Now the sun has decided to make an appearance we need to think about how best to keep our dogs nice and cool in the warmer weather. Heat is an issue for dogs, when we’re getting into the 20+ degrees temperatures we need to start being mindful that our dogs are going to start struggling because they’re wearing a fur coat all the time.
A top tip from us is that any time you think ‘cool, it’s shorts and t-shirt weather for me’, it’s time to think about your dog and how they’re coping in the weather.
Puppies and senior dogs feel the heat more than others, as well as flat faced breads and dogs with double coats like Huskies. Also, dogs like whippets and greyhounds have very thin skin which stops the transfer of heat out of their bodies. Poodle-y type dogs that get close shaves won’t have much protection as they would have done had their hair grown longer, which sounds counterintuitive but actually the air layer between the hair and the skin is really helpful for them in terms of regulating their own temperatures.
Essentially – dogs fur works like a barrier between the heat and the cool. Just like housing insulation works to keep us warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
Heat stroke can be a really big thing for dogs, it can kill dogs as dogs cannot regulate their temperature as well as us humans can. When we have hot weather, as humans we tend to wear cooler clothes and we can sweat (v. glamorous) from multiple places on our bodies. We release heat from the tops of our heads and other parts of our body. There’s lots happening within the human body to help us regulate our temperatures when it gets warm.
Unfortunately, when it comes to dogs, they don’t have as many mechanisms to help them so they can only sweat through the pads on their paws and they can breathe out the heat when they’re panting. But that’s pretty much all they’ve got.
Here are five ways to keep dogs cool in the warm weather:
1. Cool down around bellies and arm pits
Dogs blood vessels sit closer to their skin on their bellies, under their arms and essentially anywhere you see a little bit more skin. So, if we think our dogs are warm and overheating, the first thing we want to do is get them wet in those places. Not soaking wet but nice and damp because when we’re damp, rather than soaking wet we feel the cool a bit more.
A good way to do this is to place damp towels (dampened with cool water) underneath our dogs. If they are laying down and having a snooze you can pop the towels on their bellies and under their armpits.
What we don’t want to do is go from being too hot to being too cold because we don’t want those blood vessels to constrict too quickly. We want to help them cool down but we need to be careful about how quickly we go about it.
If you’re out and about, your dog may go and lay down in a puddle anyway. This is something to be encouraged as it will help them cool down.
2. Moving walks
If you can, look at moving walks to mornings and late afternoons/evenings. The temperature is at its hottest around midday since the sun is at its highest point. If you can avoid walking at this time, that would really help your dog.
Also, we need to be aware of what we’re walking on. So, places like the woods are great because the trees provide a cover which makes the ground cool underfoot.
Pavements however, they soak up the sun throughout the day and they keep hold of the heat. A good test is if you’re brave enough, take off your shoes and socks and stand on the pavement in your bare feet. If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your dog.
While you’re out on a walk with your dog in the woods, make sure you take it nice and slow and go for a meander rather than a hike, let them sniff and take their time. A good way to encourage this is to chuck a load of treats in the grass and let them search out the yummies so they keep their whizzing around energy down but they use energy up looking for the treats and sniffing around.
3. Cool coats and cooling mats
I love a cool coat for Bob – we get them from places like B&M/the Range, those sorts of places. We’ve tried an expensive one and it didn’t quite work for us.
Generally, when it comes to cool coats, the more surface area of the dog that you can cover, the better.
4. Fresh water and food
It goes without saying but make sure your dog has access to fresh water at all times.
You can put ice cubes in the water but you need to be mindful of your dog guzzling loads of water. If your dog is really, really, really hot and guzzles loads of water, there is a high chance of your dog getting bloat which is pretty bad.
Bloat is where your dog takes on a load of air and this is a life-threatening condition.
Hopefully if you’re doing all you can for your dog so it doesn’t need to take on loads of water at once. If they feel they need to guzzle down loads of water, we’ve pushed them too much and they are too hot already.
If you think there is a potential for your dog to gulp down loads of water, a good way to combat this is to give them a little bit of water and then leave it 10 minutes before giving them more. If you do it in increments like this it will really help.
If your dog looks pretty sensible, we can put ice cubes in the water. There’s always a debate about whether or not your dog should be eating ice cubes – I think it’s okay to give your dogs an ice cube to play with.
An option is to make really weak chicken or vegetable stocks and put them in the freezer so the dog’s interacting with them. You could also freeze your KONGs, so all of your interactive dog toys that you normally give them, you can freeze those so your dog essentially has an ice cream.
If your dog doesn’t particularly like to drink (Bob can be a pain for this!) you could pop up a paddling pool for them or find a way to get them to have a drink that suits them. Offering them fruit like watermelon is a good solution too.
If you’re home, make sure your dog has free access to the house and garden, give them options of sunny and shady spots. Most dogs will like to sunbathe, but they can pretty much regulate it themselves. If your dog is having a chilled day at home, let them go out and sunbathe, it’s not the end of the world. They’ll bring themselves in when they’re ready. Just make sure that they do bring themselves in and make sure they have access to water points, paddling pools if you’ve got them, shady spots that they can regulate where they are and they can move themselves around.
Bob is like a 16 year old girl in Ibiza and is a real sun-seeker but then he’ll always bring himself in as well.
If you’re not in and you can’t give them free access, make sure the room they’re in doesn’t get too hot. So, if your living room faces the back garden and the back garden gets the sun in the afternoon, try and give them access to other rooms as well.
This way, they’ve got the ability (if that room is getting too warm) to move out and go into another room as well.
What we really don’t want to do is trap our dogs into rooms that get too hot.
Of course, it goes without saying, don’t leave your dogs in cars. If you have driven somewhere, try and park in the shade because when you come back, it’ll be a lot cooler for them to get in.