The dog days of summer are hear! With the warm weather officially here, many of us are eager to get out there and take advantage of the sun. The thing is, even though we may want to soak up the sun, we always need to be mindful of our canine companions. It’s important to know how to keep a dog cool in the summer to avoid dehydration and heat stroke – 2 dangerous conditions that can creep up quickly.

Remember: Some breeds have a harder time with the heat that others. For example, our husky, with her thick double coat seems to handle it better than our German shepherd, oddly enough. And sure, they’re both double-coated dogs, but the shepherd will let me know well before the husky that she’s had enough of the heat. This just means you need to pay attention and read the cues your dog offers. And a little common sense goes a long way as well.

How to Keep a Dog Cool in the Summer

The #1 hot weather tip? Never leave your dog in the car! Ever. Even when it doesn’t feel that hot outside, the temperature inside your car can soar. For example, on an 85-degree day, it can reach 102 F inside the car in only 10 minutes! Unless you’ll be in the car with the AC running and the windows down the whole time, leave your pup at home.

Keep your house cool. Some people are tempted to turn the AC off while they’re not home, but this can be harmful to your pup. If your dog’s home alone, leave the air conditioner on, or put a fan on the floor for a nice breeze. Close the drapes – this will help keep your home cool too!

Make sure your pup has access to shade. On hot summer days, don’t leave your dog outside for long periods of time. And, when they are outside, make sure there’s access to shade. Don’t rely on a doghouse for shade though – they’re actually pretty bad when it comes to airflow, and they can get really warm inside. Trees are much better. A kiddie pool is also a great option to let your pup cool off in the heat. Clean it regularly 😉

Water, water, water. Whether your dog’s inside or out, make sure they always have access to cool water. Add ice cubes throughout the day to keep it cool.

how to keep a dog cool in the summer

Warm Weather Walking Tips!

Despite the hot temps, most dogs still need daily walks/exercise. Factoring in the heat for your walks is an important part of how to keep a dog cool in the summer.

Walk early in the day or once the sun goes down – on days when you know it will be warm, try to go first thing in the morning, before the sun really starts to heat everything up. If you can’t go in the morning, wait until the evening, after the sun goes down.

Check the pavement – when the sun’s blazing, the temperature of the pavement can soar well above the temperature outside. And when that happens, your pup’s paws can burn quickly. To make sure it’s safe for walking, do the hand test. Place the back of your hand on the pavement. If you can’t hold it for 5 seconds, the pavement’s too hot!

Take water with you – take along a reusable water bottle and a collapsable water bowl and take a break during your walk. Sit in the shade for a few minutes, let your dog settle, and let them have a drink to cool down.

When in doubt, stay home – as always, trust your instincts. Even if your pup is chomping at the bit to get out there, use your judgement. If you think it’s too hot, don’t test it. Do some training in the house, play some brain games, put a kiddie pool in the backyard or turn the sprinkler on.

Pay Attention to Smaller Pets Too!

Here at Veterinarious we’re all about pets – big and small – not just the pups. Dogs aren’t the only ones who can’t always handle the heat. Small pets like rabbits, guinea pigs, and birds are particularly susceptible to heat, so make sure you’re paying attention to their comfort too!

If these animals usually live outside, bring their enclosures inside during hot weather. If you can, give them an area of the house to run free, like a bathroom or the laundry room, so they can relax on the cool tiles. Make sure there’s airflow, or a fan, to keep the area cool.

If they can’t roam, drape cages with wet towels (but still allow room for air flow) to keep them cool. Freeze a wet towel overnight and place it in the cage so your pet can regulate their own body temperature. 

Make sure cages are out of direct sunlight and in an area that’s protected from the sun. And remember, shade will move throughout the day, so keep that in mind when choosing a spot.

Just like with dogs, make sure these animals have lots of cool water.

Know the Signs of Dehydration and Heat Stroke

Part of knowing how to keep a dog cool in the summer is knowing how to spot the signs of dehydration and heat stroke.

Signs of dehydration:

  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting with or without diarrhea
  • Reduced energy levels and lethargy
  • Panting
  • Sunken, dry-looking eyes
  • Dry nose
  • Dry, sticky gums
  • Thick saliva

If you suspect your pet’s dehydrated, give them plenty of fresh, cool water. A vet visit is also recommended because it can get serious fairly quickly.

Signs of heat stroke:

  • Panting
  • Drooling, salivating
  • Lethargy, weakness
  • Agitation, restlessness
  • Very red or pale gums and a right red tongue
  • Increased heart rate
  • Breathing distress
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea (possibly with blood)
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness, staggering
  • Muscle tremors
  • Seizures
  • Collapsing
  • Little to no urine production

Heat stroke is serious! If you notice these signs, your best approach is to head to the vet as soon as possible. In the meantime,

  • Spray tepid/cool water onto the animal’s fur and skin
  • Place a fan near your pet
  • Wetting down the area around your pet can also help

Important: Don’t use ice-cold water or ice as this can make things worse. Also, do not place anything (including wet towels) on your dog – this traps the heat!

This summer, keep your pets – big and small – safe and happy, even on the hottest days!