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Warm Weather Dangers: How To Keep Dogs Cool in Summer

Knowing how to keep dogs cool in summer weather sounds easy, but thousands of summer accidents and mishaps happen to pets. Some of most-searched-for articles on Google include “can dogs stay outside in the heat,” and “can I leave my dog in car during summer.” Even the best pet parents may be doing something wrong when it comes to keeping dogs cool in warmer months.

Here are some warm weather dangers, how to avoid them, and solutions to keep your dog cool as a cucumber all summer long.

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How To Keep Dogs Cool in Summer

Keep Dogs Cool In Summer By Swimming

Not all dogs innately love to swim and are not natural-born swimmers in the water. Though many dogs enjoy swimming, but some cannot swim, and others may hate the water. Never force a dog to swim. If your dog is near a pool or body of water, ensure he or she has a life vest or life jackets. According to petMD, and we concur, never rely on the life vest so much that you leave your dog unattended.

In general, dogs can be categorized in one of the following three areas:

  1. Dogs who can swim with a natural ability;
  2. Dogs who are not able to stay afloat/survive in water;
  3. Dogs who can be taught to swim and enjoy the experience;

Never force a dog to swim if he or she shows signs of displeasure/not liking it. You can still take your pooch along on a boat, to the lake, or beach with certain precautions in place, as noted.

Solution: Just don’t do it. If your dog wants to be in or around water, she will let you know it. A life jacket is a must like the one we use if your dog will be spending any time on or near water. A kiddie pool is a good start, but again, never force a dog to go into a pool if she is just not into it. You’ll do more harm than good in trying to help her beat the heat. 

Take baby steps and go at her pace to at least make her comfortable being near water, that way you can spend time at a beach, near a lake, or maybe even boating together. 

If your dog likes to swim or maybe you don’t have a big pool, I know of folks who tried this foldable dog pet pool with success. 

Walking On Hot Pavement

Never walk a dog on hot pavement or sidewalk.

A dog owner in the state of Washington recently took his pup for a walk on a hot day. He had no idea his poor dog was suffering from burns to his paw pads. His pooch never whimpered or cried out to indicate pain, so the man kept walking. It wasn’t until they got home that he noticed a problem, as you can see in this photo:

dog paw burned on sidewalk
Photo credit: Medical Lake Veterinary Hospital

Solution

A good rule of thumb is this: If it’s too hot for your bare feet, it’s too hot for dogs to walk on that same surface.

Though a dog’s pads contain much fatty tissue, they can be damaged by hot surfaces. If a dog’s paw pads are severely damaged, a veterinarian might create a usable flap from tissue taken from another paw of the dog. In extreme cases, dogs may lose a limb if the paw damage is extensive.

We’ve gone on vacations and used PAWZ dog paw protectant booties to cover Dexter’s feet. His Cocker Spaniel paws require a size Large, which are the purple ones. In extreme heat, these can melt onto a dog’s paws. Two products I highly recommend for overall dog paw care is Musher’s Secret and Dr. Harvey’s Healing Cream. Dogs can get calluses and lose the ability to absorb shock.

Walk your dog in the early morning or in the evening, thus avoiding the intense sun and heat. I walk our Cocker Spaniel on a tree-lined street on the sidewalk before it gets hot.

Shaving A Dog’s Coat In Summer

If you think your dog is sweating under his fur coat, so shaving a dog during hotter months will keep him cooler, you’d be wrong. Even dogs with a thick double coat maintain a more regular body temperature with their fur left intact.

People stay cool by sweating, the sweat evaporates on our skin, and we cool down. We remove layers of clothing to help beat the heat. Since a dog’s sweat glands are primarily in his paw pads, they cool off differently than we do. They are, however, very much affected by the heat and high temperatures. Panting is the primary method by which dogs cool off.

There may be times when it is necessary to shave a dog’s coat, such as for surgery. In general, don’t do it. 

Solution

Keep the coat trimmed and clean, brushed and properly bathed, but not cut so short as to compromise the dog’s natural cooling system. I tend to keep my dog’s coat shorter for convenience and to look for fleas, ticks, etc. But in general, I never give him a buzz cut for the reasons above.

Two of my favorite brushes I use just about daily on Dexter are the Groom Genie, which stimulates the coat and acts like a massage to the dog, and the Millers Forge Universal Curved slicker brush.

There are cooling jackets and cooling bandanas that we’ve had good luck with as well. I tend to put a cooling vest on Dexter for hot days and spending time outdoors. Amazon has a variety of dog cooling vests, such as this one

 

Keeping A Dog In Car Alone With The Air Conditioner On

A shelter dog being transported to his new home recently died en route in a kennel located inside an air-conditioned vehicle. It was a very hot day and the air conditioning was not powerful enough.

A German Shepherd Dog died while parked steps away from her owners. The dog was inside an air-conditioned SUV while her family dined at a local restaurant. Sadly, the air conditioner did not provide enough airflow or ventilation and the dog succumbed to heatstroke.

Solution

Never leave your dog alone in a car, as he is prone to theft, mechanical malfunction of the car, any number of in-car accidents, and even with the air conditioner left on, things can and do go wrong.

During travels with our dog, and while we are in the vehicle and it is running with adequate air conditioning, we use a pet cooling mat for Dexter to sit on in the back seat. One of the better cooling pads for dogs I’ve found is this one by The Green Pet Shop.

The Myth That Dogs Don’t Need Sunscreen

Just because a dog has fur doesn’t mean they can’t get a sunburn. According to the AKC, hairless dog breeds, such as the Xoloitzcuintli, Chinese Crested, and American Hairless Terrier, need sun protection when they are outside for long periods of time, but so do dogs with white coats, thin coats, and dogs with lighter pigment on their noses and eyelids. These include Collies, Australian Sheepdogs, Dalmatians, Bulldogs, and Whippets.

Dogs with thicker coats may benefit from dog-safe sunscreen if they shed or have a medical condition. If your dog spends more than a few minutes outdoors in the sun, they can suffer sunburn, which is painful and can lead to cancers in dogs.

So how do you apply sunscreen or sun protection lotion to dogs and which type is safe?

Solution

Never use a sunscreen protectant designed for people on a dog. Read the label and talk to your dog’s veterinarian. Keep summer safety in mind by never using a product with zinc oxide or para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), as these ingredients are toxic to dogs if ingested. Dogs are known to lick anything off their skin that we try to put on, and you don’t want them accidentally ingesting a dangerous sunscreen.

I first tested Dexter’s skin with the Epi-Pet sunscreen by applying a bit to one area on his back, brushing his fur back and making sure it was on his skin. You most definitely want a higher SPF, sun protection factor, like a 30 that is also waterproof that is UVA and UVB protective. I use this only when we will be outside in the sun for 10 to 15 minutes or more or when at the beach or a winery.

Put the sunscreen on the areas most targeted by the sun and avoid the eyes and mouth. Dexter gets his sunscreen on his head, bridge of the snout, skin on the groin, inner thighs, and even his back. If you just aren’t into sunscreen and want to protect your dog from the sun’s harmful rays, consider purchasing a sun-protective piece of clothing such as this one.

tips to Keep Dogs Cool in Summer
Dexter loves going to the beach.

Can Dogs Eat Human Ice Cream

Although a small amount of ice cream is generally okay for most dogs to consume,  dogs should not eat human ice cream on a regular basis. Ice cream can affect a dog’s digestive system with gas, bloating, colitis, diarrhea, vomiting, or worse. Sadly, some manufacturers add Xylitol to ice cream, and Xylitol is extremely dangerous to dogs.

Solution

Keep your dog cool and healthy and allow him to enjoy a warm-weather treat like The Bear & The Rat Cool Treats For Dogs. We picked some up at our local Whole Foods store and Dexter loves them! These adorable frozen yogurt treats for dogs come in three flavors and contain Optagest, a healthy probiotic for dogs. There are no preservatives, sugars, corn, wheat, gluten, or anything bad in these cups.

dog keeping cool with doggy ice cream

Keeping Dogs Eyes Safe From The Sun

Eyes of melted chocolate: This is the way many describe Cocker Spaniel eyes. Those gorgeous eyes also come with their fair share of difficulties. Dogs in general suffer from many eye issues, so keeping them safe from the sun’s harmful rays is crucial.

I never thought I’d be one of those dog parents who invested in sunglasses for their dog. I used to think they were silly and unnecessary, so I researched and learned why dogs need eye protection.

Although UV rays don’t generally affect a dog’s eyes to the point of cataracts, there are reasons for Fido to don a pair of shades. Keep in mind, dog sunglasses don’t protect against debris, so hanging a head out the window is frowned upon.

Solution

If your dog spends a lot of time in the sun, you notice him squinting, or you just want him to have protection while on walks, playing, or even hanging out with you, consider something like Doggles. I purchased a pair earlier this summer to use on Dexter.

I slowly acclimated him to the doggy sunglasses and he simply adapted. Some dogs can develop eye issues, and Cocker Spaniels are known for cataracts. I also noticed him squinting in the car and at the park. Like any good dog mom, his eyes are now protected and I felt the under $20 investment was worth it.

dog wearing protective sunglasses
Dex is cool and cute as a cucumber in his Doggles.

Keep Dogs Hydrated And Avoiding Heat Stroke  

Making sure a dog drinks enough water is important year-round. Provide plenty of fresh water to dogs and consider having a few bowls around the house for easy access. Water is the basic foundation of life and all living creatures need it. 

If your dog isn’t a big drinker, there are some clever things you can do to encourage water consumption. Since dogs need daily exercise, get your dog used to moving around. If the dog isn’t panting, he isn’t losing moisture and his body may not crave water as much as a more active dog. If it’s hot out, consider indoor play to keep the dog’s mind and body active. 

Check your dog’s gums frequently, as you want them to be a healthy shrimp color. If your dog has black gums, check her capillary refill time. Press the gums and gently with a finger and release; the blood should come back to the area within 2 or 3 seconds. Dogs who are overheated, suffering from heat stroke, or hyperthermia may exhibit signs such as excessive panting, dehydration, irregular heart beat, reddened gums or pale gums, rapid heart rate, black or tarry stools, vomiting blood, or shock.

Prevention is key, but if you suspect your dog is having problems, is dehydrated, or in danger please seek veterinary care. 

Solution

Automatic waterers and pet fountains like this one encourage dogs to drink. There’s something about running water that makes even the hardest to please dogs stop to drink. 

Carry the water supply with you and every 10 or 15 minutes, offer the dog the water. Say “drink, Fido” very nicely and happily when offering the drink. If your dog drinks on the go, he will be more inclined to drink at home.

Heat stroke can quickly lead to organ failure and death and typically associated with a high fever of 106°F (dogs’ normal range body temperature is around  101 to 102.5°. Hyperthermia happens when the dog’s body temperature elevates above the accepted normal range. Hyperthermia can be with fever or non-fever. The bottom line is this: Dogs can easily overheat in warmer temperatures. 

Never immerse a dog’s entire body in cold water because this can do more harm than good. Spraying the dog lightly with cool water and wrapping him in cool towels to help regulate his temperature can help. Have the dog examined by a vet to be sure the temperature is okay and there is no serious damage.

Solution 

Keep dogs in the shade and don’t be fooled that a dog house can keep them cool. Dog houses can get hot and stuffy fast, just like inside a car. Shady trees are helpful, setting up a shady tent, or even a sun canopy like this one

We aren’t fans of dogs being left alone outside for a variety of reasons (theft, insects, other animals), and even more so in the warmer months. A fan can be helpful to increase its cooling mechanism. 

Your Turn

How do you help keep your dog to stay cool during warmer times? Tell us in the comments below. 

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Comments

  1. you’ve given some awesome tips to keep your dog safe from the elements and still enjoy the different summer. you’ve given me reason to pause because i didn’t realize how many different aspects of the summer can affect your pet. thanks for sharing.

  2. I read of too many poor dogs losing their lives due to people not knowing how to care for them in extreme weather conditions. This will help a lot of owners from losing their fur babies.

  3. Amazing tips. We have 3 dogs so we are always trying to keep them cool it’s been a very hot summer tho year!

  4. These are all such great ideas. I think it’s so important to keep animals cool in the summer too. I don’t have dogs, but I do have cats. They love being outdoors, so I have to be careful in summer too.

  5. So much great advice, thank you! We got a golden retriever last year and this is her first Florida summer as a bigger baby, so we are always trying to keep her cool.

  6. My poor dog tends to run around outside until she can’t take it anymore. Then she comes in, drinks a whole bowl of water and lays on the cold tile.

  7. All the owners should be aware of this. I see some dogs walking on hot pavements because owners had no idea. I should warn them next time.

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