Keeping your dog cool in the summer

Keeping your dog safe in hot weather is important to every conscientious dog-owner. With that in mind the following offers some easy tips to protect your precious pooch.

A hot topic for your dog’s health

Keeping your dog cool in the summer and protecting them from the sun can easily be overlooked even by the most conscientious dog-owner.  There is a natural tendency to presume that dogs are completely protected by their coats.

But dogs can be at a huge risk if overexposed to  UV rays.  The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) warns that skin cancer is the most common cancer affecting pets in the United States[1].  Charities in America and the United Kingdom also emphasize the scale of this problem[2]. Other dangers to your dog include discomfort and blistering to the skin, as well as heat-stroke and painful injury to pads.

Additionally, dogs with white-fur are more susceptible to damage from the sun.  More obviously so are hairless breeds (such as the Crested Chinese).  Even dogs with naturally short coats  (such as Dalmatians) and those with lighter or pink noses need extra consideration.  Older dogs are also more prone to suffer during periods of wilting heat.

Heat-stroke can sadly be a more immediate killer. Some dogs can be more prone to overheating; notably those dogs which are brachycephalic. This means in Greek ‘short-headed’ and refers to their squashed muzzles. A shorter muzzle means less heat can be released through panting. These dogs will need more help to keep cool in sizzling weather. These include Pugs, French Bulldogs, English Bulldog , Shi-Tzus and Pekinese.

To check if your dog’s breed is particularly affected by heat then please refer to our breed guide.

The following 10 top tips are designed to help you in keeping your dog safe in hot weather:

#1 Keep your dog regularly brushed
#2  Shady thoughts on a hot day
#3 Plan your walks carefully and check the tarmac
#4 These boots are made for walking and other cooling dog stuff.
#5  Iced water and a canine sorbet
#6 Water fun and pawsome paddling
#7 Wet towels/Old t-shirts/Ice packs
#8  Sunscreen for dogs (avoid the human variety)
# 9 Dogs and sunburn 
#10 Avoid leaving your dog in any hot, enclosed spaces

Related summer safety feature:

Keeping your dog safe at barbecues

#1 Keep your dog regularly brushed and groomed

Keeping  your dog cool in the summer - Tip 1
Maintaining your dog’s natural aircon system

Your dog’s fur coat provides a natural aircon system which keeps them cool in winter as well as warm in the summer.  But, like any aircon system, it needs regular maintenance in the form of regular brushing.  Try to brush your dog every couple of days to remove any excess hair and dead skin.  This will assist cooling through even the densest coat.  It is good practice to brush regularly anyway to invigorate your dog’s skin through the circulation of natural oils.  This will leave them both looking and feeling good.  

It also stands to reason to avoid shaving your dog.  If this is unavoidable through injury or medical procedure then consider some of the products below in consultation with your vet.

#2  Shady thoughts on a hot day

Keeping  your dog cool in summer - Tip 2
Guard duty in the summer

Many dogs love laying in the sun, but as we all  know, they are not always the best judges of when they have had too much of a good thing!  This is particularly true if your dog is the type of sun-worshipper who likes to lie on their backs.  This will expose the more delicate skin on the tummy to potential damage.

A good preventative ploy is to make any shaded area as comfortable as possible.  Place a cozy blanket or bed to lie on, along with a little drinking-station.  This might be natural shade or you could provide a parasol. 

If your pet looks hot, encourage them to come inside regularly to shorten any stints in direct sunlight.   If possible, try to make this as fun as possible so that they associate it as quality time with you. Keeping your dog cool in the summer could become an excuse for an indoor game such as a doggy treasure hunt.

#3 Plan your walks carefully and check the tarmac

Keeping  your dog cool in the summer - Tip 3
Now find me a river

Dogs still need consistent exercise in the summer but you might want to review  your normal walks during the hotter months.  

If possible try to select routes that offer periods of shade to give you both a break from the sun’s rays.   It is also a good idea to consider the when as well as where.  If practical, try to save any longer walks for the early morning or the cooler evenings.    This way both of you will stay both fit and cool.  Also when on holiday spend time researching appropriate routes. 

Additionally, a real danger of injury to your dog lies in the way asphalt or tarmac surfaces absorb heat.   This can cause severe and painful damage to your dog’s paws on side-walks and roads.  To avoid this, try to hold your hands on the tarmac for around five to seven seconds.  If this is uncomfortable for you, it will be uncomfortable and painful for your dog.  If it is not practical to stay entirely on grass you might want to consider the option of dog boots or paw balm (see below) 

It is certainly worth being aware of signs that your dog may have injured paws.  These can  include  walking uncomfortably or hesitantly.   Perhaps your dog might be licking at their pads.  It is a good idea to check if the pads appear discolored or blistered.  If you have any concerns then always consult your vet.

#4 These boots are made for walking and other cooling dog stuff.

Keeping  your dog cool in summer - Tip 4
What do you mean I look cool? Really?

There are many accessories available which offer sun protection for dogs.  These include cooling vests which both shield from the sun and support your dog keeping cool.  Please be sure to check that this jacket has a high SPF rating so that it offers trustworthy protection. 

For protecting precious paws, a range of dog boots and shoes are available.  These are non-slip and will offer protection both on the hot tarmac and in any form of rugged terrain.  Paw wax is also excellent in offering a protective layer to your pooches’ paws.

#5  Iced water and a canine sorbet

Keeping  your dog cool in the summer - Tip 5
Ice without a slice please

Another easy way to keep your dogs extra-cool is to place ice in their water so they can lap up a nice long, cool drink.  Ice cubes are also a good way of preventing dogs bloating by drinking too quickly. Following a walk or exercise place ice cubes with a smaller amount of water. After a little while then add some more water to prevent your dog guzzling too much.

For an extra summery treat instead of a fatty ice-cream, you might swap a cone for a Kong (frozen of course).   Remember, there are plenty of healthy Kong recipes that your dogs will relish as a refreshing canine sorbet during the heat of the day.  Pet stores also sell iced doggy pops and doggy ice-cream. More proof that keeping your dog cool in the summer will keep your pooch very happy and feeling just a little pampered.

#6 Water fun and pawsome paddling

Keeping  your dog cool in  summer - Tip 6
I’m saving up for a swimming pool

Some dogs love to be sprayed with a hose.  Others prefer their own private paddling pool during searing heat. This offers another fun way of keeping your dog cool in the summer.

 If you are purchasing a dog paddling pool, remember to check the dimensions for a larger dog.  Also, a good dog pool should be  textured to avoid your dog slipping.  It is also advisable to ensure your dog’s nails are clipped to avoid damage to the inflated pool.

# 7 Wet towels/Old t-shirts/Ice packs

Keeping  your dog cool in the summer - Tip 7
I thought towels were for getting dry

A really easy and low cost method for keeping your dog cool in the summer. A towel or old t-shirt soaked in cold water to lie on does make for a pleasing, cooling experience for a hot dog.  Another simple option is to wrap an ice-pack into a dry towel to help your dog chill in the sunshine.

#8  Sunscreen for dogs (avoid the human variety)

Keeping  your dog cool in summer - Tip 8
Could somebody do behind my ears?

Sunscreen which has been specifically formulated for dogs offers excellent protection for their skin.    Apply it liberally to the more exposed and delicate areas, such as the nose, ears and tummy. 

You should never use human sun-cream on your precious pooch, as it is not only acidic on their skin but can also be toxic should they lick it off.  These products often contain products harmful to dogs such as zinc oxide.  You should also be aware that if your dog is swimming or entering water, any sun-cream may need to be re-applied.

Remember that it is always important to protect your dog’s eyes when spraying sunscreen.

# 9 Dogs and sunburn 

Keeping  your dog cool in the summer - Tip 9
I wish I’d used sunscreen yesterday

If you notice that your dog has skin flaking off or is tender then your dog may have sunburn.  It is important to ensure that your dog remains inside as much as possible until the sunburn heals. 

In the first instance you can treat the damaged skin with cold compresses to gently soothe the affected area.  Some ointments are also available.  Always consult your vet  if symptoms persist or look severe.

#10 Avoid leaving your dog in any hot, enclosed spaces

Keeping  your dog cool in summer - Tip 10
Absolute no, no

Most of us are acutely aware that it is completely  irresponsible to leave a dog in a parked vehicle during hot weather.   Winding the window down or parking the vehicle in the shade won’t cut it.  This will still pose a serious threat of heat-stroke and dogs still tragically die every year.  Shockingly, charity organizations warn that dogs can die within as little as 20 minutes

Moreover, it is equally important to avoid other enclosed warm spaces such as conservatories.   If you see a dog in this situation  please do not hesitate to call the emergency services immediately.

On the subject of hot dogs – Dog safety at BBQs

Everybody loves a barbecue, including your canine pal(s). How can you expect a poor pooch to possibly resist so many maddeningly delicious aromas floating around in the air?

But there have been some real horror stories of dogs suffering near fatal injuries[3]. Sadly some family dogs have died. Please click here for barbecue safety tips for dogs.

Fun Fact

The hot dog was actually named after the Dachshund or sausage dog.

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