Keeping dogs cool in summer

Posted by Dr Dog. July 12th 2017.

Summer is here and as the weather gets hotter, days out with your dog become more appealing. Every dog loves playing outside, but it’s important to keep in mind the risks that come with hot weather. We’ve got the answers to the most common questions asked about pets during the summer months, as well as some advice on keeping them happy and healthy, and more importantly – cool!

Do dogs sweat?

It may sound strange, but lots of people ask this question, and it’s a valid one. While many people believe that dogs don’t sweat, they actually do, although not in the same way as humans.

You might not have guessed it, but a dog’s sweat glands are primarily in their paws, but there are not enough glands to cool your pet down, like our sweat glands do for us. Instead, the sweat glands on the paw are more useful for traction while walking.

So when the weather heats up, dogs can’t rely on sweating to help cool them down like we can. To keep our dogs cool, we need to help out.

 

How does my dog cool down?

Dogs regulate their temperature in two ways.

The main method is painting, which helps to circulate air through the body. If your dog is panting too heavily, it could be a sign of overheating (especially if their gums and tongue look really red), so make sure there’s plenty of cool water and shade available.

The other method is by bringing hot blood directly to the surface of the skin, allowing the blood to cool down before it returns to the heart. This process is called vasodilation.

One of the most fun ways 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. If you’re staying in, setting up a paddling pool in the garden will provide your dog with a quick way of keeping cool.

Note: 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.  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 weater?

A fur coat might seem like a lot to wear in hot weather, but a dog’s 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 sun block to protect your dog from UV rays.  Never use human sun block on your pet; it contains zinc oxide, which is toxic to dogs.

 

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. Street 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.

 

What are the warning signs of overheating?

There are plenty of easy-to-spot signs that your dog is overheating. The easiest signs to spot are heavy panting, over consumption of water, vomiting and red gums, tongue and eyes. Disorientation or confusion is a large sign of dehydration or heat stroke, so make sure you always have cool water to hand and take regular breaks in the shade.

Note: If your dog is overweight, it can get hot a lot faster, leaving it open to heat stroke. As well as putting your pet on a diet, be extra cautious about keeping them cool.

 

How do I keep my dog cool in the car?

It’s always best to not keep your pet in the car for too long, especially during hot weather. Make sure your pet has a comfortable and secure area to sit in (our car safety blog can help with this). Have the windows down or air conditioning on to make sure the car is cool and well-ventilated. Take regular breaks on longer journeys, for fresh air, water and toilet breaks.

You can buy window shades, or a heat reflective shade for crates, so your dog can find shade in the car.

Note: 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.  Remember that it does not have to be very hot outside for the inside of the car to reach dangerous temperatures.

Back to blog