How to Cool Down A Dog: Beating the Summer Heat

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10 Minute Read
Updated April 6, 2020

With summer often comes some blistering hot temperatures. If you live in an area with hot summers, or dry climates, then need to know how to cool down a dog so that they can still enjoy their favourite outdoor activities.

Fun in the sun brings opportunity for lots of outdoor adventures, but for your dog, that fun can quickly turn to danger if you don’t consider how well they can tolerate the weather.

In Canada, our winters are long, and our summers can seem way too short, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t feel the heat for at least a few months every year. During that time, it’s vital that you know how to cool down a dog and prevent them from overheating. 

Even indoor temps will soar, so be aware of how the temperature in your house, your car, and outside are affecting your dog.

How Do Our Dogs Regulate Their Body Temperature?

Dogs Regulate Their Body Temperature

When dogs pant, they typically open their mouths wider and take quick rapid breaths to ensure that the air they are taking in is as much cool air as possible. Panting is the best way for your dog to cool themselves down, so don’t be concerned if your dog pants a little harder during outdoor activities.

Similarly to us, dogs do sweat. Unlike our ability to sweat all over, dogs can only sweat through the pads of their paws. As sweat is produced it begins to evaporate, removing heat from your dog’s body and lowering their overall body temperature.

Sweaty dog feet may seem a little gross, but this is a very effective way of regulating their body temperature, especially in a drier climate where sweat will evaporate quicker and cool your dog faster.

Signs That Your Dog is Too Hot

Signs That Your Dog is Too Hot

It's important to keep an eye on your dog's behaviour and take note of any physical signs that your dog may be too hot. Here are some of the most common symptoms of overheating in dogs:

  • Excessive Panting
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Retching 
  • Shaking
  • Seizures 

If you see any of these symptoms of overheating or heatstroke in your dog then you should contact your local veterinarian immediately. Call your vet ahead of time to let them know you are on the way and they will instruct you on how to best manage their body temperature until you can get them to the clinic.

Some things can be done to help gradually reduce their body temp, but getting your dog to a vet is vital. Heatstroke is life-threatening.  

Never try to drastically lower your dog's temperature. Things like ice baths and encouraging them to drink very cold water can send their bodies into shock.

7 Ways to Cool Down Your Dog

Prevention is very important when letting your dog participate in summer activities. Helping them manage their body temperatures isn’t as hard as you might think. Follow these simple tips to keep your dog cool and prevent serious issues like heatstroke:

1. Hydration

Hydration

Having a consistent supply of fresh water available can save your dog's life. Whether you're on a hike, playing in the backyard, or simply relaxing on the porch, your dog should always have plenty of fresh water available.

Make sure you are carrying the right gear for outdoor activities, like portable water bottles and travel bowls

Even playtime indoors can pose a risk. If you don’t have air conditioning or good air circulation in your home, then chances are your dog is feeling the temperature.

Not every dog will drink enough, so make sure you encourage them by having multiple water sources available and by pointing them towards water any chance you get.

2. Cooling Gear

Cooling Gear

Many products are now commercially available that help to cool your pup down. Cooling mats, bandanas, vests and collars are widely available in a variety of styles and formats.

The most common style is made to be dampened and then worn by your dog. The water will slowly evaporate, similar to sweat, so you will need to rehydrate the cooling gear as needed.

As a cheap, DIY cooling option, soak a blanket, towel, bandana, or even just their collar in cool water to help chill them. This is a great way to help reduce body temperature if you are concerned that your dog is starting to overheat.

Less common but still helpful, are products filled with a cooling gel. These feel cool to the touch because they are cooler than ours and our dog's body temperatures, so they can help prevent your dog’s body temperature from rising too quickly.

They are often sought after for indoor use, but they don't remove heat as effectively a cooling gear that you rehydrate.

3. Limit Heat Exposure

The most obvious option for cooling your pet is to limit the amount of time that they spend in hot temperatures. Outdoor activities should be broken into shorter and more frequent sessions, allowing your dog to rest and cool down before continuing their activity.

If you are hiking or camping, make sure you find an area with plenty of shade for your dog to rest and cool down.

Never leave your pet locked in an area where the temperature can continue to rise, like the car or a small room. Airflow is extremely important. When cooling your dog indoors, point a fan his way. This will speed up their cool down time.

Leaving your dog in a hot car can become quickly fatal, as the temperature will continue to rise. Heatstroke and death can occur within 30 minutes if the temperatures are hot enough. Cracking a window is not enough!

Check out this chart to see just how quickly your car can heat up:

Limit Heat Exposure

If you were to sit in your car in the hot sun for a few minutes, you'd get pretty uncomfortable pretty quickly, so please don't do this to your pet. If you are taking your dog in the car with you, make sure that you are only going to places that your dog is allowed to go too. If you need to run other errands, then make sure to leave your dog at home, at daycare, or with a friend or family member. 

It's always better to be safe than sorry!

4. Water Sports

If you are looking for some fun and safe outdoor activities for your pet, then try some water sports. Taking your dog to the lake, getting him a kiddie pool, or even playing with a sprinkler or hose in the backyard.

Not only will these activities keep your dog cool, but they can also be fun for the whole family.

Again, limit sun exposure to small increments and provide shade during rest periods. Dogs can get sunburned, and unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of dog sunscreens on the market that are free of chemicals like zinc and titanium dioxide.

Water Sports

Many water toys can be purchased to further help your dog enjoy summer and still stay safe. Toys that hold water, can be frozen, or that float are all great options for encouraging playtime and physical activity while maintaining appropriate body temperature.

5. Frozen Treats

Frozen Treats

A great way to help cool your dog is to feed cold treats. Frozen dog treats, raw bones, and pupsicles are a tasty snack that will lower your dog’s body temperature.

Raw bones can be fed defrosted or completely frozen, and are a safer alternative to cooked or smoked bones. They will give your pup a good jaw work out, mentally stimulate them, and hydrate them all at the same time.

Raw bones can be fed anytime, but using them as an outdoor, summer treat will reduce the mess factor and satisfy their desire to chew. They are also a great way to support their dental health.

Learn more about Raw Bones for Dogs, and how to pick the safest option for your dog's next summer treat. 

6. Choose the Right Turf

Choose the Right Turf

Where you play outdoors can impact your dog’s health as well. Some surfaces retain more heat, like pavement. Walking, running and playing on grass or dirt covered areas will be cooler for your dog.

Pavement heats up fast, and extended time walking on this type of surface can actually burn your dog's paws, limit their ability to sweat, and quickly raise their body temperature.

Choose the Right Turf

If you do run or walk on paved paths, try your best to protect your dog’s paws. Waxes and lotions can provide a protective layer that conditions their pads, and prevent burns, but in extreme weather, dog boots are a good idea.

When looking for dog boots, make sure that you choose boots that aren’t designed for winter. This type of boot is often fleece lined and doesn’t breathe well, so you may not be doing your dog any favours as far as body temperature goes.

Looking for the best summer hiking boots? Check out Dog Hiking Boots for a review of our favourites and a breakdown of their benefits.

7. Timing

Time your outdoor activities with the weather. Midday is when the sun is the hottest, so schedule walks, runs, or hikes in the early morning or after dinner. The sun, air, and ground will be cooler at dawn and dusk, so it’s the ideal time to let your dog enjoy some summer fun.

Timing

During these cooler times of the day you can even try out some glow in the dark and LED toys, like the ones from our list of Best Outdoor Dog Toys

As much as summer rain doesn’t always make for a fun walk, a drizzly day is actually a great time to get your dog out for some fun activities.

Make sure you are prepared for clean up though. Dog parks can get muddy easily, so having some wipes or a car seat cover will save the headache of muddy paw prints all over the car or house.

Know Your Breed

Your dog's breed can be a factor in how they handle warmer temperatures. Coat, respiratory function, and genetics can limit your dog’s ability to regulate its body temperature.

We broke down some common breeds into two groups, those that are hot weather approved, and those that are hot weather susceptible.

Hot Weather Approved Breeds

Dogs that originally come from warmer and drier climates are more capable of handling North American summer temps. While not all the dogs on our list come from hot climates, they are physiologically designed to regulate body temperature well.

Hot weather breeds typically don’t have a thick undercoat and are generally built like runners, slender but muscular. This isn’t necessarily true across the board, but they are common traits.

Here are some of the most popular hot weather dog breeds:

  • Chihuahua
  • Greyhounds and Whippets
  • Most Terrier Breeds
  • Vizsla
  • Weimaraner
  • Beagles
  • Australian Shepherds
  • Border Collie
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Pointer Breeds

Breeds Not Built for Hot Weather

Dogs that are built for cold weather tend to have a lot of trouble regulating their body temperature in hot weather. Their coats and size can prevent their body from reducing its temperature.


Breeds Not Built for Hot Weather

Brachycephalic (short-snouted) breeds can also have issues dealing with the heat. Their squished nasal and sinus passages can affect their ability to pant properly. Take extra care with these breeds to prevent overheating.

Here are some common breeds that are susceptible to hot weather:

  • Bulldogs and French Bulldogs
  • Boston Terriers
  • Pugs
  • Chow Chows
  • Pomeranians
  • Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes
  • Newfoundlanders
  • Boxers
  • Pekingese
  • Overweight dogs

Obesity will affect how your dog regulates body temperature. Even breeds that are normally compatible with warm weather, will be at risk for heat stroke if they are overweight.

Extra care should be taken to keep fat dogs hydrated and cool without limiting physical activity. Sedentary lifestyles are the number one cause of obesity in dogs, so don’t stop encouraging playtime, just be safe and prepare for hot summer weather.

The Dog Days of Summer

The Dog Days of Summer

July and August are the hottest months of the year in North America. It’s a time when we love to get outside and enjoy nature, take vacations, go camping, go for a hike, and participate in a number of fun outdoor activities.

As pet owners, we also love to include our dogs in as many of these activities as we can. Protecting your dog from summer heat doesn’t mean that you have to avoid the outdoors, it just means you have to think ahead and prepare.

Going on a hike or camping? Bring extra water, and invest in a dog backpack to help carry them. Plan your routes so that you know where you can rest and get out of the sun.

Even playing in the backyard can be fun, but make sure that your dog stays hydrated. Use a wet cooling vest to lower body temp and prevent sunburns. Get your dog comfortable playing in the water and find games to incorporate that.

Don’t let the sun and heat scare you. Let your dog enjoy the summer. Stay safe, hydrate, and have fun!!

How do you keep your dog cool in hot weather? Let us know in the comments below!

Written by

Krystn Janisse

Krystn is a passionate pet nutrition enthusiast. She has worked in the pet industry for over a decade and loves to share her passion for animal welfare with others. She loves all animals but is currently channelling some crazy cat lady vibes with her five lovable, but rebellious cats.

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