Keeping Your Dog Cool During a Heatwave

This weekend the weather forecasters are predicting we’ll get a heatwave with temperatures set to be higher than in the Bahamas in some parts of the UK. So with that in mind, we decided that this would be the topic of this blog post.  

We’ve all heard that humans can get heatstroke, but did you know that our dogs can also get heatstroke too?  Dogs can’t cool down as well as us humans can, and panting is their main way to keep cool. Unlike us, dogs cannot sweat through their skin, only the pads of their paws. Couple this with being covered in fur and it is like wearing an insulated coat. If dogs are unable to lower their body temperature if can make them prone to overheating or getting heatstroke which can be fatal.

It can be incredibly serious and in some cases even fatal, which is why we’ve put together some of our favourite tips to help keep your dog cool this summer. 

Letting your dog play in safe/clean water is a great way to help them stay cool and brilliant exercise for them

Ideas to keep your dogs cool in the summer:

  • Never leave a dog in a hot environment – We all know about the dangers of leaving dogs in cars
  • Avoid walking during the hottest part of the day – stick too early mornings or evenings.  Dogs will also struggle if the humidity is high, so also take this into account when deciding when to exercise your dog.   If you have a dog walker see about getting them to rearrange your dogs walk to a cooler time of the day
  • Ensure they always have access to fresh clean water, be prepared and take some on your walk
  • Make your dogs water more interesting by adding ice cubes, you can even add a couple of berries when making the cubes to add a bit more flavour and nutrients to the water
  • Ensure you do not exercise them to excessive levels – or consider changing the type of exercise you do with them.  Scent work or enrichment activities can be just as tiring for them and can be done indoors or without leaving your garden
  • Take them for a swim or paddle in clean water (where safe to do so) or invest in a paddling pool for the garden. In Cornwall, we are incredibly lucky to be surrounded by so much water, but please be careful not to dogs to ingest too much water (especially Salt Water) as this can have its own health implications.
  • Cooling vests or cooling mats available from Pet shops
  • Soak rope toys or tug toys in water and pop in the freezer (also great for teething puppies)
  • Stuff food into a Kong toy and freeze – eating this way will help them stay cool and counts as an enrichment activity too
  • Lay down damp towels for them to lie down on
  • Ensure the pavement or surface you are walking on isn’t too warm.  Lay the back of your hand on it – if it’s too hot for your hand it’s too hot for the dog!
  • If outside, make sure that your dog always access to shade 
  • Regular Grooming – Every 6 weeks or even 4-5 weeks during summer for curly-coated dogs or dogs that are prone to matting. Double coated breeds will need to brush at home regularly to remove the undercoat or booked in with a professional groomer (Thanks to Kat from Posh Paws Grooming for the advice
  • Not all dog food is created equal – if you feed a dried food (kibble) there will be little to no moisture in the food (to ensure a long shelf life of the product) so your dog will get little to no hydration from their food, so will need to drink more to stay hydrated.  Consider adding fresh (dog-friendly) ingredients and veggies to your dog’s meals to help hydrate them.  Other diets such as a Raw/BARF diet will contain a high percentage of moisture and therefore hydrate your dog better and more efficiently.
  • Try dog-friendly ice cream – my dogs are a fan of Frozzy’s which you can buy locally from or have a go at making your own dog-friendly ice cream – see below for my dog’s favourite recipe. Feel free to get creative with the flavours, and if you have a go at making it we’d love to see photo’s of your pooch enjoying it.

Heat Stroke in Dogs

Heatstroke can occur when your dog is unable to lose excess heat which causes the body to reach dangerously high temperatures, even an increase in temperature of only 4 Degrees can be fatal.  Which is why it’s important to educate ourselves on warning signs of heatstroke and also ways to help keep our dogs cool in the high temperatures.

Warning Signs of Heat stroke:

  • Very heavy Panting
  • Excessive Drooling
  • Very red or pale gums
  • Increased heart rate
  • Breathing Distress
  • Vomiting and/or Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Lethargy, weakness
  • Muscle Tremors
  • Collapsing and lying down

If you suspect your dog is displaying any of these symptoms, call your vet immediately. Heatstroke is an emergency and can be fatal, so it is very important to treat it quickly.  

If you think your dog has heatstroke it’s important to cool them down gradually – never chuck them straight into cold water as this can cause the body to go into shock.  Here are some ideas to slowly bring their temperature down slowly:

  • Remove your dog from the hot environment straight away
  • Wet some towels with cool water and drape over your dog (replace the towels regularly)
  • Wet the area around where your pet is lying
  • Gently spray with cool water
  • Cool their feet down, so allow them to stand in cool water – dogs sweat through their feet
  • Don’t use ice-cold water as this can make the problem worse
  • Take your dog to a vet to be checked out – even if they appear to be fine.
Walking in the late evening or early morning is a safer time of day to walk your dogs

During our Canicross classes, the health and safety of you and your dog is our primary concern which is why we chose to move our Canicross classes to a time of day which is cooler and less humid, we also ensure that our classes are taking part in shaded areas and we are always close to water to allow the dogs (or owners) to cool off as needed.  We may also cancel the class if the weather forecast is looking like it might be too hot for the dogs. We are also working at a much lower intensity and slightly lower distances than we would be during the colder months as this is also safer for the dogs.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog post and have come away with a couple of ideas to help keep your dog cool during the warmer weather. If you have any questions or comments then please reach out to us, or alternatively contact your vet for further advice.   If you have a go at making the Dog-Friendly Ice cream we would love to see a photo of your pet enjoying it.