How to Keep Dogs Cool in Summer

Updated: 12/21/20232-4 minutes
How to Keep Dogs Cool in Summer

Keeping dogs cool in the summer can be as simple as making sure there’s plenty of cool, fresh water available and avoiding exercise during the hottest parts of the day.  

Summertime has many people heading outside to enjoy the warm days and sunshine. If you have a dog, there’s nothing better than bringing your canine with you so you can enjoy the warm weather together. Be aware, however, that dogs can overheat in warm temperatures.  

Fortunately, you can bring them along on almost any adventure as long as you take a few precautions. Here are some helpful tips on how to keep dogs cool in summer. 

6 Tips to Keep Dogs Cool in Summer

1. Have Plenty of Fresh, Cold Water Available

Whether you’re taking your dog on a hike or just playing in the backyard, it’s important to make fresh, cold water available and accessible for them. Dogs that do not receive adequate hydration during play time are at risk of suffering from heat stress. This is especially true during warm, humid weather, so it’s important to provide them with frequent rest and water breaks. 

It’s estimated that a dog’s water requirements may more than double when exercising in warm temperatures. Bring a portable, collapsible water bowl or squirt bottle and make sure they receive adequate hydration by giving small amounts of water every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise.  

It’s vital to know how to cool off a dog when they overheat. Start by giving your dog hydration and moving them to the shade immediately if they start panting excessively. However, Arleigh Reynolds, Purina Senior Research Nutritionist and Veterinarian cautions against giving too much water at once. 

“For a forty-five to fifty-five pound dog, don’t let them drink more than four to eight ounces of water at a time. Give them some more [water] ten to fifteen minutes later, after they’ve had time to absorb it and get it out of their stomach.” Giving too much water at once could lead to vomiting, bloat and other dangerous conditions. 

2. Play in the Water

Another tip for those wondering how to cool down a dog is remembering that a wet dog is a cool dog. Plan outdoor summer activities with your dog that involve playing in water, whether it’s running through sprinklers or swimming in pools or lakes. Water activities are one of the most fun ways to protect your dog from the summer heat. 

3. Avoid the Midday Heat

You and your dog can exercise outside any time of day, depending on the heat and humidity. A mild, overcast day with low humidity might be okay for a midday walk or run.  

If it’s sunny, 80 degrees and high humidity, it’s better to avoid the midday heat. If you do need to get some exercise on those types of days, try to go early in the morning or later in the evening when it’s not as hot.  

Remember to check the temperature of the pavement before you go. Even on milder days, asphalt can get extremely hot in direct sunlight. Be sure to put your hand on the pavement to test the temperature. You can also pour water on blacktops. If it immediately starts to steam up, it’s too hot for your dog.  

“You can get little boots for your dogs’ paws, but you have to be careful with those too,” says Dr. Reynolds. “If they get hot, it will cause a problem anyway.” He prefers walking his dogs on trails. Because they aren’t hard surfaces and are typically shaded, they’re less likely to cause injury.  

4. Never Leave Your Dog in a Parked Car 

Don’t leave your dog in a parked car—ever—even with the windows cracked. Even on milder days, temperatures inside a vehicle can quickly rise to dangerous, life-threatening levels.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Cars parked in direct sunlight can reach internal temperatures up to 131°F to 172°F when it’s 80°F to 100°F outside.” 

If you want to take your dog on a road trip this summer, Dr. Reynolds says, “In the car with air conditioning is fine. Keep an eye on your dog to see if they start panting, though. If the dog isn’t acclimated to travel, the extra anxiety associated with traveling can be enough to put a dog over the edge.” Dogs can get carsick, and panting can be a sign of nausea and stress.  

Dr. Reynolds trains his dogs from an early age, so not only are they used to travel, but it’s something they also look forward to.  

5. Stay Out of the Dog House

Most dog houses don’t allow for airflow, making them dangerous in the summer heat. If you need to keep outside dogs cool in summer, give them plenty of shady areas to where they can lounge with fresh, cool water on hand. Adding ice to the water bowl can help, too.  

6. Know the Signs of Heatstroke in Dogs 

Any time you’re out and about with your dog, pay attention to their behavior, body language and more.  

According to Dr. Reynolds, there are a couple of things to look for, including “panting and how excited your dog is to keep going with the activity. If your dog suddenly starts holding back on a walk or run, that’s a clear sign to take a break and cool off. Another thing to look for is how they hold their ears and tail.  

“If your dog’s ears are erect and he’s alert and looking around, great. If they start to droop, that’s worrisome. The same goes for the tail. I’ve noticed when a lot of dogs get warm, if they have a tail that’s normally up and wagging, it will start to drift down or even go all the way down, which is another warning sign.” 

Another indication of heatstroke is the size and length of their tongue. Panting is how dogs cool down, and as their tongue grows in width and length, they’re attempting to offload more heat and may not be able to do as much as they need. 

Heatstroke is a severe risk for dogs on hot days. Puppies, senior dogs and those in poor health are at higher risk. Following the above tips can help prevent overheating and heatstroke in dogs, but knowing what to look for is critical. 

Symptoms of heatstroke include:  

  • Excessive panting and/or salivating 
  • Obvious discomfort 
  • Vomiting and diarrhea 
  • Disorientation 
  • Seizures 

If you notice any of the above symptoms, get your dog into a cooler environment as soon as possible and call your veterinarian for further instructions. Dr. Reynolds recommends carrying a digital thermometer with you so you can monitor your dog’s temperature.  

“If your dog’s body temperature goes above one hundred and four degrees, it’s time to get them out of the sun and decrease the level of activity,” he says. “A 104-degree body temperature isn’t dangerous, but it’s a threshold. A dog who’s handling the heat well may have a temperature of 109 degrees and within a minute, it will drop to 104 and down to 102 in another minute. 

When your dog’s temperature stays elevated, even after stopping activity and getting out of the heat, that’s a sign you need to intervene.” 

Dr. Reynolds recommends squirting your dog’s chest and armpits with cool water and rubbing it in or soaking their paws. You can also rinse their mouth with water, which helps their internal cooling system work more efficiently.  

Many signs of heatstroke may not appear for several days, so be on the lookout beyond your outdoor activities. Prompt veterinary care can prevent or treat some of these complications.  

Get more insight, tips and advice about dogs from our experts on our Pet Expertise page. 

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