As the temperature starts to rise, we need to think about helping our dogs keep cool in the heat. Dogs heat up quickly and regulate their temperature very differently to people. Overheating can result in serious complications for dogs – ultimately, even death. Here are 9 quick tips to avoid heatstroke in dogs, with further details and videos below if you want more information:
- Make up freezer ice-lick blocks or pupsicles.
- Get your pet a cooling mat or cooling jacket.
- Provide your pooch with a paddle pool or old bath with water in it.
Make a game of spraying it down with a hose.
- Ensure there is always fresh, cold water in your dog’s bowl.
- Recognise the signs of heatstroke in your dog,
Know what to do when you see them in your pup.
- Don’t over exercise your dog.
- Is the tarmac too hot for your dog to walk on?
If so, leave the walk for later.
- Protect your dog from sunburn.
Provide it with shade or keep it inside.
- NEVER leave your fur kid in the car on a warm day.
A dog can die in less than 20 minutes in a hot car.
That’s your 2 minutes up. Want to know more?
1. Make up freezer ice-lick blocks or pupsicles
You can quickly and easily prepare some tasty, frozen treats for your dog. That way you’ll always have something for your pup on hot afternoons. Use ice cube trays, silicone molds or small plastic containers and fill with:
See how to prepare bone broth here.
Yoghurt or kefir
Use natural, unsweetened yoghurt or kefir. Improve your pup’s breath too by adding some chopped mint – but not English Pennyroyal mint which is toxic to dogs. Use spearmint or peppermint, or lemon balm. See the recipe here.
Combine some roughly chopped fruit and water, and freeze in small plastic containers. You could do this in ice cube trays too but you’ll have to chop the fruit up quite small.
Kong easy treat
Frozen Kongs. The good old kong toy, good for so many things. Plug up one end with a piece of cheese or chicken and add some cream cheese, cottage cheese, canned dog food, or even kibble, before freezing. Don’t forget to freeze it in a plastic bag to keep your freezer clean of any possible germ contamination.
For a list of food you SHOULD NOT feed your dog, see this article.
Frozen treats can be messy!
Frozen treats are messy! Ideally, these treats should be enjoyed by your pup outside. Whatever you do, don’t give them to your pooch anywhere in your home where fruit salad doggy dribble will stain your carpets or couch…
2. Get your pet a cooling mat or cooling jacket
Cooling mats and jackets are an effective method for helping to avoid heatstroke in dogs. They are now widely available in all pet shops, online and even in some supermarkets. I prefer the mats, which I put in shady places around the garden. When I’m outside, my dogs always want to be outside as well. As long as they have somewhere cool to lie down and shelter from the sun, they can enjoy being outside too.
3. Provide your pooch with a paddle pool or old bath with water in it.
Not all dogs like the water, but if yours does, give it hours of joy splashing around in its own pool – it doesn’t have to be an actual pool: a baby bath will do for smaller dogs, or an old, sturdy plastic pool liner or old bath is perfect for a larger dog. Be careful with an older dog to make sure it can get in and out easily. Don’t fill the bath too much either – your pup doesn’t need so much water that it can’t stand up in it. Just lying in cool water will help a dog avoid heatstroke.
Where I used to live in Argentina, we had a disused jacuzzi in the garden. My boy Mino pretty much lived in that old bath – temperatures there could get up to 44 degC. He also LOVED playing with water: digging in it, chasing it, barking at it! The hose was his best friend in the summer. And yes, the water in this video is absolutely filthy. Believe it or not, it would get that colour just 5 minutes after emptying and refilling the bath – he used to get in and out constantly, dragging fresh mud in with him each time…
If you plan to use a small paddle pool, watch out for your dog’s nails – if they’re overlong, they might pierce the pool nylon.
If you don’t have space in your garden for an old bath, maybe there is a stream or lake near your house that you could take your dog to?
Some dogs dislike playing with water. If that sounds like yours, please don’t make it suffer by spraying it with a hose or forcing it into a pool (unless it is genuinely overheating of course). Although Mino loves the water, my girl, Toxa, hates it and she would be very stressed if I chased her with the hose the way I do Mino.
Also beware of overdoing it with water games and swimming – when your dog takes in too much water it can lead to water intoxication, a potentially fatal illness. Read this article for more information.
4. Ensure there is always fresh, cold water in your dog’s bowl.
Of course, there should always be fresh water available for your dogs. In warm weather though, like us, our mutts will drink much more.
Try adding some ice-cubes to the water bowl to keep the water cool. You might find your pup likes to play with them – Mino loves tossing an ice-cube around.
5. Recognise the signs of heatstroke in dogs and know what to do when you see them in your pup.
Symptoms of overheating and heatstroke in dogs
Unlike people, dogs can only sweat from the pads on their paws and their noses, so they can’t can’t cool down as efficiently as we can. Dogs regulate their temperature by panting, but when it’s very hot, panting can’t cool them down quickly enough.
Symptoms of overheating
- Heavy panting
- Extreme thirst
- Very red gums and tongue
- Drooling excessively
- Uncoordinated behaviour: staggering and weakness
How do you cool down an overheated dog?
An overheating dog needs its temperature lowering urgently, but you have to do this gradually not abruptly. Doing it abruptly might cause your pup to go into shock.
- Move your dog to a cool place – a room with A/C is best. If you don’t have air conditioning, use a fan to blow cool (not cold) air over your pup.
- Offer your dog water to drink – not too much at once or it might cause vomiting. Give it water at room temperature, not from the fridge.
- Bring your dog’s body temperature down by wetting it with cool water (not cold) – use wet towels, a hose, or pour water over your dog in a bath or sink. If you use towels, you will need to keep re-applying them.
- The most important areas to focus on are your dog’s head, neck and the underside from the front to the back legs.
- Check your dog’s temperature (rectally). If it is below 104ºF / 40ºC you can stop wetting its body. Too much cooling isn’t good for your pooch either. If you can’t take its temperature, keep gently cooling until your dog’s breathing is settled.
- Get your pup checked by your vet.
Overheating or heatstroke?
If your dog’s temperature reaches 109°F / 42.8°C, serious damage is starting to take place in its body. Unchecked, it can result in the brain swelling, seizures, irreversible kidney damage, and ultimately, death.
Is your dog conscious and responsive to your voice? Can it stand? If not, you need to call your vet immediately and let them know you’re on your way with an emergency.
6. Don’t over-exercise your dog
Avoid walking your pooch in the heat of the day – take your walks earlier in the morning or later in the evening when the temperature is cooler.
If you tend to throw a ball for your pup on its walk, bear in mind that all that exercise will tire your dog out much faster in hot weather. Too much active game playing on a warm day is often a pre-cursor of heatstroke in dogs.
7. Is the pavement or tarmac too hot for your dog to walk on?
We don’t realise just how hot the ground is because we don’t generally walk around barefoot. But under the heat of the sun, pavement and road surfaces heat up massively.
To test whether it’s too hot for your dog’s paws, put your hand on the ground for seven seconds. If it’s too hot for your hand, it will burn your dog’s paws.
8. Protect your dog from sunburn
We put sun protection on ourselves when we go out in the sun, but what about our furry family members? Many people don’t realise that dogs can get sunburned too.
The exposed parts of a dog’s skin – such as their noses and the tips of their ears – are susceptible to being burned. White-coloured dogs and breeds with fine or very little hair will also suffer more in direct sunlight. Try using a sun cream specifically for pets to protect your pooch.
Make sure that if your pup is outside with you, that it always has somewhere with shade to lie down. Alternatively, just keep it inside.
9. NEVER leave your dog in the car on a warm day
Download this poster and display it to help remind other dog owners of the dangers of leaving dogs in hot cars (direct download, no subscription necessary)
It’s frightening to think that in less than 20 minutes, a dog left in a car could die of heat exhaustion.
Leaving the window slightly open IS NOT as effective as you think. Heatstroke in dogs occurs even with windows left open for them.
This horrifying video ‘Dogs Die In Hot Cars’ by Dog’s Trust shows just how dangerous it is to leave a poor pup in a car.
If you see a dog in distress and unattended in a parked vehicle, you should immediately call the police.
Heatstroke in dogs is a serious issue that we need to be aware of, but by putting these simple tips in place and monitoring your beloved fur kid, you should be able to enjoy the warm weather together this summer.
For tips specific to older dogs, see this article.