The Dog Days of Summer: Keeping Your Dog Cool in the Heat
Imagine a hot summer day. Your family goes into the store to grab something, and you decide to wait it out in the car. The temperature soon begins to climb to about 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit) in your vehicle. You have no water, fans, or air conditioning. And you’re wearing a fur coat.
While this situation may seem ridiculous for a human, it’s fairly common for dogs. Dogs are covered in fur that can heat up their bodies. Like humans, they need to keep cool, but their beloved owners don’t always remember this.
When hot temperatures strike, do what you can to keep your furry friend cool.
How Do Dogs Cool Themselves?
Before we get into some ideas to keep your dog cool, it’s important to understand the way dogs cool themselves down.
We humans cool ourselves down through sweating throughout our bodies, but dogs don’t have this luxury. They do have sweat glands on the palms of their feet, but that’s the only place they sweat.
Instead, dogs rely on panting to cool themselves down. When your dog pants, the air passing over the tongue evaporates the saliva and moisture. This cools down the tongue and circulates the cool temperature throughout your dog's body.
Just like humans do, you might observe your dog drinking or swimming to cool down. There are also things you can do to help your dog feel comfortable in the heat.
How to Help Your Dog Cool Down
The first rule to keeping your dog cool is never—like our scenario above—keep your dog in the car on a hot day. The temperature can increase rapidly and your dog may not be able to cool themselves down.
Another important thing to remember is to avoid putting a muzzle or heavy clothing on your dog on hot days. Here are a few more tips to keep your dog cool:
- Limit exercise. Go ahead and take your dog for a walk, but if it’s a hot day, go at cooler times, like early morning and evening. Stick to the grass (not the asphalt), and if it’s a longer walk, bring along water for your dog.
- Keep to the shade. You may think a dog house would keep your dog cool, but it actually does the reverse: it traps heat. Instead, make sure your dog stays in the shade when outside.
- Give them “cool” fashion. Cool your dog down with a scarf dipped in cool water.
- Turn on the bath water. Your dog might enjoy a cool bath or a swim.
- Up water intake. Make sure there is always an ample supply of water available. Putting a pinch of salt in the water can help your dog replace minerals he or she loses while panting. You could even let your dog lick ice cubes.
- Provide a cold bed. You might want to try freezing water and ice in food storage bags, wrapping them in a towel, and allowing your dog to lie on them.
What to Do If Your Dog Gets Heatstroke
Despite your best efforts to keep your dog cool, you might still find your dog heating up. Dogs that are overweight, have thick fur, or spend a lot of time exercising are more prone to getting heatstroke. If your dog has heatstroke, you’ll notice:
- Excessive panting
- Increased heart rate
- Increased saliva
- Red or pale gums
- Bright red tongue
If your dog exhibits these symptoms, make sure you take whatever measures you can to cool her down. Place your dog in a cool bath or hose her down with a cold hose. You can also place cold, wet towels on her neck, head, or chest.
Aim to bring your dog’s temperature below 39.4 degrees Celsius (103 degrees Fahrenheit).
Just be careful not to cool your dog down too quickly and dramatically, as this could cause sickness. Check his temperature every 5 minutes, and once it reaches 39.4 degrees Celsius, stop trying to cool your dog.
If your dog isn’t cooling down or still exhibits symptoms, take him to the veterinarian immediately. Even if your dog cooled down, you might still want to visit the vet because it’s possible he became dehydrated or developed another medical condition. Make sure to keep the windows down and air conditioning on during the drive.
The vet may replace lost fluids and minerals through intravenous fluid therapy (using an IV to inject fluids directly to the vein) and will check your dog for further complications, such as kidney failure, abnormal clotting, electrolyte abnormalities, neurological symptoms, and blood pressure changes.
Keeping It Cool
Just like you, your dog doesn’t like getting overheated. Help your dog enjoy the dog days of summer by making sure she keeps cool.
If the heat makes your dog sick, don’t hesitate to see a veterinarian. After all, you don’t want your dog to spend the summer being sick as -- well -- a dog.
For more tips to keep your dog cool and healthy, be sure to check out our blog or contact our helpful staff of veterinarians at Brimley-Lawrence Animal Clinic to set up an appointment today!