Lifestyle

How To Keep Your Dog Cool In the Summer Heat

dogs summer heat off the leash

Wherever you live in Australia, we bet it’s going to be hot this week. Or at least it’s going to get hot soon. As it heats up, spare a thought for your pals in fur coats. Dogs deal with heat differently to humans. While we cool down by sweating (or cranking the AC and chugging a jumbo Slurpee), things are a bit trickier for them. 

Dogs only have sweat glands in their paw pads, so they rely on panting to provide 80% of their cooling power. Breathing heavily like that brings cool air to the moist tissue in their mouths and lungs where it evaporates to reduce heat. Hey, it’s not pretty but it works. Although when it’s really scorching, they need a bit of extra help be happy, comfortable, and healthy.

dog hot weather summer heat water off the leash
Like humans, dogs need to drink more water in the heat. Photo by Anna Stampfli.

Get Hydrated, Stay Hydrated

Like most living things, water is key to keeping your dog safe as the temperature rises. Make sure you set extra water bowls out around your house and yard. Not only will they be drinking more, but you want to make sure there are spares if one is accidentally knocked over during the day. You can also add some ice to the water to keep things extra cool. 

If your dog is tied up at any point, make sure there are always several water sources within easy reach. As well as making sure they have continual shade at any time of day—or just bring them inside!

If you head out with them, don’t forget to take a bowl and water bottle to keep them hydrated. 

Dogs have differing opinions on getting wet, but consider filling a small pool for them to splash around in. Or, if you know they like water, you can also wet their neck with the hose to cool off.

Go Easy On Exercise 

Most dogs are always down for a walk, but rethink their routine if it’s very hot: Take them for a walk in the early morning, or after the sun goes down. 

If you need to take them out in the day be conscious of how hot the ground can be. Burning concrete and bitumen can give the poor guys pad burn. Before you start, feel the sidewalk. If you can’t comfortably keep your hand there for 30 seconds it’s not suitable for them. Consider taking them to the park, find a dirt walking path, or just direct them to the nature strip.

Your pet will probably be feeling a bit lethargic in the heat—relatable—so give them space if they want to chill out more than usual. Don’t push them to play or run around too much, even if they want to, and make sure any kids in your household also understand they need extra downtime.

If you’re spending time outside, watch for sunburn. Especially if your pet is fair skinned or has a pink nose. Most pet stores and vets sell pet-friendly sunscreen.

Where possible, leave water out for your dog to splash around in. Photo by Murilo Viviani.

Freeze!

You’re not the only one who loves an icy-pole. Dogs deserve a cool treat on a hot day too. Rather than giving them a bite of your Frosty Fruit, pop some treats and toys in the freezer for them to munch on.

You can also put an ice pack or frozen bottle in their bed to help them cool down at night; as well as freezing a few towels to leave lying around giving them lots of cool spots to relax during the day.

Be VERY Careful In Cars

It goes without saying, but NEVER leave your dog in the car. Even if it’s not super hot outside, cars can reach fatal temperatures within minutes. Don’t risk it. Take them inside with you or tie them up in the shade near lots of drinking water. Or better yet, consider leaving them at home. Even driving around with you could be too hot for a lot of pets. 

If you do need to take them on a drive, remember their water and bowl, take a sun-shield for the windows (a towel is a good option), and don’t skimp on the air-con.

Not All Breeds Feel Heat the Same

While the above advice applies to all dogs, different breeds handle hot weather differently. If your dog is a Brachycephalic breed (like pugs and bulldogs) their shorter noses that can make it harder to pant and cool down. Similarly, overweight, out of shape, old, or unwell dogs might also struggle to regulate temperature, so keep an extra close eye on them.

To Shave or Not to Shave

It’s easy to assume that hair = heat. But that’s not always the case. For some dogs, their thick hair can act as an insulator to keep them cool and protect them from the sun. So before you whip out the clippers chat to a professional groomer about your dog’s needs.  

One thing all dogs benefit from is regular brushing. This will remove excess hair and keep their skin healthy in the heat.

Not all dogs will react to heat in the same way. Their body type, age, health, and lifestyle will make a different. Photo by Gayatri Malhotra.

When You Need to Go to the Vet

Follow the above advice and chances are your dog will sail through summer. But it’s very important to keep watch for signs of heatstroke or other health complications. If your dog is struggling to breath, vomits, staggers, has diarrhoea, seizures, muscle tremors, or collapses something isn’t right and you should contact your vet immediately.

Want to Help Other Animals?

During summer, dogs and other animals are often impacted by bush fires. The RSPCA does a lot of good work protecting, evacuating, and helping pets, livestock, and wildlife in threatened or affected areas. 
If you have the means, consider making a donation to help them keep up the great work.

Looking for more ways to have a great summer with your dog?

The Best Dog-friendly Camping Spots This Summer

Melbourne’s 5 Best Dog-Friendly Beaches

Melbourne’s Top Dog-Friendly Cafe’s For Summer

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Written by Wendy Syfret
Wendy is Head of Media at Scratch. Which is a good fit, because she's never met a dog she didn't like. Although she has a special place in her heart for muts: three legs, one eye, missing fur, bit of a weird walk? The scruffier the better. Her favourite dog in the whole world though is her terrier-mix Stevie.