How to keep your dog cool in the heat

How to keep your dog cool in the heat

It’s hot, isn’t it? But, while we are sweating and feel like we can’t cool down no matter how many layers we strip off, we aren’t stuck in a fur coat that we can’t remove. Ours (fake fur, of course) were put to the back of the wardrobe as soon as the sun started shining. 

While we head straight for the sea or pool to jump in and out of the cool water, consume ice creams alongside ice cold drinks, all while wearing our most airy clothes – dogs don’t have this luxury. Instead, they rely on us to keep them cool in the heat. More than that, they rely on us to keep them safe. They can get both heatstroke and sunburn – which is more than uncomfortable, it can be incredibly harmful and potentially fatal. 

So, here are a few ways to make sure that your dog is safe this summer and survives the heat: 

Don’t leave your dog in the car

This should go without saying, but careless owners are still leaving their dogs in cars on hot days and dogs are still losing their lives every year as a result. Have you ever tried to sit in the car with the windows up on a warm day? If you did I bet you wouldn’t last much more than 30 seconds before you were throwing open the door for a big gulp of fresh air. Temperatures inside the car significantly exceed those outside the car making them death traps for dogs. If you are thinking of leaving them, try it yourself first – you’ll quickly see why “not long” is too long. 

You may think you are being kind, parking in the shade and cracking open the window, especially if you are ‘only going to be a few minutes’ – but dogs will quickly become incredibly distressed and uncomfortable still. 

If you are concerned about the immediate safety of an animal during hot weather, especially if you have seen one locked in a car, the RSPCA and Association of Chief Police advise you to call 999. 

 

Dogs die in hot cars Infographic - RSPCA

Do avoid walking during the hottest part of the day 

On a hot day, you should avoid walking your dog in the heat of the midday sun. When temperatures are hitting the high 20s or heading into the 30s you shouldn’t be walking them during the day at all. Head out early in the morning or in the evening, when it will be much cooler and far more comfortable for them. If the sun is still out, try to keep in the shade as much as possible. If this isn’t possible remember, missing one walk won’t kill them, exercising in the heat, could. 

Don’t walk on pavements 

Walking your dog on the pavement on a hot day can burn their paws. If you’re not sure if it’s too hot, place your foot or the back of your hand on it. If you can’t hold it here for 5 seconds – it’s too hot. Again, early in the morning or late evening is when surfaces will be coolest. Although, grass is always preferable – excluding artificial grass which will be significantly hotter to touch. 

Do walk where there is water 

During the summer you should always aim to walk where there is water. A lake, river or stream will offer spots where they can go in for a dip to cool off and have a much-needed drink. If you can’t walk where there is water then make sure you take water with you for them to drink – dog water bottles are ideal for this.

Don’t forget to check that their water bowl is always full 

Dogs can’t turn on the tap and pour a glass of water when they are thirsty, they rely on us for that and they should have access to it at all times. This becomes even more important during the summer when they will be drinking more than usual. Your dog needs unrestricted access to cold, fresh water to prevent dehydration. Place a bowl both inside and outside – although ensure the latter is in the shade and doesn’t heat up throughout the day.

Do provide water to cool off in 

As well as heading for water on your walk and providing water for them to drink at home, you can also use it for them to cool off and play in. You could fill a paddling pool for them. Make sure you keep this in the shade and perhaps use toys or treats to encourage your dog to use it. Alternatively, use the garden hose or sprinkler for them to run through. If they don’t like getting wet, put a damp towel down for them to curl up on. 

Don’t forget to provide frozen treats 

A lick of ice cream won’t hurt but this isn’t an ideal way to cool them down as you don’t want to feed them too much. Instead, use an ice cube that will also top up that much-needed water. You can also freeze their favourite food and transform it into a cooling treat. 

Do ensure pets can keep cool when left home alone 

If you are leaving your pet home alone on a hot day then you want to ensure that they can cool down. Make sure they can access a shaded area – or a tiled floor – which will provide them some comfort in the heat. Water should also be in reach – ice cubes are a great way to keep this cold and you could even leave one of those frozen treats or wet food to increase their intake of fluids. 

Don’t forget to brush long-haired dogs 

If your dog has long hair then it is important to brush them. Grooming is important all year round to remove knots and clean their coat but it’s vital during summer because matted hair can trap heat. Ideally this should be done daily so air can move freely. 

Do look out for signs of overheating

Even if you are doing all of the above you should still keep an eye out for signs of overheating because heatstroke can be fatal. This is caused when dogs are unable to lower their body temperature by panting. According to Battersea, the signs to look out for, include: 

  • Heavy panting
  • Glazed eyes
  • A rapid pulse
  • Excessive salivation
  • Lack of coordination
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea 
  • Loss of consciousness

If your dog does show these signs, the charity’s advice is to not put them in cold water or encourage them to drink too much – these may seem like the right thing to do but this can cause your dog to go into shock plus their body temperature must be lowered gradually. Instead, wet a towel in cold water and then in a shaded and cool area, wrap it around their head, neck and chest. Offer small amounts of water or encourage them to lick an ice cube. Once you have done this and your dog has started to cool down, get him or her straight to the vets.  

 

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