How to care for your dog in hot weather

A surprise heatwave in late summer might be an unexpected treat for us but remember that hot weather can be lethal for pets.  

Dogs don’t sweat the same way humans do and they mainly regulate their body heat through panting. This means that they can quickly overheat and succumb to heat stroke if you’re not careful.

Heatstroke is incredibly dangerous for dogs and prevention is always better than treatment. Here’s how our Dog First Aid Trainer, Carla, recommends caring for your dog in the hot weather.

Kylo the dog standing in a pond in the sunshine

Prevention vs cure

Heatstroke is a serious medical condition for dogs that can lead to lifelong complications or even death if not treated correctly by a vet so it’s vital to prevent heatstroke from happening in the first place.  

Carla says, ‘the top thing to remember in the warm weather is always consider your dog’s comfort, and act accordingly – if you feel too hot with the sun on your skin, imagine how the dog feels when it’s covered in fur and unable to sweat effectively’. 

How to look after your dog in the heat

There are some simple things you can do to keep your dog cool and comfortable in the hot weather.  

1. Provide shade and cool water 

First and foremost, make sure that your pup has a shady spot away from the sun to cool off in, and plenty of access to water. Don’t give them water with ice cubes, it creates a choking hazard. 

Never leave them in a car or a conservatory. Even when the weather is moderate outdoors, these spaces can reach dangerously high temperatures very quickly.  

2. If it’s too hot for feet, it’s too hot for paws 

When we’re walking around with our shoes on, it’s easy for us to forget that pavements can get painfully hot for bare paws. A good rule of thumb is if it’s too hot for feet, it’s too hot for paws!  

You can test this out by placing your hand on the pavement for five to ten seconds. If it’s uncomfortable to keep your hand there for the full ten seconds then it’s definitely too hot for you to take your dog out for a walk. 

Keep to grassy areas during this time or try to stay inside.  

3. Offer a cold, wet towel or frozen treats  

Give your dog a cool, damp towel or a cooling mat to lie on. However, never cover them as this can end up trapping heat in and worsening the situation.  

Frozen carrots make a great, soothing chew toy for bigger dogs. Or you can try freezing some of your dog’s favourite snacks such as Greek yogurt or dog-friendly peanut butter into ice cube trays for them to gnaw on during hotter days.  

4. Avoid walking in the full heat of the day  

If you normally walk your dog between 12pm and 3pm, we recommend changing your schedule in the summer and if temperatures will be high all day, it’s best to skip the walk altogether.  

On super hot days, it’s safer to stay at home and stick to toilet breaks. To keep boisterous pups entertained, try enrichment activities such as food puzzles or hiding their favourite treats around the house and letting them sniff them out. 

Remember that missing a walk won’t hurt your dog but taking them out in high temperatures really could.  

Poodle and a collie laying in the grass with open mouths together in the sun.

5. Give your dog a brush 

Regularly brush your dog’s coat and keep non-shedding dogs clipped short in the summer months. This helps to remove old fur and dead skin, allowing them to regulate their temperature more easily.  

Be sure to apply dog-friendly suncream to any areas where their fur is thin, fair, or clipped especially short as even pups can suffer from sunburn!  

6. Let them paddle but be careful about where!  

Many dogs love splashing around in the water to cool down in hot weather.  

If you have a garden space, it’s a fun idea to invest in a kid’s paddling pool or a sprinkler attachment for your hose to let your dog run around in. We recommend buying a hard plastic pool as puppy claws don’t mix well with inflatables!  

Be careful about where you let your dog paddle on walks. On the beach and in pools and rivers there can be hidden currents which make it dangerous for people or animals to swim. Pay close attention to danger signs and if in doubt, don’t take the risk.  

How to spot the signs of heatstroke. 

Signs of heatstroke include:  

  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Excessive drooling 
  • Tiredness or signs of confusion 
  • Vomiting or diarrhea  

You should also look out for heavy panting and bright red gums as these are some of the more subtle signs of heatstroke in dogs.  

What to do if you suspect your dog has heatstroke 

If you think your dog is suffering from heatstroke, move them to a cool, well-ventilated area and start to pour cool (but not ice cold!) water over them. Avoid covering them with damp towels as this will trap heat and exacerbate the situation. Offer them small amounts of cool water to drink but don’t try to force them.  

As you’re taking these steps, call a vet who will be able to advise you further and let you know if it’s necessary to bring them in to be seen in person.  

Heatstroke is a potentially life-threatening condition for dogs and must be taken seriously. If in doubt at all, call your vet for guidance.  

Learn more about how to protect your pets in emergencies 

There is no worse feeling than watching a beloved pet suffer an injury or an accident and not knowing how to help them.  

From choking to vomiting or dealing with cuts and scratches caused by their boundless energy for life, knowing how to handle emergencies gives you peace of mind as a pet owner.  

Our Dog First Aid course covers everything from pet CPR to head-to-toe checks and equips you with the knowledge and skills to care for your pet when the worst happens.  

Dog First Aid Courses

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