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The essentials

  • Cars get really hot, even with the windows cracked — The inside of your car can heat up quickly regardless of where you live or what color your car is. It’s important to limit the time dogs spend in a hot car, and keep the air conditioner going.
  • The risk of heatstroke is a real threat for dogs — When your dog’s body temperature gets too high, there can be serious, life-threatening consequences. It’s important to be aware of the impact summer heat can have on your dog.
  • Always keep plenty of cool water available — Warm temperatures in the summer can put dogs at risk of dehydration, so make sure to always keep fresh water for them at the ready.

Summer is the time to soak up the sun and have fun with your pup outdoors. But, just like us, dogs can get too warm on hot days. While dogs can cool themselves off, extreme temperatures can lead to heatstroke for your pup. It’s critical for pet parents to be aware of ways to regulate a dog’s body temperature and keep them cool in warmer weather.

Understanding dogs and heat

Dogs don’t respond to extreme heat in quite the same way we do. It’s vital to understand how dogs handle heat and how you can help protect your dog and prevent overheating or a heatstroke.

How dogs naturally handle heat

Sweating through a tee-shirt is how people handle heat, but for dogs, it looks a little different. Except for their paw pads, dogs don’t sweat through their skin. Instead, dogs pant. Moisture leaves their body through their lungs, noses, and tongues — basically, panting is the only method your dog really has to cool down. So, what happens when that isn’t enough?

What heat stress in dogs looks like

When dogs begin to overheat, certain signs come up. The signs of heatstroke and heat exhaustion are similar, except a heat stroke is more intense. While you’re in hot weather, watch fo these signs:

  • Excessive drooling and panting. As dogs get hotter, they pant harder. Intense panting and drooling can be a sign that your dog is way too hot.
  • Gums and tongue discoloration. As your dog overheats, their body will try to get cooler by increasing blood flow to their extremities, which makes their gums turn red (or blue).
  • Disorientation. Darting eyes, walking in circles, vomiting, or an unsteady gait or stance can all be a sign of disorientation in dogs.
  • Weakness. Shaking while trying to walk, having difficulty standing, or overall unable to do things your dog can typically do can be a sign of weakness or lethargy.

Anytime the gums on a dog are a bright red color or bluish in color it is considered abnormal. It is usually easy to notice compared to their normal pink gums. Change in gum color could be an indication that the condition is serious and requires immediate medical attention.

Dr. Dwight Alleyne

Heat and brachycephalic breeds

Due to the shape of their heads and skull structure, brachycephalic dog breeds (like French bulldogs, pugs, and bullmastiffs to name a few) have narrowed airways, and a harder time expelling moisture and heat. Brachycephalic airway syndrome is unique to breeds like this, and it means that even when your dog is breathing normally and not overheating or exerting a lot of energy, breathing is a bit more of a challenge.

It’s important to keep this in mind before adopting or purchasing a dog, If you live in a hot climate and plan for your dog to spend extended time outside, or want a dog that will be more active, it’s best to consider non-brachycephalic breeds.

Simple ways to keep your dog cool

Keeping your dog cool during the summer isn’t as complicated as you might think. A few proactive measures can go a long way to keep your dog comfortable in any temperature.

Choose the right time for walks

While dogs and people like routine, one of the best ways to help keep your dog cooler is to choose a cooler timefor outdoor time. Whether it’s a calm walk around the block or outdoor exercise, choose a timeframe that’s typically cooler, or check the weather before heading out to see how hot it is.

Is it safe to take your dog outside?

Safe temperatures for your dog

85 or hotter Dangerous, or fatal for all dogs
75-85 Possibly risky or dangerous for most dogs
65-75 Low to no risk for most dogs
55-65 Safe for most dogs

🚨It’s important to note that your car gets considerably hotter than the area around it. Some states, like New York, put legislation in place to help save animals trapped in hot cars. Cars can heat up significantly in as little as 10 minutes, which can be fatal for pups locked inside.

Have plenty of water available

Just like humans, staying hydrated is important for our pets. It’s especially critical during hot summer days where dogs (and you) are losing more moisture. Carry collapsible dog bowls and spare water (or choose a food and water set, like this one) and provide plenty of opportunities for your dog to have a nice, refreshing cool drink. Dogs should drink about their weight in ounces — so your 120 lb St. Bernard should be drinking about 120 oz of water— but, during hot days and depending on their breed, more is better. Be careful, though, not to let your dog drink too much water, as it might upset their stomach.

Try out cooling products

Some products are designed to help our pets stay cool. Even some cat breeds, like the Maine coon, can overheat due to their size and thick coats. Here are some options available to you and your furry best friend.

  • Dog cooling vests. Designed to keep your dog’s core temperature lower and your pup comfortable, these dog cooling vests look similar to a thundershirt or safety vest. They are meant to cover more of their body to keep them cooler.
  • Dog cooling mats. Made with pressure-activated gel inside, a cooling mat becomes cool to the touch whenever your dog lays on it, providing instant relief from heat.
  • Dog boots. Adding another layer to your dog may help them stay more comfortable during hot weather. Booties made of a breathable fabric designed to keep your dog’s feet cool while protecting them from hot pavement are ideal.

Create shady rest places

For dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors, creating a shading space is a great way to help them cool down and beat the heat during a hot summer. Providing a covered doggie area, a well insulated dog house, or installing a doggie door so that they have access to the home is essential. Even with a cool area to rest in the shade, it’s crucial to keep an eye on your dog to ensure that they remain cool and comfortable throughout the day. You can also consider an outdoor elevated dog bed to create a buffer between your pup and the hot surface of the ground.

Organize swimming sessions

Swimming sessions, whether it’s at a doggie pool, beach, organized event, or lake, can help your dog have fun and cool down at the same time. It’s also a great chance to bond with you or work on building their tolerance of other dogs. If your dog isn’t the strongest swimmer, you can even invest in a doggie life jacket to keep them afloat.

Outdoor water play

If a pool isn’t an option, simply playing with water toys for dogs in the backyard can do a lot to keep your dog engaged and cooler during the summer. It’s vital to keep an eye on if your dog is overheating, but assuming they aren’t, this is a great option for mental and physical exercise, and staying comfortable.

3 tips for making your house dog-friendly during summer

While the outdoors can heat up and there’s little to remedy it, high temperatures in the home are something that pet parents can help with. Here are three tips for keeping your indoors comfortable for your pup (and you!)

1. Use air conditioning and fans

For homes that don’t have central heating and cooling, rising temperatures can be a problem And, what may feel a little warm to you, may be very uncomfortable to your dog. Invest in window units (or portable air conditioners when needed) as well as fans to help keep the overall temperature lower.

2. Invest in cooling beds

Cooling dog beds are also an option as well. When the ambient temperature isn’t quite enough to help your dog stay comfortable during hot summer days, a cooling dog mat or bed may be a good choice.

3. Provide access to cool floors and rooms

Certain flooring, like carpet, can do more than just trap fleas and dirt — it can hold onto heat as well. The best flooring for dogs may just be tile, or another cooler flooring that allows dogs to cool down as they stretch across the floor.

Importance of grooming in summer

For dogs with a thicker coat or thick double coat, grooming during the summer months is critical to staying cool. While shaving your dog should be the last resort (and should never be done with double-coated dogs), regularly detangling and removing errant strands of hair is always a good idea and can prevent heavy, painful mats from developing. These mats can trap heat (along with oils and a variety of other icky things) and cause more problems for your dog.

Best grooming practices for the hot season

  • Short-haired dogs. Describe grooming tips. Use a grooming glove or soft wired brush to gently remove short hair without causing pain or discomfort for your dog’s skin.
  • Long-haired dogs. For dogs with long hair or a lot of it, groom them in sections to prevent missing anything, and consider using a dog hair tie to keep hair out of their eyes.

Managing your dog’s diet during summer

Dogs tend to eat more during colder months, when their bodies are working harder to stay warm. In the summertime, that isn’t quite the case. Rather than focusing on putting your dog on a diet (unless otherwise instructed by your vet), it’s helpful to spend more time finding ways to give your dog treats that are summer-appropriate!

Optimal treats for hot weather

Some of the best ways you can help your dog beat the heat and bond with them is with summer treats. Here are a few treats your dog will love during the hottest months of the year.

  • Popsicles. Browse our dog popsicle recipes for the perfect vet-approved and pup-loved popsicles!
  • Fruit. Some fruit isn’t ideal or even safe for dogs, but others, like blueberries and strawberries, are fine in moderate amounts.
  • DIY treats. DIY dog treats that you make yourself are a great way to make sure your dog isn’t getting anything they shouldn’t.
  • Ice cubes. While not exactly a treat, many dogs appreciate the crunch and cooling sensation of a simple ice cube.

Frequently asked questions

What are signs that my dog is overheating in the summer?

There are some distinct signs your dog is overheating, like excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increased heart rate, drooling, and mild to severe weakness. More severe symptoms can include seizures, bloody diarrhea, and vomiting. Always consult with a veterinarian if you suspect your dog is overheating.

How frequently should I provide water for my dog in the summer?

During the summer, fresh water should be available for your dog at all times. If your dog is especially active or spends a lot of time outdoors, providing a dog water fountain or refreshing the water multiple times a day can promote hydration. Always ensure your dog’s water bowl is filled and in a shaded area to keep it cool. If going on a long walk or hike, make sure to bring along a water bottle for you and your pup.

Are there any specific breeds that are more prone to overheating?

Yes, certain breeds are indeed more prone to overheating, particularly those with short snouts. These dogs, also known as brachycephalic breeds, have smaller airways which make them less efficient at cooling themselves down than other breeds.

How can I make sure my dog’s outdoor environment is safe and cool during the summer?

The best way to keep your dog safe from overheating while outdoors is by providing ample shade and fresh, cold water. Also consider creating a small kiddie pool for your dog to play and cool off in. Always avoid areas with hot pavement or sand to prevent their paws from burning. Another good idea is to limit exercise on especially hot days, or plan your outdoor summer adventures around the cooler times of the day.

What accessories or products can I use to keep my dog cool in the summer?

You can use cooling mats, dog cooling vests, doggie pools, and shade, or fans to help keep your dog cool. Additionally, dog-safe sunscreen can be helpful for dogs who spend a lot of time outdoors in the summer, or for those at risk of sunburn, like the hairless Xoloitzcuintli.