As the summer heat rolls in, it’s crucial to prioritize the well-being of our furry friends. Dogs are highly susceptible to overheating and heat-related illnesses, which is why it’s essential to know how to keep them cool during the scorching summer months. In this blog post, we will share valuable tips and refreshing treat recipes to ensure your beloved canine companion stays comfortable, happy, and safe. Let’s dive in and discover the best practices for keeping your dog cool in summer.
We live near Toronto, Ontario, Canada where summer temperatures range anywhere between 20°C to 35°C (68°F to 95°F). It’s a humid place. When it’s 35°C , it can often feel like 41°C (105°F). Sienna, who is a black lab mix, adores the heat. She lived the first few years of her life near Puebla, Mexico (southeast of Mexico City) and came to Canada when she was about 3 years old.
In stark contrast, Willow, our Bernese Mountain Dog mix, was born near Toronto and can’t handle the heat. She seeks out shade even in the teens. As we discuss heat and warm weather throughout this article, it’s important to keep in mind the differences and preferences of different dogs.
Understanding the Heat Sensitivity of Dogs
Dogs have a limited ability to regulate their body temperature, making them more vulnerable to heat-related issues. Unlike humans, dogs do not have the same ability to sweat in order to cool themselves down. They mainly sweat through the glands in their paws. They also rely on panting to help cool themselves. It’s important to be aware of the signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke in dogs, such as excessive panting, drooling, weakness, and collapse. If you notice any of these symptoms, seek immediate veterinary attention.
Signs of Stress or Heat Stroke
Overheating or heatstroke can be extremely dangerous or even fatal to pets. It can happen when it is just warm out, not only when it’s hot. While certain factors may increase risk such as short-snout, elderly, overweight, or thick-furred, it’s important to be aware that ANY dog can be at risk. It can even happen from just sitting outside.
If you notice some or all these symptoms, seek immediate veterinary attention:
- Excessive panting and or drooling
- Loss of coordination or disoriented
- Shaking, weakness and/or lethargy
- Dry or sticky gums
Creating a Cool and Comfortable Environment
Provide your dog with a shaded area, ideally under a tree or a canopy, to protect them from direct sunlight. You can also use portable shade options like umbrellas or canopies in your backyard or when on the go. Ensuring proper air circulation and ventilation in your dog’s living area is vital. Consider using fans or opening windows to maintain a cool environment. It should go without saying that you should never leave your dog in a parked car, even with the windows open, for even a few minutes.
A raised bed is another great idea to help keep your dog cool. These are made with a mesh that allows the air to fully circulate around your pet, helping to keep them cooler.
Some dogs also love a cooling vest, cooling mat or even a wet towel to lie on. Even a damp bandana can help cool your pup!
Hydration and Water Management
Keeping your dog properly hydrated is crucial during summer. Always provide access to fresh, cool water. To entice your dog to drink more, try adding ice cubes to their water bowl or using a pet water fountain. You can also make homemade electrolyte-rich ice cubes using a mixture of water and low-sodium chicken broth. These icy treats will help keep your dog hydrated while providing a refreshing cool-down. Most dogs also love ice cubes! It’s a fun summer enrichment activity.
You can also use some cooling (frozen) treats for your dog to enjoy in the heat of summer. There are some great pupsicle and dog ice cream ideas out there. We’ve posted a few recipes on this blog including Frozen Cranberry Coconut Dog Treats, DIY Dog Delights: Blueberry, Strawberry and Kefir Pupsicles and Frozen Yogurt and Applesauce Dog Treats. You can also try a frozen Kong or other stuffable.
Water can be a fun way to help cool your dog down, especially if your dog loves to swim. Even if your dog doesn’t enjoy swimming, they may enjoy playing with a sprinkler or hose, or even a small kiddy pool filled with water.
Our girl Willow LOVES her kiddy pool and will often use it several times a day to help cool off. She enjoys bobbing for her toys, and even just splashing around.
If you are lucky enough to live in an area with lots of lakes, streams and rivers, this can be fantastic for your dog. However, we ware of certain potential dangers:
- Blue Algae – a toxin-producing bacteria that is often fatal to dogs. It is often found in still-standing lakes, ponds or rivers and can only be seen with the naked eye when it clumps together. If you think your dog may have been exposed or ingested it, contact your vet immediately. It can also be dangerous to other animals including humans
- Parasites or Bacteria – for example, giardia or leptospirosis can be found in bodies of water
- Water toxicity – too much water at once (swimming or drinking) can lead to water toxicity. Symptoms can include nausea, dilated pupils, lethargy, and light gum colour. If you suspect water toxicity, seek veterinary assistance immediately
Exercise and Activity Management
Adjust your dog’s exercise routine to cooler times of the day, such as early mornings or late evenings, to avoid the peak heat. Be mindful of hot pavement, as it can burn your dog’s paws. If you can’t stand on the pavement in your bare feet, your dog shouldn’t either. Opt for grassy areas or use protective booties to keep their paws safe. On extremely hot days, engage your dog in mentally stimulating indoor activities, such as training games, puzzle toys or treat-dispensing games, to keep them active and entertained.
Grooming and Coat Care
Regular grooming plays a vital role in keeping your dog cool. Brushing your dog’s coat removes loose fur and prevents matting, promoting better airflow and heat dissipation. Keeping the fur around and between their paws trimmed will help promote airflow and help to keep your dog cool.
Resist the urge to shave your dog’s fur too short, as their coat acts as insulation and protects against sunburn. Instead, opt for regular trimming to manage their fur length. You may think that your dog would feel cooler with a short shaved cut, but in actuality it removes the insulating fur, making them more susceptible to sunburn and even heat stroke.
Travelling and Outings with Your Dog
If you’re planning a trip or outing with your dog, ensure you have a well-ventilated and shaded area for them. Never leave your dog unattended in a parked car, as temperatures can rise rapidly, leading to dangerous heatstroke. Plan your activities in dog-friendly places that offer shade and access to fresh water for your furry companion.
With these essential tips and practices, you can ensure that your dog stays cool, comfortable, and safe throughout the summer season. Remember to provide a cool environment, and ample hydration, and adjust exercise routines accordingly. By being mindful of your dog’s well-being and implementing these strategies, you’ll create a summer experience that both you and your canine companion can enjoy to the fullest.
While you’re here, check out some of our other articles like Navigating the World of Dog Treats: The Importance of Reading Labels, What Makes the Perfect Dog Training Treat? and From Boredom to Brilliance: Discover the Magic of Mental Stimulation Games for Dogs.