How To Avoid Dog Heatstroke: Keep Dogs Cool In Summer
“Winter is copper, autumn is bronze, spring is silver, and summer is gold.” This quote by Matshona Dhliwayo captures how many of us feel about this season of the year, so full of fun activities, warm nights, and family adventures! But there is one issue that comes with summer: the dangers of heat. How do you keep your dog cool in summer to avoid dog heatstroke?
If you’re a pet owner, you’re probably well aware that heatstroke is common in dogs. And since a dog can’t fully explain their thirst or discomfort to you, heatstroke is harder to catch in our precious pups. Thankfully, there are ways to keep dogs cool and avoid the danger of heatstroke.
Why Dogs Get Too Hot
When creatures of any kind—dog, human, and otherwise—fail to properly dissipate heat or exercise too vigorously in the heat, they are in danger of heatstroke. Heatstroke is common in certain dogs, especially those with underlying risk factors. In dogs, heatstroke occurs when their core body temperature rises above 105.8 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Celsius).
According to a recent study, the most common risk factors that lead dogs to get heatstroke include:
- High body weight that exceeds 33 pounds (15 kilograms)
- Lack of acclimation to heat stress
- Poor fitness
- Exposure to a hot environment, especially if humid
- Being of a specific breed such as Golden or Labrador Retriever, English Bulldog, Malinois, Belgian or Dutch Shepherd, etc.
Some of these dogs, such as the English Bulldog, have a broad, short skull, leading to a poor ability to dissipate heat appropriately. Retrievers are playful and somewhat more likely to get obese, while large working dogs are more likely to perform vigorous activity in the heat.
Avoiding heatstroke is crucial, but these risk factors cannot all be avoided. So, how do you keep your precious pup safe from heatstroke and cool even in the hottest weather?
How To Keep Your Dog Cool in Summer
1. Keep Your Dog Hydrated
While it may seem obvious, it can be easy to overlook this one. Keeping your dog hydrated can be challenging on busy days when you and your pup are out playing and don’t remember to come in for a drink!
However, hydration is crucial. Water makes up 60% of a dog’s body weight and, in general, dogs should drink from ½ to 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight each day. However, the amount necessary changes based on your dog’s size, activity level, age, and even whether their food is dry or contains some water in it.
Provide fresh water for your dog at all times, especially when you’re out and about in the summer. If your dog is exercising at the beach or on a hike, you may want to offer them ice cubes first to make sure they start slow and don’t get bloated from drinking too fast.
Also, remember that dogs are messy drinkers. Measure more than you think they’ll need as some water will definitely end up on the ground. Puppies will also need special regulation to ensure they drink enough.
2. Offer Cold Treats
We all like a good serving of ice cream or a delicious popsicle in the summer months. Why should our dogs be any different?
There are dog-safe ice creams available for purchase at many stores (or make your own). In addition, you can puree your dog’s favorite fruits and vegetables, pop them in ice cube trays, freeze them, and offer them throughout the day when it’s hot out!
Other cold treat options include frozen kongs (fill them with yogurt, applesauce, peanut butter, or other treats if you want), frozen toys (pop their favorite toys in the freezer for a while!), and fruits or veggies frozen whole rather than pureed.
3. Provide Shade
It may seem obvious, but shade can be a huge help to your dog if they’re stuck outside for much of the day! It’s great if you have trees, but even so, you should provide more options such as umbrellas, patio covers, or specific dog shade covers for dog beds.
4. Offer a Dog Cooling Bed
Dogs tend to lay on the ground if not given another option, but the ground can sometimes be hot and leave your pup feeling uncomfortable. A great way to help your dog stay cold is to offer an elevated bed and/or one made to cool dogs down.
There are tons of dog cooling beds available. Some are made with a unique mesh that provides great airflow, some are simply elevated, and some are filled with gel or water to provide added cooling. Any of these options will help your pup stay cooler than if they were simply on the ground.
5. Give Lots of Breaks
If your dog is playing outside in the summer sun, make sure to give them plenty of breaks. A good rule of thumb is to give them a break for every ten minutes of exercise. If they’re simply walking or playing around, a break every 15 or 20 minutes should be okay.
During breaks, make sure to offer water, shade, a (frozen) treat if you like, and plenty of attention. Check your dog’s paw pads too, as paw pads help them dissipate heat (dogs don’t sweat through their skin like humans do).
6. Get Your Dog Wet
Most dogs love swimming! A great activity to help your dog stay cool is to take them to a lake, a river, a creek, or a dog-friendly pool for a swim. You can even buy a dog pool for your yard if you want to.
If you don’t have time to go for an actual swim, wetting some towels and laying them over your dog’s back can also help cool them down. You can put a cool wet towel on their bed as well, especially if you can’t be around all day.
7. Keep Exercise To Cooler Hours
The hottest part of the day is usually in the afternoon, approximately between 12 pm and 5 pm. If your dog needs exercise, try to avoid taking them out in the hottest hours!
A great option is to take them out in the early mornings or in the evenings after dinner. This will keep your dog out of direct sunlight and provide a cooler, more comfortable walk for both of you!
FAQ About Dogs in the Heat
If you follow these steps, you should be able to keep your dog cool. However, you may have a few more questions, so here are some answers to common questions you might have on your mind.
Q: How Do I Know if My Dog Needs a Break?
A: As mentioned, you should take regular breaks throughout the day if your dog is outside in the heat. However, it’s always important to watch your dog for signs that they need a break even if you weren’t planning to take one just yet.
Take a break right away if your dog is:
- Panting heavily
- Whining and whimpering
- Slowing down (while walking, hiking, playing fetch, etc.)
- Laying down more than usual
Q: How Do Dogs Sweat?
A: Dogs don’t actually sweat as humans do. They release some heat through their paw pads, but most of the cooling dogs do is through panting. When your dog pants, the moisture from their tongue, nasal passage, and lining of the lungs evaporates. As the air with this evaporated water circulates through their body, they start to cool down.
Q: What are the Symptoms of Heatstroke?
A: The common symptoms of heatstroke you’re likely to see include:
- Excessive panting
- Reddened or bluish gums
- Uncoordinated movements
- Inability to move, weakness, and collapse
Q: Is Swimming Safe for My Dog?
A: Swimming can be completely safe for your dog! However, you may want to take a few precautions if your dog is not a natural in the water.
First of all, don’t take your dog in the water without help if they’ve never swum before. Provide a life jacket and follow the steps to teach your dog to swim, if necessary. In addition, give your dog plenty of breaks…even if they don’t want to take them! Don’t let your dog get overtired.
Provide a Cool Space for Your Dog
If your dog enjoys the outdoors, make sure you take the above precautions to help them stay cool. However, if you don’t mind keeping your dog in the house, that can be a great safety measure!
Keep your dog inside most of the day and leave the air conditioning on if you can. You could also keep fans going so your dog can lay in front of the cool air. And always leave plenty of drinking water available!
If you follow these simple steps, you should have no trouble keeping your dog safe and cool in the summer and avoiding heatstroke.
P.S. Need help tidying up your dog’s yard when it’s time to go out and play? If you’re not interested in scooping dog poop in this hot weather, our team can help! We would be happy to clean your yard and prepare it for your dog to enjoy. Check out our services to learn more!