How to cool down a dog in the summer heat


If you’re looking forward to summer fun with your dog in tow, discover tips on keeping your dog happy and cool in hot weather – including how to avoid heatstroke

How to cool down a dog in the summer heat

Quick takeaways about keeping your dog cool

  • Heatstroke symptoms include heavy panting and drooling.
  • Frozen fruit and licking mats are refreshing treats on hot days.
  • On days too hot for walks, try training and enrichment games instead.


Every dog owner knows that summer can be the best time of the year, with lighter days and better weather for outdoor adventures, day trips and exploring.

“However, it’s important to remember that dogs can struggle with heat more than we do,” says Melanie Sainsburys, veterinary nurse and educator for Natures Menu.

Their coats make them more likely to get thirsty, feel tired and suffer from heat-related problems.

Plus, dogs can’t cool themselves down as well as people – their ability to sweat is much more limited. They mainly sweat through their paws, meaning they must rely on other methods of keeping cool like panting.

That said, there’s plenty you can do to keep them cool, safe and happy in the summer heat – from serving up refreshing treats to adapting your routine to the weather.

Read on to learn fun, easy ways to keep your pooch cool in hot weather, and what to be mindful of.


How hot is too hot for dogs?

“Temperatures between 15C and 20C are most comfortable for dogs, depending on their breed,” says Melanie.

“However, heat tolerance varies between dogs and factors like breed, age, weight and coat thickness impact this.”

Once temperatures reach the mid 20s, your dog might start to feel uncomfortable outside.

Take extreme caution if the mercury hits the high 20s or is pushing into the 30s, as this kind of heat is dangerous to all dogs.


Can dogs get heatstroke?

Yes, they can. Dogs regulate their body temperature through panting and by releasing heat through their nose and paw pads.

If they get so hot this is ineffective, they’re at risk of heatstroke – which can be fatal in a worst-case scenario. So, it’s important to recognise the symptoms of heatstroke in dogs.

Common heatstroke signs include:

  • Heavy panting and wide eyes
  • Heavy drooling
  • Dark red gums
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting.

How to cool down a panting dog – quickly and safely

If you notice your dog is starting to pant or being affected by the heat, you must help them cool down.

You can do this by:

  • Settling them down inside or in a shady spot, out of direct sunlight.
  • Ventilate the room as best as possible.
  • Make sure they have access to plenty of fresh cool water.
  • Drape a damp towel over them.
  • Mist them with cool water from a spray bottle.

If you’re worried that your dog might have heatstroke, speak to a vet ASAP and in the meantime, try these steps to help cool them down.

Top tip: “Never give your dog ice or ice-cold water if they’re experiencing heatstroke,” says Melanie. “This can lead to shivering, building up more heat in the body.

“Never place your dog into a tub of cold water or hose them down using cold water, as this can induce shock and be fatal.”


Dog breeds are more likely to get heatstroke

A large study by Nottingham Trent University showed that flat-nosed breeds are more prone to heatstroke – as often, they have compromised breathing already.

Researchers also found that dogs aged 2+ were more likely to experience heatstroke, as were dogs weighing more than 50kgs or who were overweight.

The study found the following breeds were more sensitive to heatstroke:

  • Chow Chows
  • Bulldogs
  • French Bulldogs
  • French Mastiffs
  • Greyhounds
  • King Charles Cavaliers
  • Pugs
  • Springer Spaniels
  • Golden Retrievers

Dogs with thick or black coats and puppies are also more vulnerable to heat.


Can dogs get sunburnt?

Dogs with a white or light-coloured coat are more at risk of sunburn than darker-haired dogs.

However, any dog can get sunburnt on their belly, inside their ears or on their nose.

Put a dog-friendly suncream on your dog’s snout and apply to their ear tips too if they’re light in colour to keep them protected and comfortable.

Look out for the following signs of sunburn:

  • Dry cracked or flaky skin
  • Redness or inflammation
  • Signs of discomfort and pain
  • Scratching at tender skin while expressing discomfort
  • An unwillingness to be patted or cuddled
  • A fever.

Mild sunburn symptoms can often be treated at home by applying a cold compress.

Keep your dog out of the sun until their skin has healed, and use sunblock or sun-protective clothing if you need to let them outside.

For more severe sunburn cases, speak to a vet. They might prescribe topical cortisone to reduce inflammation, or antibacterial creams or antibiotics to stop a secondary infection.


Never leave your dog in the car during summer

“In hot weather, the temperature inside cars can quickly double. This can be dangerous or lethal to your dog, even for a short time,” says Melanie.

So, never be tempted to leave them in the car in the summer months, even with a window down.


9 ways to keep your dog cool in hot weather

Follow veterinary nurse Melanie’s sun-smart and hot weather tips so you and your dog can keep cool and have fun this summer.


1. Plan your walks

Walk your dog first thing in the morning and early evening. Don’t go out in the midday sun and relax inside during the hottest part of the day.

You could also change to shorter, shadier and grassier walks. Make sure you take breaks with your pooch and don’t overdo it.


2. Always remember water

Make sure your dog always has access to fresh, clean water at home. This might mean adding more bowls around the house in rooms where they like to sit, or bringing an extra bowl outside if you’re hanging out in the garden.

Change and top up their water more often than usual. And don’t forget to take a water bottle for your dog when on a walk and a collapsible bowl to pour into.

Thirsty dogs will often guzzle from puddles which can be dirty and hard to find in hot weather.


3. Protect your dog’s paws

Dogs’ paws can easily burn on hot pavement. If the ground is too hot for the back of your hand, delay your walk until the temperature drops. Stick to grassy or shady spots in hot weather.

Moisturising will help treat cut, peeling or cracked paws and reduce the risk of burns and further issues. Ask your vet for the best moisturiser to use.

Products like pads and boots are designed to protect your pooch’s paws, but not every dog will be comfortable in these. So try what works for you and your dog.


4. Let your dog rest

Don’t push it. If your dog is content lazing about while keeping cool, let them be. You can always help to keep them stimulated with things like scent work or training if walks are off the cards.


5. Be careful when swimming

Swimming is a great exercise for your dog, especially in the heat.

It’s a good idea to put your dog’s lead on until you’re close enough to check the body of water out – how deep it is and whether or not it looks clean enough to swim. Dirty water and litter could upset your dog’s stomach if they accidentally swallow.

If you can’t see the bottom to check for hazards or if you can see blue-green algae, don’t let your dog go in.

Some dogs will bound straight into the sea or river while others need encouragement. If your dog isn’t keen, try gently encouraging them with some snack or praise, but don’t push it – not all dogs like swimming.

If your dog takes a dip, make sure you dry them properly, even if it’s warm. Thick-coated dogs can stay damp much longer than you might realise.

If you’ve set up a paddling pool in the garden, make sure it’s filled with cool – not cold – water and only part way. Put a few of your dog’s favourite toys in to entice them.


6. Try cooling mats or cool towels

Rather than drenching your dog with the hose or a bucket of water, encourage them to lie on a cool towel or drape a moist towel over them.

Cooling mats are a great alternative and less messy inside the house. They also give your dog a soothing place to rest when they want.

“You might also like to have a specially designed bandana that you can soak in cool water and place around your dog’s neck to help them cool down.

“Or try a specially designed cool jacket, which can also help keep their body temperature down,” says Melanie.


7. Mix it up with frozen treats

Freeze blended or diced fruit and vegetables for refreshing, healthy treats. Fresh cucumber is also a great hot-weather snack.

Try freezing the following foods and letting your dog have a chew as they thaw:

  • Berries
  • Banana
  • Watermelon
  • Apples.

8. Get a fan

Placing a frozen bottle of water in front of a fan will circulate cool air, and is a good solution to a stuffy room or when there’s no breeze.

Some dogs might find the fan’s noise stressful, so make sure they can move away if they don’t like it.


9. Try a water mister or sprinkler

Misting your dog regularly from a spray bottle can help to keep your dog cool inside.

Make sure you don’t spray the water in their eyes, and stop if they don’t like it.

Sprinklers are a fun way to keep cool in hot weather, too. Don’t let your dog get too worked up though, as this could make them overheat.


5 ways to keep your dog stimulated if it’s too hot for a walk

  1. Set up a paddling pool in the garden and add toys to encourage your dog to play.
  2. Hide treats around the house and garden for your dog to find.
  3. Try puzzle toys and enrichment games indoors.
  4. Practice training and cues with your dog to help burn off energy.
  5. Go to the beach, lake or river for a splash about.
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