How to Keep Dogs Cool in Summer
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In the winter, we can give a dog a coat to warm them up. When temperatures rise, it is not so easily to take layers off. Keeping a dog cool in the summer is not a minor issue. When a dog becomes too hot, it threatens their health. Heat stroke is a real problem, especially for dogs which have a sensitivity to heat or pre-existing health conditions. In extreme cases, a dog overheating can be fatal.
At AnimalWised, we explain how to keep a dog cool in the summer. Whether you have an indoor or outside dog, we provide tips to help ensure they remain at a stable temperature and avoid potentially serious health problems.
The importance of hydration in dogs
When we talk of cooling a dog down, it is important to think of more than just temperature. Water is essential for a dog to function. Without proper hydration, their organism will start to shut down and they will be in trouble. All dogs must have access to clean, fresh water 24 hours a day.
In the heat, access to water is even more important. An indoor dog should have fresh clean water kept in a cool shaded placed. This way, we can better help prevent high ambient temperatures from making the water too warm. If this were to happen, the dog may be disinclined to drink it. For outside dogs we need to be similarly careful. Do not leave the bowl in direct sunlight, but make sure the dog can reach it easily.
Ensuring you have water is also an important consideration when walking your dog. When you walk with your animal outside for long periods, you will need to take both water and a bowl with you (plus some extra water for when they urinate). These may seem cumbersome, but you can get a small ‘on-the-go’ bowl easily. Fill the bowl up when they need it. Also, take them to parks with outdoor drinking fountains.
Drinking water not only prevents dehydration in dogs, but it can refresh your dog in the summer. One idea is to put ice cubes in their water bowl when it is very hot. Dogs love this as it not only hydrates and refreshes, but they often enjoy crushing the ice to entertain themselves.
If you notice your dog doesn't drink very much or has been diagnosed with a disease which compromises hydration, we can find other wats to hydrate them. This can include adding water to dry food or changing to a wet food diet.
The process of eating can make the dog feel hotter. For this reason, it is advised you feed your dog during cooler hours in the summer. Also, don't leave the food in sunlight.
Cool your dog down with water
In addition to hydrating, water is one of the best ways to refresh your dog. Not only is it effective in cooling them down in summer, but most dogs love interacting with water in various ways. One basic technique is to wet a towel or dog blanket in cold water and cover them in it. Do not surprise them or be threatening, but be reassuring. Making them scared will be counterproductive.
For those fortunate to have a pool, you can allow your dog to swim in it. For others, you can buy paddling pools cheaply which can be a great way to allow your dog to cool off. Inflatable paddling pools are generally not durable enough to withstand the dog's claws, but hard plastic ones aren't expensive. Whether your dog will enjoy these pools depends on the dog. Not all dogs can swim and some may even have a fear of water.
Not all of us have outdoor areas which can accommodate these pools. For this reason, you can take them to public spaces which have bodies of water. For example, lakes, beaches and other areas where it is OK to have dogs in the water. In fact, research what is available in your local area and find out if there is a dedicated dog pool available.
Ice cream for dogs
Ice creams are a surefire hit in the hot summer months for people, but many will see them as restricted for dogs. In most cases, this is true. Most ice cream contains lactose which the dog cannot easily digest. This can result in diarrhea, something you don't want at the best of times, but especially when it is hot. For this reason, you can use alternative recipes such as ice cream made with lactose free yogurt or even giving them ice cubes while you eat your cone.
We have to be very careful with the ingredients. More than lactose, dogs shouldn't eat sugar and other ingredients common to ice cream. For this reason, you can make homemade alternatives where you can be sure the ingredients won't harm your canine. Check out our recipes for dog friendly ice cream to learn more.
Protect the dog from heat
The best way to help a dog cool down in summer is to prevent them from getting hot in the first place. With outside dogs, this can be difficult. Even when it is hot, it is difficult to prevent a dog from wanting to enjoy a bit of sun.
Since dogs don't sweat as we humans do, they regulate their body temperature by panting. This exchanges warm air for cool and helps to ensure they don't get too warm. However, if it is very hot, panting alone is not a great way for the dog to cool down.
If we have an indoor dog, we can control the ambient temperature by closing blinds or curtains, opening windows, putting on fans or using air conditioning. We will do this for ourselves to stay cool in summer, so there is no reason our dog cannot also benefit. For outside dogs, we need to ensure there are shady and cool spaces available to them. For very hot climates, a kennel might not be sufficient. A garage or other shady space might be a better option.
We need to also allow for our dog to cool themselves their own way. When a dog is outside, you will often see them scratch the ground. One reason they do this is to get to a cooler area underneath the top layer and lie on top. Allow the dog to have areas where they are able to do this.
Our article on what is the normal body temperature of dogs? will help you to learn more about regulating their heat.
Cooling beds for dogs
In the hottest months you will likely see your dog sleeping stretched out on the coldest floors in the home. These are usually the kitchen and bathroom tiles. A good option is to use cooling mats which can be placed on their bed. These are purchased specially, but can be very helpful in hot weather.
Be careful with the dog's coat
Many people may think to shave their dog in the summer to help them cool down. This seems to make sense at face value, but when we consider it more closely, we find there are some issues to take into account. Shaving is not recommended in general since the hair helps protect the dog from injury, cold and heat. In summer, it protects against sunburn.
The undercoat of dogs also helps to create a chamber of air which helps them to fight the heat. It is an insulator in winter to maintain warmth from within, but is also an insulator to keep heat out in summer. By shaving a dog, we are keeping them from protecting themselves. The dog will shed hair naturally to compensate for climatic changes. We can help by grooming appropriately, brushing regularly and ensuring there are no knots and tangles.
If we have any doubts, we can speak to our veterinarian. They will help us to know what care our dog needs in the summer. Not all dogs are the same and some fare worse in very hot weather. This is true of brachycephalic dogs which have trouble breathing in the heat, but there are many factors which affect their ability to endure high temperatures. Take a look at our article on heat stroke in dogs to know how to avoid it.
If you want to read similar articles to How to Keep Dogs Cool in Summer, we recommend you visit our Basic care category.
Carlson, L. D., & Giffin, J. M. (2002). A practical manual of canine veterinary medicine. Madrid: Editorial el Drac.