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 shade that she could to keep cool. This was unusual behavior for her and some thing new as my senior dog Zooey and I have definitely covered some miles in our many years together.
Just because our senior dogs were able to once tolerate summer heat and our youngster pups were fine last summer does not make it so this summer or on this run for that matter which is why we need to keep our dogs cool in the summer and learn the symptoms of dog heat stroke.
The Problem of Summer Heat and Dogs
Older dogs and dogs with flat faces or short noses 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 some simple steps to ensure your dog is comfortable when it is hot even in the hottest summer months.
Eleven Tips to Keep Your Dog Cool in Hot Temperatures
Some of these tips are seemingly common sense but knowing when to implement these steps to keep your dog cool and comfortable in summer is the most important. 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 let the faucet slightly drip for our four 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 portable water bottles that your dog can drink from to ensure that your dog is never without water.
Wondering how long your dog can go without water? Learn that and everything else dogs and water. See our article here
2) Keep Dog Cool by encouraging dogs to drink more water by using flavored dog water.
Water is critical for cooling pets. Therefore another 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 method to make flavored water 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 and is way more healthy for your dog than ice cream!
3) Keep Dog Cool by using dog booties.
Traditionally, I thought of dog booties as a way to protect dogs feet from ice and snow. However, as you navigate the urban jungle, composite decking or other hot surfaces prone to get hot, dog booties can be an 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. Many cooling dog pads do not require electricity and even cool off when a dog lies on them. This sounds so nice we made a cooling mat the prize in a recent giveaway.
If you do not have a cooling mat an alternative is damp towels, however, damp towels tend to heat up fast due to the dog’s body temperature.
5) Keep your dog cool by avoiding direct sunlight and providing a cool area.
This may seem like a no brainer. Dogs have fur and do not have hats to shade their heads so direct sunlight is even more impactful unless they are swimming or otherwise cooling off. Add to that certain dogs have increased susceptibility to heat exposure and staying in the shade this summer becomes really important.
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 swimming easily. Other dogs may need a little more support and a doggie life jacket. Either way, swimming is a perfect way to stay cool even if your dog is just swimming in a kiddie pool.
Our older dog is not a huge fan of a spray but often times if she is very hot and stressed she immediately stops panting and settles down after a quick spray. 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 is going through the neck area. A cooling wrap or wet towels around the neck like this cooling neck wrap on Amazon will keep dogs cool. I like to wrap ice cubes or an ice pack in it or a regular dog bandana 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 are an easy way to cool off your dog, especially 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.
Keep in mind that according to the Humane Society you should not solely rely on a fan to cool pets 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 dogs 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 proper dog weight is so important to all dogs especially senior dogs. Weight management is important to avoid heart and joint issues but also to support your dog with managing heat and extreme temperatures.
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 Shepherds 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 or senior 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). 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 themselves off. These flat faced breeds 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. Therefore, 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.
Summer can be a great time for fun with your dog, provided you and your dog remain safe and healthy. Heat is manageable with the right tools and actions.
Cooling dogs off in the summer FAQs
Wetting a dog will cool a dog down significantly. You will see a marked improvement with your dog’s ability to handle heat if they are cooled by cool water. Be careful the water you put on your dog is not too hot from a heated hose left in the sun or too cold to be a shock to their system.
A dog could stay outside in 100 degree weather with the proper care, meaning access to shade, water, a fan, and cooling mat. Temperatures over 100 degrees can quickly cause problems in your dog.
You can keep your dog cool in summer without AC first by ensuring that you offer cool clean water, keep your dog hydrated, provide your dog a cooling mat or cooling bandana and enjoy water sports or swimming with your dog.