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How can I keep my dog cool in the summer?

Whether you’re in your garden, inside your house or going for a summer walk, it’s important to keep your dog cool during heatwaves and hot or humid weather
How can I keep my dog cool in the summer?

Keeping your dog cool not only helps them feel more comfortable, but it can also reduce their risk of heatstroke.

Why is it important to keep your dog cool in summer?

Dogs can sometimes find it difficult to cope with hot weather, and are more at risk of heatstroke than we are. Heatstroke can be very serious. As a dog’s internal temperature rises, it can cause damage and lead to organ failure. Heatstroke can quickly kill, and 1 in 7 dogs 1 that are taken to the vet with heatstroke die.

Which dogs are more at risk?

All dogs can develop heatstroke, but some dogs may be more at risk than others. Research has found that dogs with a higher chance of developing heatstroke include those that are:

  • Overweight
  • Flat-faced
  • More energetic
  • Older
  • Bigger, particularly those over 50kg
  • Have longer or thicker fur
  • Have health issues, including being dehydrated or having heart or breathing problems

Breeds that are most commonly taken to the vets with heatstroke include: Chow Chows, Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Dogue de Bordeaux, Greyhounds, Boxers, English Springer Spaniels, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Pugs, Golden Retrievers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers.

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Keeping your dog cool during walks on hot days

Exercise is the most common cause of heatstroke. So on hot days, be sure to:

  • Walk your dog in the early morning or evening and avoid the midday sun
  • Always carry water and something for your dog to drink from
  • Consider attaching a lead to a walking harness rather than to their collar. Leads that pull on a collar can press on their airways and stop them from cooling down as effectively. Remember that it’s a legal requirement for a dog to wear a collar with their owner’s name and address on when out in public
  • Consider getting a cooling vest for your dog
  • Take care when exercising any unwell or dehydrated dogs on hot or warm days, as they may find it more difficult to control their body temperature
  • Know the signs of heatstroke and watch out for them
  • Remember that pavements on hot days can burn your dog’s footpads, so try to avoid them. If it’s too painful for you to place the back of your hand on a pavement for seven seconds then it’s too painful for your dog to walk on

Find out more about walking your dog on warm days.

Keeping your dog cool in the garden

Spending time in your garden on a hot day can help to cool you and your dog down, but remember to:

  • Make sure there’s a water bowl for your dog to drink from, ideally both inside and outside the house. Put the water bowl in the shade to keep it as cool as possible
  • See that your dog has a shaded space to keep them out of the sun
  • Give your dog a paddling pool to splash around in
  • Play with your dog with the hose and let them enjoy getting wet
  • Keep your dog out of hot greenhouses. Even if the door is left open, these buildings tend to be incredibly warm
  • Try giving your dog one of our homemade frozen treats to help keep them cool

Keeping your dog cool in the car and on long journeys

Even on warm days a car can act as a greenhouse, with temperatures inside the car being much higher than outside. Always remember to:

  • Never leave your dog in the car by themselves
  • Make sure your dog has a safe, comfortable and cool spot in the car when you’re driving
  •  Make regular stops to check on your dog and make sure that they have access to water
  • Travel with cool water in a vacuum flask to give to your dog
  • Avoid travelling during the hottest times of the day
  • Drive with the windows open or the air conditioning on
  • Use window sunshades to help reflect the sun’s rays and keep the car cooler when travelling
  • If using public transport, try not to travel on hot days or - if possible - check that the public transport you intend to use is air conditioned
  • Check that all places you want to visit are dog-friendly so that you can take your dog in with you

Find out more about travelling safely with your dog.

Keeping your dog cool in the house

During warm summer days it’s easy for your house to warm up. Some dogs may be able to cope with this rise in temperature, while others may struggle. On hot days:

  • Make sure your dog always has access to drinking water
  •  Add ice cubes to your dog’s water bowls
  • Freeze a dog toy and let them chew on it
  • Put down damp towels or cooling mats for your dog to lie on
  • If your dog has a long or heavy coat, you could keep them clipped to make them feel more comfortable
  • Keep dogs out of hot conservatories
  • Avoid your dog being in direct sunlight

Keeping your dog cool at the beach

When visiting the beach with your dog on hot days:

  • Go to the beach when it's cooler, such as in the early morning or early evening, and avoid the midday sun
  • Take a sun tent or a beach umbrella. Make sure that there’s always an area of shade for your dog to get out of the hot sun
  • Take plenty of fresh water with you. If possible, take ice cubes in a cool bag to drop into their water, or store cold water in a vacuum flask to keep it cool
  • Ensure your dog has plenty of water breaks to keep them hydrated
  •  Don’t exercise your dog too much. Over exercising on hot days is the main cause of heatstroke in dogs
  • Let them splash in the sea to cool down. Remember to read our water safety tips before you go to the beach

Keeping your dog cool at night

Most dogs are unlikely to develop heatstroke during the night. But on very hot muggy evenings, your dog can feel just as uncomfortable as you. Here are some things you can try:

  • Let your dog sleep in an air conditioned room
  • Keep the windows open at night and direct a fan towards your dog
  • Let them lie on a slightly damp towel to help keep them cool
  • Give them access to water to help keep them hydrated
  • Let them sleep where they want. Your dog may naturally choose the coolest place to sleep. This may be on tiled or stone flooring
  • Give them a frozen chew toy to play with before bedtime
  •  Keep your curtains and blinds closed during the day to prevent your home from warming up when it’s hottest. Then open your windows at night to help cool down your house

Keeping your dog cool during a heatwave

Some dogs suffer in heat at the best of times. But when it’s exceptionally hot in summer heatwaves, your dog may not be acclimatised to the sudden rise in temperature. In these hot spells, your dog is at greater risk of heatstroke.

During a heatwave, ensure your dog has access to water. Be especially cautious about how much exercise to give them when you take them out for a walk. Too much exercise - especially during the hottest parts of the day - can dramatically raise your dog’s chance of developing heatstroke.

Signs of heatstroke

Heatstroke can progress quickly, and signs include:

  • Heavy panting, even when not exercising
  • Breathing problems, particularly in flat-faced dogs
  • Tiredness
  • Stiffness or an unwillingness to move
  • Dribbling
  • Confusion
  • Being sick - this can be bloody
  • Upset stomach - this can be bloody
  • Not walking in a straight line
  • Collapse
  • Fitting

If you think your dog may have heatstroke, it’s vital that you immediately contact your vet while cooling them down. Getting early advice and treatment is essential to saving a dog’s life. Research has found that, in the UK - although 1 in 7 dogs that are taken to vets with heatstroke die - 98% that are seen early with mild signs are likely to survive. 2

What to do if your dog has heatstroke

Any dog with heatstroke should be seen by a vet immediately, particularly if they’re very unwell or unconscious. If you don’t know where your closest vet is, you can find a vet near you. It’s important that you start to cool your dog as soon as possible - this can make a big difference to whether they survive.

Tips on how to help a dog with heatstroke:

  • Stop them exercising, move them out of the heat and into the shade
  • Call a vet for advice
  • Lay them down on a cool floor
  • Offer them small amounts of water to drink
  • Carefully pour water over the dog’s body, or sponge them if water is limited. Particularly focus on their neck, tummy and inner thighs. Ideally continue to do this until their breathing returns to normal. Make sure the dog doesn’t inhale any water while you’re trying to cool them down
  • Fan them with cool air, or put them in an air-conditioned room or car if possible. The impact of fanning them, or putting them somewhere that’s air-conditioned, will be greatest if they’re already wet

It was previously thought that rapidly cooling an affected dog could cause them to go into shock. This advice is now being questioned, so always speak to your vet who can guide you through how best to help your dog.

Find out more about heatstroke.

Think your dog may be affected?

If you're worried about your dog's health, contact your vet immediately.

We are not a veterinary organisation and so we can't give veterinary advice. But if you're worried about any of the issues raised in this article, please contact your local vet practice for further information.

Find a vet near you

If you're looking for a veterinary practice near you, why not visit the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons' find a vet page.

About the Author

Owe Carter is a writer specialising in insurance and pets. After a 10-year shift as lead copywriter at Confused.com, he's written for numerous consumer, motor and personal-finance businesses - including Go.Compare, Admiral, AA Driving School, Ageas, Principality, MoneyWeek and Look After My Bills. He has two cats, Niblet and Slinky, and a cavalier named Momo.

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