Cooling down a dog in hot weather? Here you can find all the tips
Scorching temperatures are uncommon in the United Kingdom but the odd heat wave could be very uncomfortable for your dog. Here you can find out what you can do, besides using a dog cooling mat, to cool down your dog on hot days.
Furthermore, you can learn how to recognise whether your dog is dehydrated or even suffering from heat stroke. Then you will know when to intervene and when a visit to the vet is called for.
How to cool down a dog by adapting your walking schedule
On hot days you should try to keep your dog indoors as far as possible. If you usually take your dog for a walk between noon and 2 in the afternoon, it would be wise to change your walk to a different time. Choose a time when the sun is a bit lower and less bright, meaning that the outside temperature will be at least a few degrees lower.
Whenever you notice that your dog is becoming hot and tired during a walk you should stop and rest. Also take the precaution of not walking too far away from home to make sure you can get back safely. Even dogs that normally enjoy long walks may be far less energetic during hot weather.
Cooling down a dog by walking on different routes
Try walking in sheltered areas, like a forest, instead. These areas are often considerably cooler and will help your dog to cool down a bit.
How to cool down a dog with a dog cooling mat
Dog cooling mats are one of the most effective ways to help your dog to feel more comfortable in hot weather. All pet stores have dog cooling mats that are specially made to cool dogs down rapidly. Most dog cooling mats are filled with a special gel that does not need to be activated with water or electricity. As soon as your dog lies down on the mat it starts cooling their body down.
Even a fairly good quality dog cooling mat need not be expensive as there are different types to suit every budget. Don’t try to freeze a wet blanket as a homemade dog cooling mat as the temperature will most likely be too low. It could cause your dog’s arteries to narrow and make them feel even hotter.
Cooling down a dog with a swim
Just like for children, it is a good idea to have a swimming pool in the garden for your dogs during the hot summer months. You can use a special dog pool for this, but any container that can hold water and is big enough will work.
The water in the pool should be cool but it is not necessary to, for example, add ice cubes to make the water extra cold. If you can sit in the pool without it being too cold, it will be fine for your dog.
You also don’t have to fill the pool all the way to the top - even a small amount of water will be enough to cool your dog down. Finally, keep the pool out of the sun so that the water stays cool.
Planning to take your dog for a swim in nature, like in pools or streams? You need to check a few things before allowing your dog into the water. First of all, the water could be very dirty. Not dirty as in muddy, but full of bacteria. Standing water, in particular, could be full of blue-green algae which might be deadly if your dog swallows a lot of it.
Dead animals in the water, like fish or birds, can cause botulism. This is a dangerous condition because the symptoms often appear only after a few days. By this time you may already have forgotten that your dog went swimming, increasing the risk of a misdiagnosis.
It is best to avoid swimming in standing water. Water with a layer floating on top is usually also not good for your dog. Only allow your dog into water when you feel it is completely safe!
How to cool down a dog with cooling dog treats
While we enjoy an ice cream on hot days, dogs will also appreciate a cold snack in hot weather. You can find many recipes online to make your own frozen dog snacks, but you can also freeze Yarrah chew sticks.
You can either cut the chew sticks into bite-size pieces or use the entire chew stick like an ice lolly. You could also freeze some Yarrah wet dog food to give to your dog in hot weather. Then you can be sure that you are feeding your dog a responsible snack without any chemical colouring, fragrances or flavours, and free from pesticides or GMO.
While travelling with your dog, it is a good idea to take some frozen snacks along. Is the trip taking longer than planned? You can ask for some ice cubes at a cafe or restaurant. This doesn’t contain any nutrients, but will help to cool down your dog and prevent dehydration.
Cooling down your dog by taking good care of their coat
You might not realise it, but your dog's skin can also burn in the sun and that is why you should never shave your dog's coat when it is very hot. Not only will it make your dog’s skin more susceptible to sunburn, but their fur also acts as insulation. In other words, with less hair, your dog might feel even hotter.
Grooming your dog well during hot weather is essential. With a special undercoat brush or comb you can remove any loose hair, which improves the airflow to your dog’s skin. Furthermore, thinning out the undercoat also helps your dog to stay cool. You can always ask your dog groomer for advice if you are unsure.
Cooling your dog with enough water
Dogs need to drink enough water on hot days. Always make sure that your dog has access to a bowl of water at various locations in and around the house, so that they don’t have to walk far to the nearest source of water. The water in the dog’s bowl does not have to be ice cold. In fact, lukewarm water is more cooling.
Always take enough water along when you are travelling with your dog. Not only for drinking, but also to occasionally sprinkle on your dog's coat, paws and stomach when it’s very hot in the car. With a collapsible dog drinking bowl or a water bottle with a spout it’s easy to give your dog a drink on the go.
Cool down your dog with different accessories
Besides a dog cooling mat, there are several other accessories that can cool your dog down on hot days. A dog’s neck is the area where cooling works best and that is why a cooling collar works very well. These collars contain the same gel as that in dog cooling mats and the effect lasts for quite a while.
There are also cooling jackets for larger dogs that ensure that your dog is kept cool throughout the day. You might think that a vest would only make your dog hotter, but nothing could be further from the truth. The vest is activated by the heat which radiates from your dog's coat.
What should I do if my dog overheats?
During very hot weather your dog can get sunstroke or become dehydrated. We have listed the symptoms of both these conditions below so you can identify all the signs that your dog is overheating. We also explain how to cool down a dog with heat stroke.
Cooling a dog with heat stroke
If you suspect that your dog has heatstroke, the first step is to take their temperature right away. If it is above 40°C, you should start cooling your dog down immediately.
You can use a dog cooling mat, but if you don't have one available you can also use a wet cloth. Never use ice cold water because the sudden change can cause your dog to go into shock. Start off by cooling your dog’s paws and stomach area and then make sure that the water penetrates their coat.
Keep checking your dog's temperature regularly and do not stop cooling until their body temperature has dropped to below 40°C.
Other symptoms of heat stroke include:
- shortness of breath and panting
- increased saliva production
- thick saliva
- decreased activity
- muscle tremors
Whenever you notice any of these symptoms in your dog during a hot day, it is best to contact your vet right away.
Cooling a dehydrated dog
Dogs can easily become dehydrated during the hot days, but dehydration is often difficult for owners to identify. The most common symptoms are deep-set eyes, a dry mouth, decreased activity and depression.
Another helpful tip to check for dehydration to pull on the skin. With one hand, gently pull up the skin on the dog’s neck and then release it to see if it quickly jumps back to normal. If the skin stays in the pulled-up position it is a sign of dehydration. This check even shows how severely dehydrated the dog is - the longer the skin takes to return to normal, the worse the dehydration is.
Interested in another sign that your dog is dehydrated? Gently expose your dog's gums and press on the gum with your finger until it turns white. If a dog is not dehydrated the gums will turn pink again as soon as you stop pressing. In dehydrated dogs this will take much longer.
If you find that your dog is dehydrated, make sure that it gets extra fluids to drink. Besides putting enough drinking water in and around the house, you can also feed your dog extra wet food. Wet food contains more moisture than dry food. For example, a tub of organic dog food with beef and chicken from Yarrah contains 81.50% moisture.
Severe dehydration is a medical emergency and you should take your dog to the vet immediately, especially if they are not drinking or eating.
Which dogs need more cooling?
Some dog breeds are more susceptible to overheating than others. Flat nose dog breeds, in particular, have a harder time regulating their body temperature. During hot weather you should keep a watchful eye especially on dogs like Bulldogs, Pugs and Boston Terriers.
This applies to senior dogs, those that are overweight, and dogs with diabetes as well. They also tend to not cool down as easily as other dogs.
On the other hand, dogs with short and thin coats are more resistant to heat than long haired dogs. The length of a dog’s muzzle also plays an important role in cooling. A dog’s mouth cools inhaled air and so dogs with a longer nose can cool the air more effectively.