. Use this article to help you and your best fur friend have a fun and safe summer!

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