10 Tips for Keeping Your Dog Cool in Summer

July 27, 2020

With the mercury rising during this current heatwave, staying cool can feel like an uphill battle! But we humans aren’t the only ones who need relief from the blazing sun: our dogs do, too. Read on to learn 10 tips to help keep your pup cool during the dog days of summer.

1. Provide constant access to cool, fresh water.
Check your dog’s bowl regularly throughout the day and promptly fill it up with water when it gets low. Add some ice cubes to keep it cool and refreshing. When you take your pup outside for long walks, bring enough water to last the entire trip and a portable, collapsible water dish so he doesn’t overheat.

NOTE: While you definitely want your dog to stay well-hydrated, don’t give him too much water at once. Doing so could cause stomach upset and make him feel bloated. Offer small amounts of water every 15-20 minutes during activity, about 4-8 ounces of water at a time for small-medium size dogs. This ensures that the water fully absorbs and gets out of his stomach between drinks.

2. Give your dog cold snacks.
Keep your dog cool with DIY frozen dog treats, or “pupsicles.” Our favorite recipes here at UltiMutt Inn are low-calorie mint yogurt pupsicles and carrot watermelon pupsicles. Both recipes have five or less ingredients, are simple and cheap to make, and are full of nutrients. See the recipes here!

3. Get wet!
Try to plan outdoor activities so that your pooch can enjoy some water play, whether it’s swimming in a pool, diving in a lake, or running through a sprinkler. Just be sure to dry him off with a towel after he’s done playing.

NOTE: Test the temperature of bodies of water before your dog jumps in. Water that’s too cold can cause hypothermia.

4. Maintain good air circulation.
Hot, stagnant air increases the chances of dehydration, fatigue, and heatstroke. Keep the air conditioning at a reasonable temperature, ideally between 72°F and 78°F. If you don’t have central air, use fans to boost the effectiveness of window AC units.

NOTE: Keep your dog out of conservatories, greenhouses, and even outdoor dog houses during the summer. These areas trap and magnify heat and lack cooling breezes or adequate airflow.

5. NEVER leave your dog in a parked car.
Even on milder summer days, temperatures inside cars can rise to dangerous, life-threatening levels within just 15 minutes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “cars parked in direct sunlight can reach internal temperatures up to 131°F to 172°F when it’s 80°F to 100°F outside.” Leaving the windows cracked open doesn’t help much, either. So if you decide to take your dog in the car, avoid long journeys, keep the AC on, bring water, and take regular breaks for fresh air. Overheating combined with anxiety from car travel can be enough to send your dog over the edge.

6. Provide constant access to shade.
Trees, park pavilions, and awnings are great sources of shade. If there are no naturally occurring shaded spots in your yard, create one by stringing up a tarp, cloth, or piece of cardboard over an area to block sunlight. Use shade screens in your windows or insulating drapes to help keep the inside of your house cool on especially toasty days.

7. Avoid midday heat.
Contrary to popular belief, 12pm is not the hottest part of the day. Temperatures tend to peak in the late afternoon, between 3pm and 4:30pm. A mild, overcast day with low humidity might be okay for midday physical activity with your pup. But if it’s sunny, 80°F, and humid, then it’s best to limit exercise to early-mid morning or in the evening after about 5pm.

8. Prevent sunburn.
Dogs have a layer of fur to protect their skin, so they can’t get sunburnt like humans, right? Wrong! Dogs are still susceptible to sunburn, especially those with white fur. Sunburn can cause painful sores and blisters and long-term exposure to harmful rays can even lead to skin cancers. Prevent your dog from suffering sunburn by applying pet sunscreen to hairless areas like his nose and the tips of his ears. It’s also wise to keep white-faced dogs indoors during the midday heat.

9. Resist the urge to shave your dog.
If your furry friend has a thick, fluffy coat—like mastiffs, huskies, or terrier breeds—you might be tempted to give him a serious buzz cut in an effort to help keep him cool. But before you break out the grooming tools, you should know that your dog’s fur coat provides him with natural insulation and sun protection. Shaving your dog’s fur robs him of this natural cooling system and exposes his skin to damaging rays, which can lead to discomfort, overheating, and sunburn—the exact opposite of what you’re trying to accomplish! And because the longer guard hairs grow at a different rate than the inner insulation hairs, it can take years for some dogs to regain their natural appearance after being shaved.

While it’s okay to give your long-haired dog a “summer trim” to make his coat more manageable, it’s best to leave the haircutting to a professional dog groomer. Never shave down to the skin or try to cut the hair yourself with scissors!

NOTE: Keep in mind that dogs with thick fur naturally shed to have lighter coats in the summer, so make sure you regularly brush your pup’s fur and bathe him frequently to remove loose fluff.

10. Check the pavement.
If the weather is blistering hot, chances are the pavement is too. In direct sun, asphalt and tarmac can get extremely hot. While we humans can wear shoes to protect our feet, dogs’ foot pads are exposed while walking and are more sensitive to hot surfaces. So check the temperature of the pavement before you take your dog outside by placing your hand on the surface. If it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your dog’s feet. In that case, stick to dirt trails and grass to avoid burning your pup’s foot pads.

NOTE: Another option is to consider putting booties on your dog’s feet to insulate their foot pads against the hot pavement. However, if the booties get hot as well, then it will just cause a problem anyway.

Know Your Dog’s Sensitivity to Heat

Overall, most dogs can tolerate the hot summer months just fine with proper hydration, sun protection, and frequent breaks from the heat throughout the day. But it’s important to know that not all breeds can handle the same amount of heat or humidity.

Dogs with thin, short coats—such as beagles, Chihuahuas, and Dalmatians—do best in the heat. Some breeds, such as basenjis, originate from hot climates and are born ready to face hot weather. High-speed hounds like greyhounds and whippets have long snouts that cool the air they inhale and large lungs and hearts that distribute oxygen through their bodies more efficiently.

Dogs that have thick coats and short noses, on the other hand, are not built to withstand a heatwave or high humidity. Snub-nosed dogs with broad, short skulls—such as bulldogs, pugs, and Boston terriers—have a more difficult time regulating their body temperature because of their shorter nasal passages. You should also take special care if your dog is a giant breed, elderly, obese, or diabetic.

Know the Signs of Heatstroke in Dogs

Heatstroke can be life-threatening or even fatal if gone unnoticed and left untreated. Below are some signs that indicate your dog is overheated.

  • Raised temperature (over 104°F)
  • Rapid breathing and panting
  • Excessive salivating and thickened saliva
  • Drooping ears and tail
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle tremors
  • Staggering and disorientation
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Seizures

If you notice any of these symptoms in your pup, get him into a cooler environment as soon as possible. Wrap him in cold, wet towels or spray him with cold water on his chest, underarm, belly, and groin areas. Make sure he has cool, fresh water available but don’t force him to drink. Rinse his mouth with water to wash away thickened saliva and aid his internal cooling system to work more efficiently. You can also use fans to assist the cooling process.

Check your dog’s temperature every five minutes and stop the cooling treatment once his temperature is down to 103°F. Cooling your dog too rapidly can cause him to go into shock. If your dog’s temperature stays elevated and the symptoms of heatstroke don’t subside despite your efforts to cool him down, contact your vet immediately for further instructions. Your vet may need to push IV fluids if your dog is dehydrated.

Many signs of heatstroke may not appear for several days, so be on the lookout even while your dog is resting inside. Prompt veterinary intervention can prevent or treat some of the complications of heatstroke and help your pup recover more quickly.

Helpful Products Designed to Keep your Dog Cool

For even more ways to cool down your pup, here’s a list of some great products to try!

  • Cooling dog bowl
  • Cooling dog vest
  • Dog pool float
  • Freezable dog toys
  • Dog water fountain
  • Cooling dog bed or crate pad
  • Dog swimming pool

We hope you find these tips and tricks helpful in keeping your dog cool, healthy, and happy this summer!