Tips to help your dog keep their cool
When the temperatures rise, you may be able to stay cool by sweating or drinking a nice glass of iced tea, but your dog isn't so lucky. Not only should your dog not drink tea :) — or any caffeinated beverage, for that matter — but they also really don't have the ability to sweat very well. Dogs mostly cool themselves off by panting.
So, how can you help keep your pup comfortable and safe when the mercury starts to rise? Fret not, this article contains some tips, tricks, and cool (pun intended) product suggestions that can help.
Stay indoors. Obviously if you’ve got air-conditioning in your home and your dogs are able to hunker down and watch Netflix with you during any heat spells, that’s typically the best option. But not everyone has A/C and not every dog is able to spend all their time lazing indoors, so here are some not-so-obvious things you can do when your dog needs to spend time outside — on walks, hikes, or even in the yard — during those hotter days.
Watch when you go out. Do all you can to avoid the "heat of the day." Now this period may be different in different parts of the country, but generally speaking, it's often the early and mid-afternoon. So do your walks, jogs, hikes, and any other outdoor exercise with your dog in the early morning and late evening, when the sun isn't as likely to be as strong and the temps are more likely to be cooler. This could mean waking up a bit earlier or adjusting the order you do your morning/evening routine in to make these safer and more comfortable outdoor excursions happen, but either will be far less inconvenient that an emergency trip to the Animal ER with your dog suffering from heat stroke.
- Provide (reliable) shade. Trees are great, but not every yard has them, or depending on the direction of the sun, they may not help. Portable sun shades, patio umbrellas, and pop-up canopies are great for creating shade in yards. There's even some products that combine the shade of a pop-up canopy with the cooling effect of a misting system.
Want to go smaller? Consider a shaded pet bed. They can provide reliable shade and the ones linked below are elevated off of the ground, which helps with air circulation and cooling. And both these cot options also come with a travel bag, making them handy for keeping your pup cool on the go too. Don't be surprised, though, if these beds are sometimes out of stock, as they're very popular!
See below for more elevated beds and a tip for keeping them extra cool.
- Provide a cool spot to lie down. Most dogs look for cool places to lie down when they're hot, like a tiled bathroom or kitchen floor, or the lawn outside. But if you want to provide an extra cool spot, the Cool Pet Pad is a great option, not just because it can be used both indoors and out, but also because it doesn't require electricity and it also doesn't need to be wet down or refrigerated to work either. Preventive Vet team members, Marshall and Mazel, LOVE theirs!
A cot, that's elevated off the ground, is another option as well. Similar to the shaded pet bed mentioned above and pictured in the photo with Marshall below, it's raised off the ground to provide extra cooling. For extra, extra cooling you can put a pan of ice below the cot, which can function to cool the air under the bed, helping to keep your dog a bit comfier. And you should generally try to keep these raised cots on cooler surfaces anyway (e.g., grass, rather than asphalt or concrete), and you can cool the surface under the cot even more by wetting it down periodically.
Not sure if you want to go with just a raised cot or a full shaded bed? The raised K&H cot featured below can serve double-duty — and save you the trouble of having to decide — with its detachable canopy.
Here's Marshall not using his shaded canopy and opting for a makeshift elevated "cot" instead.
- Provide plenty of fresh drinking water. Provide several large bowls or buckets of drinking water for your dogs, making sure to check and refill them (at least) daily. Be sure to locate them where your dog can easily reach them and try to put them in areas with reliable shade. You can even get automatic waterers that easily attach to your garden hose, a "lick-activated" spigot attachment (will likely take some time/work to train your dog to use it – think, gerbil drinking from a water bottle!), or even a "paw-activated" water geyser (warning: watching your dogs play with it might get addicting and result in much laughter and video shooting).
You can also encourage your dog to stay hydrated by making them an interactive and icy treat to play with. You can buy something like the Doggie Cone system, or you can just put your dog's favorite toys and treats in a metal dog bowl, fill it with water (and you can add a little bit of low-sodium chicken broth – no onions or garlic! – for additional incentive), then freeze and serve. These can be a huge hit — so you might want to have several of these freezing at any one time, so you've got plenty ready to go for a string of warm days! Here are some inexpensive, but sturdy, non-skid, and good quality metal bowls on Amazon and below is video of my dog, Wendy, enjoying one of these frozen bowl treasure hunt treats.
Note: And don’t worry about giving your dog ice water — it doesn’t cause bloat (as a popular, but incorrect, internet story has claimed).
- Help your dog sweat. Unlike us, dogs don’t sweat across their skin when they get hot. So while we take advantage of “evaporative cooling” (when our sweat evaporates it cools us), dogs can’t. Dogs predominantly cool themselves through their respiratory (breathing) system. This is why dogs pant when they're hot.
The jackets below can help to keep dogs cooler in warmer weather by sort of mimicking sweating across the dog's body. As the water from the coat evaporates, it helps to move heat from the dog’s body to the environment, helping to cool the dog. They’re not fail-proof or a replacement for careful and cautious exercise of dogs on warm/hot days, but can be a nice aid when walking or hiking with dogs on warmer days (just be sure to “recharge” the coat regularly by dousing it with water, as per their instructions). Both Hurrta and Ruffwear are good companies making great dog products — their two jackets work similarly.
Note: These types of cooling vests will be less effective on humid days, as evaporation happens less well on days where there’s already a lot of humidity/moisture in the air.
Cooling collars or bandanas like this can help a little, as does wetting your dog's fur with cool (not ice cold) water every once in a while. This type of bandana may not work as well on a dog with a thick coat of fur around their neck.
- Add water to their play. If your dog loves to play in water, a "dog pool" like this sturdy, easy-to-set-up and drain, foldable pool can be a great way to help keep them not just safe and cool in the heat, but also quite happy, too. Just check out some of the adorable video reviews on the Amazon page!
Note that the pool comes in a variety of different sizes, be sure you get the one that's the right size for your dog. And, speaking of sizes, I just wouldn't be the Preventive Vet if I didn't mention the caution to ideally not leave your dog unattended in the pool and to not fill it up too high, especially if your dog is a puppy, senior dog, or just not all that steady on their paws or "sure of themselves" in the water.
You can also add water to their play by setting-up an oscillating yard sprinkler and letting your dog run through and play in it (just be careful about water getting in their ears, as it's a super common and easy way that dogs get ear infections — check out this article for more about ear infections in dogs and how to properly clean and dry your dog's ears (after swimming, bathing, or... sprinkler play).
You can also go more "low flow" (read: easier on your water bill) by setting up a misting system on your patio or in your yard where your dog spends their time outside — you can go with an all-in-one misting tent, a combo misting fan, a stand-alone misting system to attach to an existing patio umbrella, trellis, or other structure, or get a cobra stand mister (sounds scarier than it is, don't worry!).
- Work on their weight. Overweight dogs have a harder time keeping cool in the warm weather and are at greater risk of overheating. Help your dog by working to get them to and keep them at a more ideal body condition. Note that some dogs have an underlying medical condition that can make weight loss difficult, and all dog weight loss should proceed slowly (~1-2% of their body weight/week). Learn more about helping overweight dogs and talk to your veterinarian to best help your dog achieve their ideal body condition.
- Don't shave your dog's coat! It might be funny to see a "lion cut" on a fluffy dog but, from the standpoint of trying to keep them cool in the heat, it's actually often not a good idea. Your dog's coat doesn't just help to insulate and keep them warm in the winter, but it can actually help to keep them cooler in the summer, as well. What you can do is to brush them regularly to help get out any undercoat that they’re “blowing” from the winter/cooler months (which was there to help keep them warm). Using brushes like these will help thin out their coat but not eliminate it like shaving would.
Extra Tips When It's Hot (and Sunny) Outside
- Consider some "walk and beach wear." Because asphalt, even dirt and sand can get very hot after the sun's been beating down on it all day, you might want to consider boots to protect your pup while out walking, hiking, or playing at the beach. If you put the back of your hand against the hot surface for 5 to 7 seconds, and it's too hot for you, then it's too hot for your dog's paws. These booties are water resistant and have an anti-slip sole. They can also be used in the winter months.
- Use protection. Since dogs can get sunburn and skin cancer just like us, you may want to use UV-blocking clothes and/or sunscreen on your pup when they're outdoors on sunny days. There are several brands of UPF sun-blocking clothes for pets out there, and a lot of what will work best for your pup will be dependent on how it's sized. But, all other things being equal, try and go with the shirts and visors that have the highest UPF rating.
As for sunscreen for your pup, this is especially important if they've got a thin (or non-existent... I'm looking at you, Chinese Cresteds) coat, if you needed to or decided to shave them (see note above re: shaving dogs in the summer) and, in general, on the typically hairless areas on dogs (their belly, tips of ears, and bridge of their nose). There is actually an FDA-approved sunscreen available for dogs, it's called Epi-Pet and it works great. And check out this article for more info about skin cancer and sunburn in pets.
- Refrain from exercising on hot days. Even just a walk on a hot day can put your dog at risk of heat stroke. Overweight dogs, certain breeds like Brachycephalic dogs, and dogs with certain medical conditions, like laryngeal paralysis or collapsing trachea, are at even greater risk.
These are a few ideas to get you started. Feel free to let your imagination run cool... I mean, wild! Got some ideas of your own? Please share them with us in the comments section below.
Check out these pet safety tips & articles, so you and your dog can enjoy summer safely
BBQs, Sun, Water, and Fun - Summer Pet Safety
Do Dogs Need Sunscreen?
Bee & Wasp Stings – Be(e) Prepared
Why Sticks Are Not Free Toys For Dogs
Heat Stroke In Dogs: What is it and when does it happen?
Heat Stroke: Is my dog at risk?