By Sassafras Lowrey CPDT-KA
With heat waves spreading across the country, it’s important to keep your dog cool. Overheating can be uncomfortable for dogs, but it can also be dangerous. Dogs who overheat can suffer from heatstroke.
When people overheat, we’re able to control our body temperature through sweating. However, dogs can’t sweat (except through sweat glands on their paw pads). Dogs can regulate their temperature through panting, but when it’s excessively hot that isn’t always possible and they can easily overheat. As a result, dogs rely on us to help protect them from summer heat and cool them down when they get too hot. There are a variety of ways to help cool your dog down depending on where you are and what activities you’re engaging in.
The best way to cool down your dog is whenever possible to prevent them from overheating in the first place. During warm summer days try to provide your dog with access to cool indoor places to relax during the hottest parts of the day. If you have air conditioning in your home, keep your dog inside where they can stay cool. Try to limit how much exercise your dog gets outside in the heat, or inside if you don’t have air conditioning and your home is also warm. Even if your dog is acting like they want to run and play it’s up to us to make choices for them that will help keep them cool and safer from the heat.
Dog Cooling Vests & Cooling Mats
As temperatures soar, dog cooling vests can be a great way to help cool down dogs and keep them comfortable while out walking or playing, Cooling vests generally work by being soaked in cool water and cool your dog as the water evaporates off the coat. These coats also help reflect the rays of the sun and help dogs to stay cooler longer during summer days. Make sure any cooling coat you select for your dog is properly fitted to not restrict movement and is comfortable for your dog to wear. Always supervise your dog when they are wearing a cooling coat and continue to limit strenuous exercise in the hottest parts of the day.
Dog cooling mats are also a great option. Some require water and others are made of self-cooling gel.
Keeping your dog comfortable in the heat and keeping your dog cool requires constant access to fresh water. If you’re going out walking and hiking with your dog, be sure to carry a portable water bowl and plenty of water for your dog. To help keep your dog’s water cool you can get insulated water bottles for carrying water. At home and in your yard, it can be useful to put ice into your dog’s water, get insulated water bowls to help keep water cool for longer, or even get freezable water bowls which can be placed in your freezer between uses to help keep your dog’s water cold for longer.
If your dog likes to swim, giving them the chance to spend part of the day wading or swimming at a local dog-friendly lake, river, ocean, or pool is a fun way to help your dog cool down. You can also add a baby pool or splash pad to your backyard to give your dog a chance to cool off in water. Be sure to monitor your dog’s activity when swimming or playing in water to make sure they don’t overexert themselves in the water as that could counteract any cooling benefits the water provides.
In addition to adding a splash pad or baby pool for your yard to help keep them cool during summer play sessions, you can also give your dog other cooling toys. An easy way to provide cooling enrichment to your dog on hot days is to take hard rubber hollow toys and stuff them with dog-safe peanut butter, kibble, and other dog treats. Then, put the toy in the freezer before giving it to your dog. These frozen toy chews are a fun way to give your dog something cool to gnaw on and keep your dog mentally enriched on hot days when it’s too hot to play. For a slightly messier project, you can take a silicone cake pan, add in waterproof dog toys, and treats then fill the pan with water and freeze. When the cake pan is fully frozen you can pop the large ice block out and give it to your dog to excavate and play with. Note this ice puzzle can be a bit messy and is best to be played outside.
Emergency Cooling A Dog
If you’re concerned your dog is overheating because they are:
- panting heavily
- their gums have changed colors
- drooling an unusual amount
- seems dizzy
- unstable or is unable to get up
it’s important to cool your dog down, and get them to a vet as soon as possible. To cool your dog down in an emergency, get your dog to a shady location where you can start a fan blowing on the dog or a cool area where there is air conditioning. Then, use room temperature/lukewarm water all over your dog’s body to bring their temperature down. As counterintuitive as it sounds do not use ice cold water. Using cold water on a dog who is overheating can cause more damage by shocking the dog’s system.
Using lukewarm water to cool your dog’s entire body makes sure to get the cool water through thick fur and down to the skin, footpads, under their legs, groin, and stomach areas. You can use cool washcloths on these more sensitive areas to help lower your dog’s temperature. If possible, take your dog’s temperature. A dog’s normal temperature is 101 degrees. Record what your dog’s temperature is while they are overheating as this is information you’ll want to be able to communicate with your veterinarian. Heatstroke is a very serious condition. In worst-case scenarios, permanent organ damage or even death can occur. If your dog has overheated, consult with your dog’s veterinarian, or call an emergency veterinarian in your area right away as you’re working to actively cool your dog. They will be able to provide you with information about if your dog needs to be seen at the clinic.
The dog days of summer can be a lot of fun but with heatwave temperatures across the country, it’s important to pay special attention to keep your dog cool. From backyard baby pools and beach days to cooling coats and frozen toys/chews there are a variety of ways to help keep your dog cool and comfortable when it’s hot outside. If your dog is showing any signs of heatstroke consult a veterinarian immediately.