dog drinking water in the heat

Top tips to keep your dog cool in summer reading-time-icon 3 min read

We may love the warm, sunny weather but those hot days are no fun for our furry friends. Dogs in particular often suffer from heat stress, and are especially susceptible to heat stroke, which can be fatal, so it is vital to know how to keep your pet pooch cool in the heat. Here are some top tips for keeping your pet cool in the hot summer months.

Why dogs overheat

As humans, it’s easy for us to do something about it when we feel ourselves overheating. We can open doors and windows, take off a layer of clothing, fix ourselves a cold drink or move to a cooler spot. Our pets don’t have that luxury.

Our bodies may sweat to cool down, but our pets’ bodies don’t work in the same way. A hot dog pants to cool down, but when they’re stuck in an enclosed area with limited air, panting often isn’t enough to return them to a comfortable, safe temperature.

“Recognising the signs of overheating could save your dog’s life.”

Reducing the risk of your dog overheating

We can’t stress enough how vital it is never, ever to leave your dog unattended in a car – even for a few minutes. Doing so is by far the biggest risk and cause of heat stroke in dogs. The combination of the lack of air and the greenhouse heating effect of the glass can be fatal to your dog.

When travelling with your dog on a hot day, use air conditioning to keep the car cool, and make sure your dog has plenty of water during the journey. Take regular breaks for short, shady walks to keep your dog comfortable and cool.

Always avoid vigorously exercising your dog in the hottest part of the day – usually between 11am and 4pm. Keep them indoors in the cool and shade, with plenty of access to water.

If your dog doesn’t have much hair, you may want to apply sun cream to any exposed skin, especially around the ears and nose. By contrast, if your dog has lots of hair, consider giving his coat a trim to help him cope better on hot days.

TIP: Before taking a dog on any pavements in hot weather, place the back of your hand on the ground, if it’s too hot within 5 seconds it’s too hot for your dog’s paws. Burnt pads are very common in sunny weather and can be very painful.

Spotting the warning signs of a dog overheating

As a dog owner, you need to know the warning signs when your dog is beginning to overheat so you can act fast to avoid heat stroke. Knowing these vital signs and symptoms could save your pet’s life.

Danger signs of overheating in dogs

  • Panting heavily
  • Bright pink or red tongue and gums
  • A lolling tongue
  • Lethargy and reluctance to exercise
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness and stumbling

If you suspect your dog has heat stroke, or is suffering from overheating, always get them checked out by your vet.

How to cool down a hot dog

  • Make sure your pet has plenty of fresh water at all times – including out on walks.
  • Fans are a great way to help your dog cool down, but always make sure your dog can move away if he wants to and be sure to keep the fan away from long hair.
  • If you spot your dog panting more than usual, move him to a cool, shady spot.
  • Towel your dog with a damp, cool towel, but be sure to stop when he stops panting, to avoid the risk of over-chilling your pet.

Do not use cold water or ice directly on your dog as this can cause other problems.

Dogs at high risk of heat stroke

Some dogs are more prone to heat stroke than others. Bulldogs, pugs and greyhounds are among the breeds most likely to overheat. You should also be aware of the risks of overheating if your dog falls into any of these categories:

  • Dogs with dark coats (which absorb the sun’s rays rather than reflecting them)
  • Overweight dogs
  • Dogs with long, thick coats
  • Dogs with brachycephalic syndrome or laryngeal paralysis

Need advice on keeping your pet cool in summer?

Your local vet is always on hand with help and advice on preventing heat stroke in pets. To find your nearest vet, use our handy Find a Vet page.