Hot dogs - How to keep your dog cool in a heatwave
British weather can change in a flash and dogs are particularly susceptible to heat. Now the temperature is on the rise and with summer finally arriving, here’s how to keep your cuddly canine cool.
Heatstroke is a very real danger to dogs in hot weather. Lots of people think that dogs can’t sweat, but this isn’t the case. Our dogs (and cats) have sweat glands in their noses and paw pads. Have you noticed your pet leaving damp pawprints on hot days? This is why. Dogs mainly keep themselves cool by panting but this isn’t very efficient so it’s important that we keep an eye on our dogs and help to keep them cool on hot days.
Heatstroke is one of the biggest dangers. It can progress very quickly, and even if treated swiftly, can be fatal. Your dog may do too much exercise in warm weather - some dogs overheat more than others, particularly overweight dogs, heavy-coated breeds, and short-nosed ‘brachycephalic’ breeds or mixes (Pugs, Boston Terriers etc). Or he may get trapped in a car, conservatory or even just a hot, sunny room.
Heatstroke can kill or cause irreparable damage to internal organs. Here are signs that your dog might be overheating.
He’s too hot if he’s panting, dribbling, lethargic or restless; grumpy, grumbly or out of sorts; off his food or drinking lots of cool water.
Sign of heatstroke include blue, bright red or dark red tongue and gums; high body temperature (104°F or 40°C or more), wobbliness, weakness or staggering; seizures; collapsing or unconsciousness and/or blood in poos or urine.
One way to really know if your dog is too hot (or not) is to use a thermometer and check, but prevention is always the best approach.
Move your dog’s bed and bedding to a shady spot, and swap blankets for an old, damp towel. If they sleep in a crate, spread damp bath towels over the top to create a cool, damp, shady den. If they’ve taken to lying on the bathroom or kitchen floor, let them – tiles can be a great way to cool down.
There are some fantastic cool beds and cool mats for dogs. Gel cool beds absorb the heat from your dog’s body, and need no batteries, refrigeration or time in the freezer - ideal for camping and days out. A homemade alternative is a damp towel in a shady spot – or popping your picnic ice packs underneath their usual blanket.
If you have a fan and a freezer, freeze a large container of water then set up the fan so that it blows over the ice and sends cool air towards your dog’s bed. To ensure that your dog doesn’t knock the fan, put it on a high surface and angle downwards to keep everyone safe.
If you normally go for walkies with your dog at lunchtime and early afternoon, swap your schedule for an early morning walk and a late evening stroll to avoid the midday heat. If you can’t change your routine time-wise, swap open fields for cool woodland, beaches or lakeside walks so your dog can dive in for a cooling paddle or swim.
Do you have an urban pooch? If so, don’t forget that pavements can get seriously hot! Before heading out, touch-test the pavement with your own hand or foot. If it’s too hot for your hand, or you wouldn’t want to walk on it barefoot, don’t ask your dog to do the same. If you must be out and about on hot pavements, consider some protective boots and a cooling coat. Just wet your dog’s coat, then pop it on your dog – the cool dampness creates heat exchange with your dog’s body, so they effectively ‘sweat’ like a person.
If your dog is a breed or mix that can be clipped, get regular trims in summertime. Many double coated breeds shouldn’t be clipped or trimmed – but will find relief in a thorough grooming to get any insulating dead hair out.
Set up a paddling pool in your garden for your dog. For those who aren’t so keen, a wet flannel (or quick hose down!) on the belly, chest and legs will help them cool down without resorting to a full shower or bath. Always provide lots of cool drinking water and on especially hot days, consider popping an ice-cube in their water bowl to keep it chilled.
Not all dogs are as sensible as they should be on hot days, so if it’s warm, consider putting their toys away for the day so they don’t accidentally over-exercise. The same advice goes for games like fetch and playing with their friends. If you have more than one playful dog, consider separating them on the hottest days.
You can also freeze dogs’ regular food in plastic boxes; layer wet food on the bottom, sprinkle over with kibble, add water and the lid, then pop in the freezer. For extra cold treats (without the extra calories) freeze their favourite toys in an old ice cream tubs – they’ll have fun and stay cool whilst freeing their toys from the ice!
We love our pups and want the best for them, so as the heatwave hits make sure you’re prepared. Enjoy the sunshine!
Akira and his sister Miko live in Abu Dhabi where it’s always hot. They are well practised in keeping cool and are lucky enough to have air conditioning at the touch of a paw.