When the heat arrives, dogs can not only feel hot and bothered – they are at more of a risk of potentially fatal heatstroke. Keeping them as cool as possible during the balmy summer months is vital, and here are 10 top tips to help keep tails wagging and temperatures down…
Make sure you exercise your dog at cooler times of the day, either first thing in the morning or early evening – even better, if it passes by a dog-friendly swimming spot along the way. If your dog is very active then you may need to limit exercise and play – don’t expect an excited dog to notice early signs of heat stroke. Taking them for a walk in the strong midday sun on a hot day can be dangerous, and this can also put your dog at risk of burning their paws on hot pavements. As a general rule, if it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your pooch’s paws. If your dog is one that needs a long walk to burn off excess energy, find other ways to stimulate them instead – such as practising some training techniques or playing brain games with them. Keep in the shade as much as possible and provide shady spots in the garden too.
It may sound like common sense, but make sure your dog always has access to fresh, cool water – including when you are out on a walk with them. Anything that encourages them to drink is a good idea, such as putting iced treats in their water bowl. If they’re spending lots of time outside, then make sure there’s also a water bowl filled with cool water out of direct sunlight in the garden.
There’s nothing more refreshing on a hot day for us humans than a dip in the water – and the same goes for your dog. So treat them to a paddling pool in a shady spot in your garden filled with cool but not freezing cold water (that can cause your pet’s body to go into shock on a very hot day). And make sure the paddling pool isn’t filled so high that dogs with little legs are out of their depth and struggle to get out.
While some dogs will dive straight in and splash about, other more water-shy pooches will need more encouragement – but even getting them to stand in the water for a short time is a really effective way of cooling them down rapidly as dogs absorb and release heat through their paws. Keeping their coat wet during any hot spells also provides effective cooling.
Dogs tend to gravitate towards cool surfaces when they feel hot, and there are a wide range of specially designed cooling mats for dogs available to buy – these are especially useful if your house doesn’t have any cold stone surfaces for your pet to sprawl themselves out on. Some of the mats work after being cooled in the freezer and others have self-cooling technology. Using freezer blocks or pads, or a frozen plastic bottle of water, well wrapped in a blanket in your dog’s bed will have a similar – and more purse-friendly – effect.
Wet your dog’s coat or drench a towel in cool, but not really cold, water and drape it over your dog. This will really help in lowering body temperature and is a crucial step in cooling down a dog suffering from heatstroke before getting them to the vets. But ensure you do not leave these over your dog for long periods as once the towel warms up, it will no longer cool your dog down – and can make them even hotter.
You can buy specially-made cooling coats for your dog, which can provide longer-lasting coolness. These are activated with water – as the moisture in the coat evaporates, it draws out the heat from the dog’s body and cools them down. A variety of cooling collars are also availible – some contain a special self-cooling gel and others need to be filled with ice or placed in the freezer. But wetting a standard kitchen cloth and popping it in the freezer, or wrapping ice cubes inside, will do a very similar job – it just won’t look quite as stylish!
Make ice cubes or lollies with your dog’s favourite treat inside, or stuff a Kong and pop it into the freezer. You could also fill a bowl with some low-salt stock scattered with a few treats and freeze it – or even throw in a toy or two, adding enrichment for your pet while cooling them down. Frozen carrots or apple slices are also a tasty – but healthy – snack to refresh your pet on a hot day.
Place a fan next to your dog’s usual lounging spot, and give them an extra cooling breeze by putting some frozen water bottles in front of it.
If your dog always has a toy in their mouth, then pop their favourite one in the freezer for a quick cooling fix. If your pet isn’t one to chew their way through toys, filling an old sock with rice and freezing it is also a good way of getting your dog to keep something cool in their mouth.
Filling a spray bottle with cool water and misting your dog regularly will help keep body temperatures down, as will a garden sprinkler – if you can get your dog to walk through it!