A couple of years ago I was out for a run with my aging dog mid morning on a warm day, something we always used to do when she started panting excessively and trying to dart to any piece of share that she could. This was unusual behavior for her and some thing new as Zooey and I have definitely covered some miles in our many years together.
Just because our senior dogs were able to once tolerate heat and our youngster pups were fine last summer does not make it so this summer or on this run for that matter.
Older dogs and dogs with flat faces or short noses for one are less physiologically tolerant of very high temperatures and very cold weather. Simply put older dogs left outside in hot weather or cold are more likely to become ill. Younger dogs also need to be observed for signs of excess heat exposure given the vast changing heat temperatures (more hot days) and the physiologic nature of our furry friends.
Given this here are eleven simple steps to ensure your dog’s comfort when it is hot.
Eleven Tips to Keep Your Dog Cool in Hot Temperatures
Some of these tips are seemingly common sense, which they are what is not common sense, even for ourselves at times is knowing when to implement these steps to keep our dogs comfortable. Read on to also understand the signs of heat stress and always keep in mind that senior dogs are less tolerant of heat (similar to most senior people!)
1) Keep Dog Cool by ensuring that your dog has access to plenty of water.
Fresh water and the more cooler the water the better. Pets cool off faster with a cool drink and if water is hot or dirty they may be less inclined to use it as a way to cool off. Access to clean water is incredibly important. At our house we leave the faucet slightly drip for our three dogs and ensure that the water bowl is in the shade so it is less
likely to grow organisms and stays fresh.
If you are on the go there are a ton of really great collapsible water bowl options and bottles that your dog can drink from to ensure that your dog is never without water.
2) Keep Dog Cool by encouraging dogs to drink more water by using flavored water.
Since water is so critical to cooling pets a way to encourage dogs to drink more is by providing natural flavoring to water. Check out our article about how to Keep Your Dog Hydrated: How to make flavored water for pets for easy ways to make flavored water to encourage hydration. The easiest is to add a little bone broth to your pets water. You can buy prepared bone broth or check out our bone broth recipe here.
Bonus: Freeze some flavored water for a tasty frozen treat for your dog in a Pupsicle. Many dogs may love the flavored ice and it will provide a cooling effect for your dog.
3) Keep Dog Cool by using dog booties.
Traditionally, I thought of dog booties to protect dogs feet from ice and snow but as you navigate the urban jungle or composite decking or other hot surfaces prone to get hot they can be incredibly useful addition to your dog’s wardrobe.
Dog booties like these here are a great way to protect dogs sensitive paw pads from hot asphalt or concrete. Pay attention to other surfaces as well that you may not initially consider to be that hot like composite decking, artificial grass and sand.
4) Keep Dog Cool by get a cooling dog mat.
Cooling dog mats have come a long way such as those from the Green Pet Shop. cooling dog pads that do not require electricity and cool off when a dog lies on them. This sounds so nice I may need to nab a cooling dog mat for myself!
If you do not have a cooling mat an alternative is a damp towels, however, they tend to heat up fast due to the dog’s body temperature.
5) Keep dog cool by avoiding direct sunlight and providing a cool area.
This seems like a no brainer since dogs have fur and do not have hats to shade their heads direct sunlight is even more impactful unless they are swimming or otherwise cooling off. Add to that that certain dogs have increased susceptibility to heat exposure as we discuss below and this becomes a really important one.
We all know that taking your dog in your car will more than likely lead to heat exposure (unless you have a Tesla with dog mode of course which we review in our book Motherpuppin’ Adorable: what to do when your dog is better than everyone else’s!) but kennels and other areas of the yard can also be subject to high temperatures. Letting your dog in for the afternoon for a nap on the cool tile next to the air conditioner may be just what is called for in warmer weather.
6) Keep dog cool by taking a dip or spray off with cool water.
Some dogs love to swim and take to easily but others may need a little more support and a doggie life jacket but either way swimming is a perfect way to stay cool even if it is just a kiddie pool. Our older dog is not a huge fan of a spray but often times if she is panting and I spray her she immediately stops and settles down. Just make sure that the hose water is cool and not hot from lying in the sun.
7) Keep dog cool with a cooling neck bandana.
Dogs, like us have a lot of circulation that us going through the neck area. A cooling wrap or wet towels around the neck like this here will keep dogs cool. I like to wrap ice cubes or an ice pack in it for extra cooling from summer heat.
8) Keep dogs cool with a kennel fan.
Nowadays fans can come with a USB charger and a clip like this here. These make for easy way to cool off if your dog needs to be confined in a kennel or small space without a lot of air circulation on hot summer days. Bonus, flies don’t like airflow.
Although, keep in mind that according to the Humane Society don’t solely rely on a fan since pets respond differently to heat than humans do. (Dogs, for instance, sweat primarily through their feet.) And fans don’t cool off pets as effectively as they do people.
9) Keep dogs cool by managing their weight.
Overweight dogs will feel the effects of the hot summer months even more than a thick coated dog with an undercoat. Extra weight challenges a dog’s cardiovascular system and causes dog’s to have difficulty managing heat. Weight management is more challenging with certain breeds of dogs and may also be indicative of another health issue like parasites, or Cushing’s disease.
Maintaining a proper weight is so important to all dogs especially senior pets to avoid heart and joint issues but also to support them with managing heat.
10) Keep dogs cool by brushing out their undercoat.
We have a Great Pyrenees. Dogs, like Great Pyrenees with undercoats tend to stay cool in the heat but in the spring they definitely shed out. When I see the quote “dog hair is my glitter” I can certainly relate. Dog’s like German Shepherd’s and Great Pyrenees with extra thick coats will start to loose hair as summer comes but you can help them with regular grooming and brushing of their undercoat with the proper brush. Check out our article on Choosing the Best Brushes for Long Haired Dogs
Pro Tip: Old dogs may also be effected by certain diseases that prevent their coat from falling out like Cushing’s disease which can also dramatically effect their ability to shed and release their thick coat. Monitor older dogs for signs that their coat is not naturally shedding as it may be disease related.
11) Keep Dogs Cool by Avoiding Outdoor Activity at the Hottest Part of the Day
According to Own Your Weather the hottest time of the day typically occurs 3 to 5 hours after noon (when the Sun is at its highest point in the sky), while the coldest time of the day occurs within an hour after sunrise when the sun’s radiation is still too weak to surpass the Earth’s rate of emitting heat into the atmosphere. The midday heat is essentially those hours between 3 and 5 PM.
During the hottest time of the day, the midday heat, dogs are at a higher risk of excessive heat exposure during warm weather. Avoiding outdoor activities during this time and ensuring dogs have enough water will help keep them cool. Early morning outdoor activities are the best for dogs during summer months to avoid heat exhaustion.
Increased Risks of Overheating in Dogs
Not only does not following our 11 top tips to keep dogs cool in summer lead to overheating but these factors may also increase the risk of heatstroke or health issues related to overheating in dogs:
- Senior dogs. As we previously explained senior dogs physiologically manage increased heat and changes in temperatures differently than younger dogs.
- Flat faced dogs. Dogs like French Bulldogs, Pugs, and other flat faced dog breeds have difficulty getting air intake into their systems in order to cool them. They are particularly susceptible to overheating.
- Black dogs. It is no joke that the color black (if you call it a color) absorbs more heat. According to UCSB Science line, the more light the object absorbs, the more heat is absorbed since light is energy black absorbs the most heat. A black object absorbs all wavelengths of light and reflects none. Objects that are white, on the other hand, reflect all wavelengths of light and therefore absorb the least heat. Accordingly, a black dog will absorb more heat than a white dog increasing the potential for dangerous levels of heat.
- Humidity. Dr. Barry Kellogg, VMD, of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association told the Humane Society “Animals pant to evaporate moisture from their lungs, which takes heat away from their body. If the humidity is too high, they are unable to cool themselves and their temperature will skyrocket to dangerous levels—very quickly.” We often think of heat as solely the temperature but higher humidity needs to be watched as well.
How to tell if your dog is heat stressed or signs of heat stroke
Heat stroke can come on quickly. There are several signs of heat stroke that become apparent that you can watch for, but like heat stroke in people by the time there are the signs it is too late.
Prevention is important when considering heat exposure for dogs and people. However, here are the main signs, identifying heat stroke in dogs is sometimes more difficult than people as a large indicator of heatstroke in people is confusion which can be identified through a discussion with the affected person.
Stay alert to these signs of heatstroke in your dog and take your dog’s temperature. By taking your dog’s temperature you will quickly be able to tell if there is a serious problem. According to the Humane Society Dogs’ temperatures should not reach over 104 degrees. If your dog’s temperature does, then you will need to treat him for heat stroke.