The Dog Days of Summer: How to keep your dog cool during hot weather

As pet owners, we often wish our dogs could just tell us when they are too hot or otherwise uncomfortable. It would certainly make things easier and a little less stressful for us, right?

Fortunately, even though dogs can’t speak to us, there are many physical signs they give us that can indicate they are uncomfortable. Many times, dog owners just don’t know what those signs are. It is important to understand your dog’s unique body language in order to keep him healthy and comfortable. This is especially important during the hot summer months because just like humans, dogs can be extremely sensitive to the heat. Some dog breeds are more sensitive to the hot weather than others, but it is still important to know some physical signs that indicate your dog is getting too hot. Remember, he does have a fur coat on all year long!

There are a number of things you can do to ensure your dog stays healthy in the hot summer months and still has a great time with you. Below are some important steps you can take to keep your dog comfortable.

1. Be wary of their paws on the pavement.

bubble gum, shoes, glue

As humans, we may not be aware of how hot certain surfaces such as pavement, wood, or concrete can be on a dog’s paw pads. (we wear shoes outside; dogs don’t!) A good rule of thumb is that if it is too hot for you to walk barefoot on a surface, it’s too hot for your dog. Try touching the surface before walking your dog on it. If you wouldn’t want to step on it, your dog won’t either. If you can, limit your dog’s walks to grassy areas or keep walks on the pavement short on brutally hot days. Changing your walking schedule to early mornings or evenings when it’s cooler outside is a good idea, too. You can also purchase booties to put on your dog’s feet to protect them.

2. Always provide enough water.

Just like humans, dogs can easily overheat and become dehydrated in hot weather. It is crucial that you always have enough water on hand for both you and your dog. If you are exploring the outdoors with your buddy this summer, don’t forget to pack a collapsible water bowl and extra water for him! You can even buy water bottles that come with a small “bowl” from which your dog can drink. Don’t just assume there will be freshwater sources for your dog to drink from, such as streams. You can also purchase portable water filters (via Amazon) to make sure you and your buddy never run out of water if you’re adventuring outside. And remember, even if your dog is just hanging out inside during a hot day, he still needs access to fresh water to stay hydrated.

3. Don’t leave your dog outside for extended periods of time.

When it’s uncomfortably hot, it is best to limit your dog’s time outside. Don’t leave him out in the yard for more than a few minutes at a time. Panting is a dog’s way of cooling down and can indicate it’s time to come inside to cool off. Additionally, check out your dog’s gums — if they are bright red, he is getting too overheated and needs to cool off and drink some water. Dogs may also dig in the dirt and lay in the hole they create to try and cool themselves off. Watch out for these behaviors that may indicate your dog is getting too warm, and don’t leave your dog unattended outside.

4. Spoil him with some yummy frozen treats.

dog, puppy, animal

Many dogs love chomping and crunching on ice cubes, which are a great treat for cooling off in the summer. However, if your dog needs something a little more tantalizing than that, there are several easy summertime treats you can make for your dog. Try freezing some plain Greek yogurt or peanut butter in a dog toy, or freeze some chicken stock in an ice cube tray with treats inside! There are plenty of ways to get creative to provide your dog with tasty, frozen treats. Even simply freezing a chew toy can provide some relief from the heat. You can also purchase toys that are meant to be frozen for your dog.

5. Don’t leave your dog in the car.

The interior of a car heats up fast, even if it’s not necessarily that hot outside. Therefore, it is important to remember to never leave your dog in the car for longer than a few minutes, and even then the windows should be down or the air conditioner should be left on. Leaving your dog unattended in a hot car is extremely dangerous. Just think about how hot your car is when it’s been parked in the sun. Your dog should not be sitting in that heat. Just don’t do it!

6. Go easy on the exercise.

Make sure your dog isn’t running around too much in the hot sun, and if he is panting excessively, bring him inside. Sometimes, dogs with high energy can “go, go, go” for extended periods despite the heat. They don’t necessarily understand that they are working themselves too hard. If your dog wants to play outside, take frequent breaks to bring him inside and cool off, and always provide enough water. Also, look for shady spots out there!

7. Let him splash in a kiddie pool.

jack russel, swimming pool, dog

Not every dog likes the water, but if your dog does, let him hang outside with you and stay comfortable by splashing around in a pool. Small, plastic pools are inexpensive but can still be entertaining for your dog! Make it even more fun by adding ice cubes or other toys for your dog to play with. Some dogs love to play with the hose, too, just like you when you were a kid! Another tip: if your dog likes to dunk his head and his ears get soaking wet, you can dab a cotton ball with rubbing alcohol gently into the ears to dry them out after swimming to prevent ear infections. Just don’t use too much.

8. Let him lay on a cool towel or an ice pack.

If you suspect your dog is getting warm, you can try providing a cool, wet towel for him to lay on, or wrap an ice pack inside a towel. There are also “cooling mats” you can purchase for him to snooze on as well! There is nothing better than a nice nap in a cool place on a hot summer day.

9. Know the signs of heatstroke.

There are several signs that indicate a dog is experiencing heat stroke. Symptoms may include the following:

  • Increase in panting
  • Red gums
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Unusual drooling/thick saliva
  • Lethargy/depressed mood
  • Dry nose
  • Warm to the touch
  • Vomiting
  • Staggering or an unwillingness to move
  • Muscle tremors or seizures

If you think your dog is experiencing heatstroke, bring him inside immediately and call your vet. It is a good idea to keep your vet’s phone number in your contact list so that you can give them a quick call if you have any concerns about your dog or if he is showing signs of heatstroke. If you have other concerns about your dog being outside in the heat, don’t be afraid to call your vet just to ask simple questions — that’s why they are there!

10. Sometimes, it’s best just to let your dog chill out at home.

Your dog wants to hang out with you as much as possible, but it’s important to remember that the hot weather can sometimes be too much for him. In that case, it may be better to leave your dog at home if you are venturing out for a day in the sun. For example, don’t bring your dog hiking on a hot day. Even if the hot weather doesn’t bother you personally, your dog may get overheated quickly and that can be dangerous. If you are leaving your dog at home, make sure he has access to freshwater, leave the air conditioner on, and close the shades. Sometimes, it’s just better to be safe than sorry. Your dog will be alright at home if he can’t come with you.

Ultimately, we all want to give our four-legged friends the best lives possible, so it’s important to keep in mind that they can’t speak up and tell us when they’re feeling too hot in the summer. Paying attention to physical signs such as panting and keeping him hydrated will ensure your dog stays comfortable and has a great summer with you. Dogs love to adventure with you; just make sure you are taking special care when it’s hot outside!

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