Caring for dogs in hot weather

Posted by Argos, 27 June 2018, last updated 30 June 2023.

Summer is the perfect time of year to get outside with your dog and enjoy the hot weather. But with the warmer weather comes risks, and as much as every dog loves playing outside, it’s important to take extra care of your furry friend in the heat.

We’re here to discuss the most common questions about caring for dogs in hot weather, as well as offering some helpful advice to keep your pooch happy, healthy and most importantly – cool.

Brown dog laid on sand underneath a parasol umbrella

Do dogs sweat?

While it’s a common myth that dogs don’t sweat, they actually do. They just don’t sweat in the same way as humans.

So, how do dogs sweat and where do they sweat from? You might not have guessed it, but a dog’s sweat glands are primarily in their paws. However, there are not enough glands to cool your pet down, just like our sweat glands do for us. So how does hot weather affect dogs? Simply put, when the weather heats up, dogs can’t rely on sweating to help cool them down the same as we can, which is why knowing what to do with dogs in hot weather is vital to keeping them cool and healthy.

How do dogs cool themselves down?

A dog’s main method of cooling down is panting. This helps to evaporate moisture from the lining of the nose, mouth and the surface of the tongue. If your dog is panting too heavily, it could be a sign of overheating so make sure there’s plenty of cool water and shade available. Dogs like to find a cool spot such as a tiled floor to get rid of the heat. Their fur is also designed to allow air to move through it. This helps them to stay cool.

Another method is a process called vasodilation. This involves a dog’s body bringing hot blood directly to the surface of the skin and the blood then cools down before returning to the heart.

How to keep dogs cool in the summer

A fun way to keep your dog cool is a day out at the beach or a lake. Jumping into a body of water will cool your dog down quickly. If you’re staying in, setting up a paddling pool in the garden will provide your dog with a quick way of keeping cool. Some dogs also love being sprayed with a garden hose or watering can.

Bodies of water, such as ponds, lakes and reservoirs, contain bacteria that may cause an upset stomach if your dog consumes a lot. Seawater can also make them sick. So make sure you carry plenty of cool clean water for your dog to drink so they don’t need to find their own. Always be careful of wildlife, and note that some watercourses may contain dangerous algae – so check before you go.

Should I cut my dog’s coat for the hot weather?

A fur coat might seem like a lot to wear in hot weather, but a dog’s coat is important. The hair floats as your dog moves, allowing air to circulate and reach the skin to cool it down.

While a summer trim is recommended for some long-haired dogs, shaving your dog may leave them open to sunburn and skin cancer, as well as vulnerable to the cold.

For the areas with less hair, like the belly, nose and ears apply canine sunblock to protect your dog from UV rays. Never use human sunblock on your pet; it contains zinc oxide, which is toxic to dogs.

Can dogs get heat stroke?

Dogs can suffer from heat stroke caused by overheating and the inability to reduce their own body temperature. Heat stroke in a dog can be dangerous if it is not treated early. You should seek immediate medical assistance if your dog is showing signs of heat stroke.

If your dog is overweight, it can get hot a lot faster, leaving it open to heatstroke. As well as putting your pet on a diet, be extra cautious about keeping them cool. Certain breeds can also be more susceptible to heat stroke. Dogs use their nose and mouth for panting to lose heat, flat-faced breeds have a narrow upper respiratory tract and narrow nostrils, hindering their ability to cool down.

What’s the best time to walk my dog in hot weather?

Try to walk your pet either in the mornings or later in the evening. Pavements can get scorching hot during the day, which will burn your dog’s paws. If you are in any doubt, put your hand on the pavement – if it feels uncomfortable for you, it’s too hot for your dog’s feet.

If you have to go outside during the daytime, stick to grass or shaded areas as much as possible, or even consider some boots to make it easier on your pet’s feet.

How long should you walk your dog in hot weather?

Short walks are best when it comes to walking dogs in hot weather, this decreases the chance of them getting heat stroke and allows them to cool off quicker. A 10 to 15 minute walk should be enough, depending on the breed and the temperature outside.

How to tell if a dog is overheating

The most common signs of overheating in dogs are:

  • Heavy panting
  • Drooling
  • Over-consumption of water
  • Vomiting
  • Red gums, tongue or eyes

As overheating progresses even more serious symptoms of heat stroke can develop including disorientation, staggering, weakness or collapsing and ultimately seizures, organ failure or death.

If you suspect your dog might be overheating or have heat stroke, seek advice from your vet immediately. It is vital to start the process of cooling your dog down as quickly as possible. Wetting the dog’s coat with cool water and using a fan is ideal as a starting point.

How to keep a dog cool in the car

You shouldn’t have your pet in the car for long periods of time, especially during the warmer months. Provide your dog with a comfortable and secure area to sit and have the windows down or air conditioning on to keep the car cool and well-ventilated. You can also buy window shades or a heat reflective shade so that your dog can stay cool. Remember that it does not have to be very hot outside for the inside of the car to reach dangerous temperatures.

If you are having a long car journey with your dog, it’s important to take regular breaks to provide them with fresh air, water and a toilet break.

Never leave your pet alone in a hot car as cars heat up extremely fast and put your dog at risk of heat stroke or death. Leaving your pet alone in a hot car is deemed animal neglect under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and you may be fined.

Now you know how to keep your dog cool throughout the summer months, make sure to also protect yourself from unexpected vet bills with Argos Pet Insurance provided by Pinnacle Insurance plc. Explore our dog insurance policies today.

Argos Limited is an Appointed Representative of Home Retail Group Insurance Services Limited (HIS). HIS is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (register number 314050). Registered office: 33 Holborn, London, EC1N 2HT (registered in England and Wales, no 04109436). HIS act as an introducer to Pinnacle Insurance plc, who sell, administer and underwrite the policy and who are authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority (register number 110866). Registered office: Pinnacle House, A1 Barnet Way, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, WD6 2XX (registered in England and Wales, no 01007798). HIS and Pinnacle Insurance plc are not part of the same corporate group.

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