How to keep your dog cool in summer
28th April, 5 minute read
Are dogs badly adapted to heat?
For starters, the obvious, they’re covered in fur – we’re sure you figured that one out. But what you may not know is that dogs have almost no sweat glands. The whole purpose of sweat is to play a part in the body’s thermostat, by producing moisture that sits on the skin, and cools it by evaporating. Why doesn’t this work on dogs? Their fur; which merely becomes sodden, and fails to evaporate or cool them down. They do however have some sweating ability, which is to moisten their foot pads to protect against hot surfaces. Instead of sweating, dogs pant, and lose their moisture through that process. Also, if their coat is thick, or black, it may contribute to heating them up even further.
What breed your dog is and their age will seriously impact how the heat affects them. Much like in us humans, the young and the elderly are particularly badly affected. Those with thicker coats, darker or coarser fur or indeed dogs with a few pounds to lose are also likely candidates to struggle in higher temperatures. Dogs with flat faces can struggle even further as Boston terriers, shih tzus, pugs, English bulldogs and French bulldogs all suffer from brachycephalic airway syndrome (BAS). Put simply, they find it harder to breathe, so can’t pant as quickly or easily as other dogs, stopping them from cooling down as fast.
What to look for
The symptoms of heat stroke in a dog:
- Excessive panting
- Reddened gums
- Uncoordinated movement
- Mental dullness (they’re not quite with it)
- Loss of consciousness
So what can I do?
The good news is, keeping your dog cool in summer is pretty easy. So, here are our top tips to help your mutt tackle the warmer weather.
Simplest resolution by far. When the hot weather looks like it’s coming up, take a look at the forecast. Dog’s limit for heat is actually a lot lower than you’d imagine. Dogs can take to the outdoors in temperatures 19 degrees or lower. Yep, that’s right – much lower than you’d think. And this isn’t a guideline, it’s a hard and fast rule. Even between 16 and 19 degrees, large, overweight, or flat nosed dogs should be closely monitored whilst exercising. At 20 to 23 degrees the risk factor jumps significantly, with most dogs at risk of overheating if exercised too rigorously, and the risks increase with every subsequent degree in temperature. With the average temperature of the summer rising each year, and the 2020 summer being one of the most significant heatwaves for the last 60 years, keeping an eye on the temperature is the simplest, and most effective way to solve overheating.
Dogs and cars
We’re pretty certain we don’t even need to go there, but just in case. Never, ever, ever leave dogs in cars. Just don’t do it. Even with the window down, it’s still very possible the dog will overheat naturally, or indeed panic, and overheat that way. Many dogs are not comfortable with car journeys as is, let alone, alone.
Water water everywhere
No matter where you’re going, you’d do well to take water with you, and this is vital all year round, though especially important in the summer. Consider leaving some essentials in the car for car trips, and always have a water bottle on hand to top them up.
There will be occasions, i.e. when it’s over 19 degrees, when a W-A-L-K will be out of the question, which begs the question, what exactly can I do with my dog? Well, there’s a few things. You can play indoors, with either a little hide and seek, both with you (time permitting) or with their toys. You can also look into buying toys that are more like puzzles, which dogs have to solve in order to release treats. As for the outdoors, if it is 19 or lower, you can encourage them into paddling pools, a gentle chew in the shade, or even better get them their own treatsicle, and freeze something yummy for them to lap down.
Planning makes perfect
It’s no coincidence that you’ll see a lot of dog walkers out at the same time every day during the hotter months. Choosing early morning, or later in the evening to go for walks is a wise idea, and lets your dog still get their outside time in every day.
See your groomer not your vet
Whether your dog’s a fan of your groomer or not, is undoubtably better than a visit to the vet. Some dogs are hairier than others, and keeping their coats as trim as possible will help protect them from the hotter months. This is worth seeing a groomer for, as some dogs (double-coated, look it up to be sure) shouldn’t be shaved as the coat will never grow back, and no longer protect them from their UV sensitive skin.
Paws for thought
One of the simplest issues dogs face is their feet. Walking on hot surfaces can burn their toe pads quite badly, and unlike us, they don’t use anything to protect their feet. Simplest way to see if it’s too hot for them? Try standing on the pavement with bare feet. If it’s too hot for you to walk on, it’s too hot for them.
As it happens, there’s a number of companies that produce sunscreen for dogs! Epi-pet, Petkin, My Dog Nose It and Warren London all make excellent sticks, creams and balms for dogs to wear during the sunnier months. Just don’t expect them to do your back too.
All in all, much of the advice is about good common sense, your dog should remain safe, as long as you keep an eye on the thermometer, and don’t let them do anything you wouldn’t do when it comes to the hotter weather. Unlike us however, they are hypersensitive to the heat – so it’s always better to prevent, rather than cure, excessive temperatures.