While we all love a bit of sunshine, excess heat can be a real problem for both humans a dogs alike. During the hotter months of the year (or if you live in a hot country), it is important to think about whether you dog is cool and comfortable.
Ignoring the heat can lead to some serious health problems and can even be potentially life-threatening to dogs and humans. If the air your dog is breathing in is too hot, then panting has little cooling effect and they will rapidly overheat.
You can’t change the temperature and weather, but you can do some things to make your dog more comfortable and cool them down. In this guide we have put together all the information you need to know about hot weather and your dog.
Not All Dogs Are the Same
Just like humans, dogs are not all the same. Some are more capable or tolerating extreme heat, while others are not. There are loads of different things that can affect the way your dog handles heat. We have created a list of some of them below.
Breed and Coat Type
Your dog’s coat and breed type are going to have a big impact on how they handle the heat. Dogs with longer coats or those more suited to cold weather like Siberian Huskies will suffer more in the heat.
Dogs like Italian Greyhounds are better suited to warmer temperatures as they have shorter coats.
The Colour of Your Dog’s Coat
It’s common knowledge that darker colours absorb more heat, so if your dog has a darker coat they will get hotter in the sun. If your dog does have a darker coat, it may be beneficial to keep them out of direct sunlight.
Age and Health Condition
Puppies, old dogs and sick dogs are more likely to feel the effects of excessive heat. Their bodies are not as efficient at regulating their temperature when compared to healthy dogs in their prime years. If your dog is young, old or sick, you need to be even more cautious when it comes to heat.
Dogs that have health conditions can also be more susceptible to heat stroke, which can cause permanent damage to your dog and even death.
Whether Your Dog Has Built Up a Tolerance
Dogs that are used to hot climates will naturally feel more comfortable when the temperature rises. If your dog has only experienced mild weather and then they suddenly experience a really hot day, they are going to struggle more.
Common Questions About Dogs in Hot Weather
Can I Leave My Dog in the Car?
You should never leave your dog in a car in hot or even cold weather. Temperature extremes are amplified by the car and the inside can become hot very quickly. While some owners will leave windows open, this is still not enough to keep the car cool.
The temperatures reached in a hot car can quickly cause heat stroke, brain damage and even death. You may also find that you come back to a smashed window as some passer-by may bring it upon themselves to save your dog.
If you have a pick-up truck or Ute, you should be careful about leaving your dog in the back. Open truck beds can become incredibly hot as they are often painted dark colours, which absorb more heat.
What Should You Do If You See a Dog in a Hot Car?
Before you go smashing somebody’s car window, there are a few things you can do to help a dog stuck in a hot car:
- Take down the car’s number plate, model and make
- Ask any surrounding businesses if they can make an announcement to find the owner. Many owners are unaware of the dangers of leaving a dog in a hot car, so they will return to their vehicle quickly.
- If the owner of the car cannot be located, you can contact the police or animal control
- In some countries and places in the world, good Samaritans can legally remove a dog from a car under special circumstances. We recommend you check up on the laws in your local area and use this as a last resort.
You can read more about what to do with animals in cars here.
Should I Take My Dog for Walks in Hot Weather?
Taking your dog for walks is still incredibly important and you need to continue to do it in the hotter summer months. The difference is that you need to plan ahead and be aware of a few things. This could mean changing your regular schedule or when you walk your dog.
When Should I Take My Dog for Walks?
Heading out for a walk in the middle of the day when the sun is at its hottest is a recipe for disaster. You should avoid walking your dog from 11am until around 3pm, although this may change depending on where you live in the world.
In some extremely hot countries or areas, you may have to stick to walking your dog early in the morning or late at night when the sun has gone down.
Asphalt Can Get Hot
Asphalt can get seriously hot, so much so that it can burn your dog’s paws. It absorbs a significant amount of heat and can get extremely hot to the touch. You probably wear shoes when you walk your dog, so it is not a problem, however, it is for your dog.
To check the temperature of the asphalt, touch the back of your hand directly onto it. If you can hold your hand in that position for around 10 seconds it should be okay. However, if you find that it is too hot or uncomfortable, then it is too hot for your dog to walk on.
What You Need to Bring When Walking Your Dog
If you are just going for a short walk around the block, you probably don’t need to bring supplies. For those that are going further afield, there are some things you should take with you.
Dogs can easily become dehydrated when it is hot outside and they often keep on walking even when they are overdoing it. Make sure you bring water and a foldable water bowl with you when walking, so that your dog can have a drink.
Additionally, while you may sunscreen for dogs is a waste of time, it is actually quite important. Dogs that have pale skin or fur and those with skin showing should wear sunscreen before going out for extended periods of time.
The last thing to bring is a towel. A wet towel is an excellent way to cool your dog down and can save your dog’s life if they are suffering from heat stroke.
Should I Groom My Dog?
Grooming all dogs, even those with short coats, can help to keep them comfortable when temperatures rise. However, if you cut your dog’s coat too short it can actually have the opposite effect.
A dog’s coat offers protection against the sun and acts as cooling insulation. Shaving their coat will take that protection away and leave them exposed to the sun.
If you do want to groom your dog for the summer, we recommend going to a professional groomer who can trim your dog’s coat to the correct length.
Everything You Need to Know About Heat Stroke in Dogs
What Are the Signs of Heat Stroke in Dogs?
Dogs fur is excellent at keeping out the cold, but it can become a problem when it comes to heat. This is because, unlike humans, dogs get rid of excess heat by panting (although they also have sweat glands in their paws that remove a little bit of heat). Panting just isn’t enough sometimes and they can overheat.
Once a canine overheats, they may not be able to bring their temperature down quick enough to avoid serious health complications.
Heat stroke is a form of non-fever hyperthermia that occurs when a dog’s heat-dissipating mechanisms cannot accommodate excessive external heat. It is typically associated with a temperature of 41 degrees Celsius or higher and can lead to multiple organ dysfunction.
If your dog is suffering from heat stroke, you need to watch for the following signs:
- Excessive panting
- Signs of discomfort or distress
- Hyper-salivation and vomiting
- Laboured breathing, Weakness or collapse
- Tongue colour that is dark red to almost purple
- Irregular heart beat
- Increased body temperature – above 103° F (39° C)
- Reddened gums and moist tissues of the body
- Production of only small amounts of urine or no urine
- Vomiting blood
- Seizures and muscle tremors
- Wobbly, uncoordinated or drunken gait or movement (ataxia)
- Unconsciousness in which the dog cannot be stimulated to be awakened
What Are the Causes of Heat Stroke?
There are a number of causes of heat stroke in dogs. We have listed some of them below:
- Excessive heat and humidity from either weather conditions or being enclosed in an unventilated environment (car, room, etc.)
- Excessive exercise
- Poisoning from various compounds such as slug and snail bait, and strychnine. These poisonous compounds can lead to seizures which can cause your dog’s body temperature to rise abnormally.
- Diseases that increase the change of developing hypothermia; such as heart disease, larynx, paralysis of the voice box and muscular related disease
- Upper airway diseases that inhibit breathing.
What Should You Do If Your Dog Is Suffering from Heat Stroke
Quick action is incredibly important when dealing with a dog that is suffering from heat stroke. You need to recognise what the causes are and if it is due to environmental conditions, your first step should be attempting to lower your dog’s body temperature.
You can try spraying your dog with cool water or immersing their body (not their head) in cool water. Additionally, wrapping them in wet towels or using fans to cool them down is a great option to get their body temperature down.
Remember to never use cold or iced water, only use cool water. While this may seem strange, cold water can make cooling more difficult as it can cause blood vessels near the surface of the body to constrict. You should try to cool your dog gradually, rather than suddenly. Drinking water should also be cool, not cold and you should not force your dog to drink.
Once you have reduced your dog’s body temperature, you should take them to be examined by a veterinarian. Your vet will need to ensure that your dog’s normal temperature has been reached, and that no long lasting damage has occurred.
How to Prevent Heat Stroke from Occurring
The best way to keep your dog safe from heat stroke, is to prevent them from getting it at all. While there are occasions when things are completely out of your control, there actions you can take to help prevent the onset of heat stroke.
We are going to discuss some things you can do to keep your dog cool below and you should also ask your vet about what they would recommend.
If you would like to read more about Heat Stroke in dogs, check out PetMD.
Keeping Your Dog Cool When It Is Hot
Keeping your dog cool is a relatively straightforward process. There are some things you can’t change, but there are a number of things you can do to keep them cool during the summer months.
Provide Plenty of Water
Giving your dog access to fresh water at all times is a necessity, even when it is not that hot outside. Dogs can easily become dehydrated if they do not have access to water, so make sure they are always topped up.
Always be aware that your dog will probably drink significantly more water in hot weather, so it may be a good idea to give them an extra bowl of water. This is especially important if you are leaving the house for a couple of hours or more.
You can also drop a bunch of ice cubes in their water to keep it cool.
Give Them Some Shade
Dogs love to plonk themselves down in the sun, but it is important to provide them shade for when it gets really hot. If your dog is in your house, make sure their area has a space that is out of the sun. You can also close curtains and pull down blinds to keep the sun out.
For those outside or on walks, you can find a nice tree for your dog to get under or you could use a building as shade.
Use Air Conditioning
If your house has air conditioning, leave it on when it gets hot, whether you are in or out of the house. While you may see this as a waste of money, it will keep your canine companion significantly more comfortable. It is also much nicer to come back to a cool house than a boiling hot one.
Take Them for a Dip or Spray Them Down
Taking your dog for a dip in a pool, lake or in the sea are great ways to get their body temperature down. Just remember, if your dog is bordering on heat stroke, cooling them down too quickly can make matters worse.
You can test how cold the water is yourself before letting your dog get in, or you can let them enter the water slowly. Exposing your dog to the water gradually will slowly lower their body temperature rather than suddenly.
If you do not have access to a larger body of water, you can use a small child’s paddling pool. This can be filled with enough water to cool off your dog and will let them dissipate heat from their paws (one of the few places they sweat).
You can also simply spray them with a hose or use a sprinkler as well, however, your dog may not appreciate it. Using a fine mist from something like a sprayer bottle is another great option to cool your dog down. You can also use it on yourself, which is an added bonus.
Use a Wet Blanket
Remember we said that a wet blanket is one of the best ways to help a dog with heat stroke. Well, even if your dog isn’t suffering from heat stroke, a wet blanket is still a great way to cool them down. You can even wrap a bag of frozen peas in a blanket and use it to cool them down (just don’t leave the peas alone with them).
Create a Breeze
Sticking a fan in front of your dog is one way to cool them down. It may not be the fastest way, but leaving a fan going during the day can help your dog stay cool when you are not home.
Make Some Cold Treats
There’s nothing dogs love more than tasty treats and they are also a great way to cool down your canine companion. You can make popsicles or flavoured ice cubes for your dog out of a variety of flavours, such as this peanut butter one.
Simply giving your dog an ice cube is also another great way of getting their body temperature down. However, ice cubes and other icy treats are not recommended for dogs suffering from heat stroke as they can cool them down too quickly. You can read more about giving your dog ice cubes at PetMD.
Wrapping Up Keeping Your Dog Cool in Hot Weather
Keeping your dog cool in hot weather is really about recognising signs of a hot dog and acting quickly. You need to be prepared and think about your canine companion when you leave your house. It is really just common sense and if you feel hot, your dog probably feels the same way.