Read on for tips on keeping pet dogs cool in hot weather, or listen to the podcast by clicking on the link at the foot of this page.
Stay out of the heat
Avoid situations that are linked to dogs getting overheated. Don’t leave your dog in a parked car, don’t let your dog travel shut up in the boot for more than the shortest journey and don’t leave your dog in any enclosed space that may become overheated on a hot day.
If you ever notice your pet panting more than normal on a sunny day, move them into a cooler, shady area: even if they seem happy lying in full sunlight.
Never exercise your pet in the full heat of the day in summertime: instead take your dog for walks in the early morning or evening. Walk your dog on cooler grass rather than warmer tarmac, as long as they are not allergic to vegetation. Avoid areas of recently cut or mulched grass, as these are more likely to irritate your dog’s feet. Keep a basin of water by the back door so that you can rinse your pet’s feet when you get home to remove any possible irritants.
Think cooling foods and drinks
- Give less food in hot weather, and feed in the early morning or evening (the process of digestion can generate a surprising amount of body heat.)
- Provide fresh water for your pet at all times, taking a portable water supply on walks with you during the summer months.
Consider using cooling accessories
- Cooling vests and cold mats can help keep pets cool, but they need to be used with care. For example, the cooling vests work by holding water that continually evaporates, taking heat away from the dog’s body. But if they dry out, they can actually contribute to a dog overheating, making things worse.
- Cooling collars are another option: these are broader than normal collars, containing cooling gel.
- A wet t-shirt will help to keep a short haired dog cool, but will not work as well on a long-haired animal.
- Don’t use fans to keep dogs cool: they are not effective, as dogs lose heat in a different way to humans. They don’t sweat all over their bodies: they cool down by panting, so fans make little difference to them. The only possible use for fans is when cooling an overheated dog that has been soaked in water, so that heat is then being lost by the evaporation of water from the dog’s body. Vets sometimes do this when treating dogs suffering from heatstroke.
Cooling activities at home
Set up a children’s paddling pool (not the inflatable ones: use one of the clam-shaped plastic sand pit type bowls and half fill with water). Place this in the shade, not in the sunlight, and encourage your dog to go into it from time to time.
What to do if your dog does overheat
- Be aware of the signs: weakness, collapse, continual panting, unwillingness to do anything other than just lie there.
- Start to cool the dog down before going to the vet: in one study, only 38% of dogs died when cooled by the owner, compared to 61% that died if taken to the vet without being cooled by their owner first.
- Do go to the vet if your dog is badly affected: as well as cooling your dog down, vets take other steps (such as intravenous fluids) that limit the damage done to your pet’s internal organs by the excessive heat. Dogs affected by heatstroke often die the following day, 24 hours after they have cooled down, because of the damage to their liver, kidneys and gastrointestinal tract, as well as disruption to their blood clotting system.
This week’s questions from listeners
- My Cavalier King Charles is panting in this hot weather. Should I have him shaved or just cut short. I love his hair! Annie
- My Bichon barks at all other dogs when we’re out walking, how do I stop her? I have another dog who doesn’t bark at others. Thanks Ger
- Should an 18 month malamute dog take 8 weeks shedding hair to get his new summer coat Jim co clare.
- I have loads of birds in my garden and I do feed them in the winter should I be doing this in the summer too?
- My son has two goldfish and I noticed with the very warm weather recently the water in the bowl is much warmer than usual, is this dangerous for the goldfish, I was going to put some cold water in the bowl but was afraid to shock the fish
- Our dogs are panting like mad but they still insist on lying in the sun. John. Dublin.
- My 13 yr old red setter howls all the time and wanders around the house…very bad arthritis taking meds for that. Is canine dementia possible and is there any medication which would calm him and give him some peace? Thanks Imelda