How to keep your dogs (and other pets) cool in the heat

Just as it is for us humans, heat can cause dogs (and other pets) quite a challenge in regard to daily comfort during the hot summer months. With heat waves and high temperatures, not only should you be keeping cool, but if you have a dog (or pet), they too should be kept cool, and doing so is about being prepared and thinking ahead. The goal is naturally to reduce the potential risk of heatstroke and ensure that your dog stays healthy and happy, even in hot weather. We have compiled a few dog care tips for families with dogs (and other furry pets) so that they can enjoy the sun and remain safe.

What Not To Do

Here are a few things to consider not doing during hot days:

Do not walk during the heat of midday

While you may think that your dog needs to get outside and do his/her business, dogs struggle to keep cool in high temperatures, hence they are vulnerable to overheating. The reason for this is that dogs can not sweat. Dogs rely on panting (to breathe quickly and loudly through your mouth) to cool their body temperature. Breeds that are flat-faced, such as pugs or bulldogs, are even more at risk.

Try to stick to early morning and/or late evening walks. And if you have a breed that really needs to exercise, do so at those hours as well, potentially walking rather than stimulating activities like fetching a ball or running. Be mindful of the weather and hour, and plan your walks accordingly.

Never leave your dog (or pet) in the car

Many pet owners and families will bring along their dog, whether for an outing or to get chores done such as shopping or groceries. And while it is nice to have your furry friend with you, they should stay with you even when you leave the car. The mentality of “it’ll just take a minute”, can be fatal for pets (and humans) in hot temperatures, even if you are parked in the shade with the windows open. Dogs can easily become distressed and quickly develop heatstroke.

Hence, leave your dog in the comfort of your home if you need to take care of a few basic things where he/she cannot come along. If you plan on outings or excursions, and it is a hot day, perhaps then to they can stay at home. Alternatively, use shades on the windows so that they don’t get direct sunlight and utilize the air conditioner or fully open windows as necessary.

Also, if you are on a journey by car, ensure that your dog also has plenty of access to water, through stops along the way. This can be easily done with a travel bowl.

Do not put cages in direct sunlight

Dogs and generally speaking, no animals should be within a cage in direct sunlight. (Rabbits and Guinea pigs cannot sweat or pant to regulate body temperature). Cages, just like any other encompassed area, will quickly heat up if placed within direct sunlight, capture the heat and cause your dog (or pet) more distress, and a higher risk of stroke.

Things to do

Here are a few things to consider doing on hot days for your dogs (and pets).

Test the surface

Logically, surfaces heat up in the sun, such as tarmac or sand, in varying degrees and these can be painful for your dog’s paws. If you are not sure whether the surface you are walking on is too hot then give it a quick test. Place the palm of your hand on the ground for three-to-five seconds. If it feels too hot for you, then your dog will think the same. If you have no other choice, then alternatively try shaded areas or stick to grassy areas.

Give constant access to fresh water

Water is essential for dogs at any time of year, however especially on hot days ensure their bowls are continuously filled. A nice little way to cool down the water is, just like you might enjoy ice cubes in your glass, to put an ice cube or two into their water bowl.

If you are out and about, make sure that you have a bottle of water and a travel bowl with you for your dog to drink from.

Frozen foods

Another fun idea that your dog or pet may like, is frozen foods. Take carrots or cucumbers as an example. Peel them, place them in a bowl, and put them in the freezer for a couple of hours, or plan ahead for a few days if you know the temperatures will be hotter. During the day, give them a frozen treat, which they’ll enjoy licking, chewing, and biting on.

Watch out for signs of heatstroke

Dogs easily suffer heatstroke when they become overheated. If a dog cannot reduce his/her body temperature, then this can become fatal. It does not even need to be hot outside, it can just be warm. Any dog can develop heatstroke, so check on your dog from time to time to ensure his/her safety (this goes for other pets as well).

You’ll notice potential signs of heatstroke in a dog that include

  • heavy panting
  • drooling (or foaming at the mouth)
  • restlessness
  • bright red or very pale gums
  • confusion or loss of coordination
  • shaking or weakness
  • vomiting or diarrhea

While these are general signs for many conditions, on hot days, these may be signs of heatstroke. If you suspect heat stroke or any related condition, then take your dog to a cool, well-ventilated place and give him/her small amounts of water to drink, and pour a little room temperature water over them. If you suspect their condition to get worse, seek immediate advice from your veterinarian.

Groom your furry friend regularly

Regular grooming and clipping will help keep your dog’s coat clean, and free of knots, and can even help them cool down. This is because regular grooming in warmer weather will assist in brushing away dead or excess hair, which leaves your pet with a less thick coat, helping them to stay cooler on hot days.

Water games

While it may be tempting to take your dog to swim, especially in hotter weather, however, keep in mind that some places may be unsafe and have strong currents that can be dangerous. Some places may also contain algae and/or bacteria, that just like us humans, would make your dog sick.

Therefore, be careful where you take your dog, whether the seaside or a stream. Always take into account the environment of the water. Allow your dog to cool off with a short swim and provide drinking water as well.

Alternatively, playing in the garden and spraying off your dog with a hose is a great alternative way to play a little as well. This allows them to use their energy in a less strenuous way. Just be mindful of the time of day.

These are just a few ideas and thoughts to keep your dog (and other furry pets), cool during warmer days. Just like us, humans, dogs (and pets) like to seek shade and keep cool, and even if your dog likes to sit in the sun a bit, they’ll always want a place to cool off. Keep your dog fit and healthy all year round, and this will contribute to maintaining a healthy weight and assist during hotter days. Think about other things that contribute to this, such as the amount of food they receive on warmer days, to training indoors with them if you have the space and facility to do so – e.g. running up and down a hallway with air conditioning and easy access to a cool place and water bowl.

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