If you’ve wondered how to cool down a dog, you’ve come to the right place. Odds are, if you’re feeling toasty, so is your dog!
Dogs don’t have the luxury of telling us when they’re overheating, at least not with words. So how does your pup tell you he’s a hot-dog?
In this article, we’ll talk about the distress signals your dog sends, how to respond and keep your dog cool, and how to avoid serious heat exhaustion and heat stroke in dogs.
Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke
Heat exhaustion is serious in dogs. There are various levels of severity, but it’s never anything to take lightly.
Heat exhaustion is what happens when your dog’s body cannot acclimate to high heat. Heat stroke is when heat exhaustion reaches a critical stage.
With heatstroke, as your dog’s body temperature rises, inflammatory mediators are released. This causes inflammation throughout your dog’s body. It can cause serious damage from blood clotting to organ failures.
Heatstroke can happen at any time to any dog, but it’s more common in long-haired and short-nosed dogs.
It is also more likely to affect puppies and senior dogs than young adult dogs.
So how can you tell if your fur-baby is in heat-related distress?
Warning Signs Your Dog Is Overheating
The warning signs of heat stroke in dogs could be difficult to detect. So, it’s important to keep a watchful eye on them for multiple indications.
To prevent heat stroke, always keep a close eye on your pup and note whether he’s showing any of the following signs and symptoms:
Warning Signs Of Heat Stroke
- Rapid heart rate
- Dry nose
- Change in tongue colour
- Heavy panting
- Poorly responsive
- Muscle tremors
Like most health problems, prevention is key.
If you keep a watchful eye on your dog during exercise, play and on hot days, you can easily pick up on signs that your dog is struggling with raised body temperature.
You know your adorable doggo like the back of your hand. Whether you realise it or not, your connection makes you super sensitive to changes in his behaviour, vocalisations, and habits.
On hot days, or during times of physical activity, keep your peepers peeled for unusual indicators from your four-legged child.
What Your Dog’s Mouth Is Telling You
Heavy panting is definitely something to keep an eye on. But your dog’s saliva is telling you something too.
If he is drooling more than usual or his saliva seems unusually thick or sticky, these are further indicators that he’s struggling with the heat.
What Your Dog’s Skin Is Saying
As with humans, elasticity in skin = proper hydration.
If you pull the back of your pup’s neck back gently and then release, the skin should slip immediately back into place.
What Your Dog Won’t Tell You
One important thing to keep in mind: You can’t wait until your dog is removing himself from activity or lying down to take note.
By their nature, dogs try to please their humans. So your dog might continue to play, exercise, or walk by your side even when he is ill or uncomfortable.
Dogs walking on hot pavement is a good example of this. Although they’re unlikely to stop walking, that doesn’t mean your pup isn’t experiencing extreme discomfort.
Ideal Body Temperature Of A Dog
Normal body temperature for dogs (and cats!) is 38.3 to 39.2 °C. Because their body temperature is higher than humans, it can be hard for us to detect a fever simply by using touch.
Once the body temperature goes beyond 41.5°C, serious damage starts to occur. Higher temperatures can result in irreparable organ failures.
It’s good to keep a doggie thermometer on hand in case you ever want to check your dog’s temperature.
Although a rectal thermometer is probably not your pup’s idea of a good time, it can be useful to know his temp if you suspect heat exhaustion.
Do Dogs Sweat?
Dogs certainly do sweat, and they do it through their paws!
This is the main reason you’ll never see your Setter sweat! But if you’ve ever noticed some damp paw-prints when your dog hasn’t been in the water, now you know why.
Even though dogs can cool down slightly by the sweat glands in their paw-pads, this response isn’t enough to keep a dog from getting heat exhaustion.
In fact, sweating is overall not much help to your dog on a hot day.
The Role Of Panting
Everyone has seen their dog pant. And most people are aware that this is a cooling function for their furry friend.
Dogs pant to evaporate moisture from their tongues, lung lining, and nasal passages.
Unfortunately, panting and sweating combined in dogs is still not as effective as the way humans sweat.
Heavy panting is usually a signal from your dog telling you he needs your help to get his body temperature back where it belongs.
And certain breeds are at a clear disadvantage when it comes to panting. That’s why flat-nosed breeds struggle more with high body temps and heat exhaustion.
What Breeds Feel Heat The Most?
There are some breeds that feel the heat more and there are breeds that are poorly suited to process the heat.
Let’s take a look at breeds that might struggle more than others:
Breeds That Struggle With Overheating
- Boston Terriers
- French Bulldogs
The above breeds struggle to process high temperatures due to their anatomy. As such, they are at much higher risk for heat exhaustion than other breeds.
Their breathing, and therefore their panting, are simply less effective than breeds with longer noses.
In addition to these breeds, there are a few other kinds of dogs that are more prone to heat exhaustion. Those include:
Dogs prone to heat exhaustion
- Obese dogs
- Dogs who have previously suffered heat stroke
- Dogs with dark coats
- Senior dogs
If you have a dog that fits one of the above descriptions, don’t worry. Catching your dog’s distress early on is the key to helping him find balance again.
There are a lot of ways you can come to your dog’s rescue in his time of need.
Preventive Tips To Cool Down Your Dog
If your dog is suffering from heat exhaustion, you’ll need to get him to the vet for immediate treatment and care.
But to avoid that scenario, let’s take a look at some ways to keep your dog cool through preventative measures:
Access To Shade And Water
If your dog is outside, make sure she has plenty of access to fresh, cool water and shade.
This might mean a dog house, outdoor umbrella, or really anything that casts a big enough shadow for your dog to lie down.
And of course, fresh water access applies to your indoor doggie as well.
Whether your dog is indoors or out, a cooling mat might be a great option if the temperatures are high.
These mats are designed to keep cats and dogs cool. The gel inside is activated by the animal’s body weight, and it provides a cool, hygienic surface all their own.
They are relatively inexpensive and they come in all sizes to fit all dog breeds. They’re not frilly or fuzzy, so most dogs aren’t tempted to chew them.
As an added bonus, they’re super simple to clean and they’re hygienic for dogs with sensitive skin and allergies. Read our guide for the best dog cooling mats for more details.
If your dog loves water, an outdoor dog paddling pool might be right up his alley! Just like humans, some pups love to dunk themselves in the cool, clear water of a swimming pool.
Inflatable pools aren’t a good idea, as many dogs will puncture them by accident. But there are sturdy, solid plastic pools that are fairly indestructible for children, dogs, or both!
This can also be a great way for your dog to release some energy and get exercise while staying cool. These pools are good, clean fun for the whole family.
If you don’t have room in your garden, never underestimate the appeal of a sprinkler or a good, old-fashioned water hose.
A cooling vest is a really nifty option for keeping your pup cool during exercise.
Whether going for a walk, hiking, or just playing around in the back yard, these comfortable, lightweight vests use evaporating moisture to keep your dog’s temperature down.
Just dunk the vest in water and then place it on your pup. Without soaking your dog’s fur, the vest retains moisture to create a cooling effect that lasts for hours.
Even a dog that isn’t accustomed to wearables might be open to a cooling vest. Because they’re intended for activity, they tend to be completely non-restrictive, comfy, and breathable.
If you have a pup who’s already fashion-savvy, a cooling vest or harness make a great addition to his wearable wardrobe.
The Right Dog Haircut
Many people assume shaving their dog will keep him cool in the heat. However, this isn’t always the case.
In fact, if you have a double-coated dog, it’s a bad idea. Below are some double-coated breeds:
Double-coated Dog Breeds
- Golden Retriever
- German Shepherd
- Yorkshire Terrier
- Australian Shepherd
There are quite a few more double-coated breeds. If you’re not sure about your pup’s coat status, a quick online search can help solve the mystery.
So, what does a double-coat mean?
These dogs have two layers of fur: a long outer layer and a soft undercoat. This double coat is designed to insulate the dog and protect him from harsh elements: both hot and cold.
If you shave your double-coated dog, you prevent cool air from getting to the skin and you also put him at risk of sunburn and over-exposure.
If you’re unsure how to style your pooch in the summer, you can always ask your groomer about a summer-friendly cut that’s lightweight, breathable, and safe.
How To Cool A Puppy Down
Whether your dog is a puppy or an adult, you can follow the same measures to keep him cool.
Firstly, make sure his water is cool and fresh. Most dogs won’t drink hot water, and we don’t blame them!
You’ll also want to keep an eye on the water bowl and make sure it doesn’t get tipped over during play.
A water bowl that’s out of the way, out of direct sunlight, and easily accessible is best.
If you’re on a walk, you can bring a collapsible bowl and water bottle to keep your pooch properly hydrated.
Get Your Puppy In The Habit
There are all kinds of extra safety measures and cooling options for your new best friend!
Puppies are usually open to trying new things. So, this is a great time to get your precious pet accustomed to certain items that will improve his quality of life.
If you live in a hot climate or have a breed that’s prone to overheating, you might want to get your puppy used to a cooling vest or harness from a young age.
Should Your Dog Exercise On Hot Days?
One thing to consider in hot weather is the pavement. Since we’ve got shoes on, it can be easy to forget just how piping-hot the ground is.
While it’s generally safe to walk your dog on hot days, there are some precautions to take.
Walking your dog in the shade and keeping him off of burning asphalt is a good start. A pair of protective dog shoes could help keeping paws from burning.
A collapsible bowl and water mug are great ideas for both you and your dog if you’re taking a warm walk.
It’s best to keep hot walks short and close to home. This way, if your dog signals that he’s done, you can get him safely home.
Exercise your dog smartly on hot days
- Avoid peak heat periods. Walk in the cooler hours
- Keep outings short
- Avoid hot pavement
- Always bring water
- Stay in the shade as much as possible
- Consider a cooling vest
Senior Dogs and Special Needs
As always, senior dogs or dogs with health conditions deserve special consideration. It’s probably best to stay indoors on sweltering hot days if your dog is at high risk.
If you live near a body of water, swimming is an excellent form of exercise for your dog in hot weather.
You can also get some much-needed relief from the heat by timing your walks in the cool of the evening. Your panting pup will thank you!
What To Do If Your Dog Is Overheated
Seeing your dog in distress can be scary.
And if heat stroke is suspected, you definitely want to call the vet and get ready for a trip.
But there are a few things you can do straight away to comfort your pup the minute you see him pleading for help.
If you think your dog is overheating, follow these steps:
Things to do if your dog is overheated
- Move your pup to a cool area under the shade
- Check her temperature with a rectal thermometer
- You can also use wet cloths or towels
- Give her cool water(not cold) to drink
- Get her to the vet – call ahead to notify them
- Do not try to cool them in a cold bath
By following the above steps, you help ensure that your dog will return to his regular self, with the help of your local vet.
How To Avoid Water Intoxication?
While swimming is a great joy on a hot day, water intoxication can be a concern.
Usually, water intoxication will occur when a dog is excitedly diving or fetching in water and swallowing too much water in the process.
Water intoxication is also known as hyponatremia. Although it is rather rare in dog, it’s helpful to know what to look for.
When too much water enters your pup’s body, he loses sodium and his cells swell with water. If this extends to the brain cells, water intoxication is extremely dangers.
Signs of Water Intoxication
- Excess saliva
- Trouble breathing
- Loss Of Coordination
By watching your dog carefully and encouraging him to take frequent breaks from his aquatic activities, you can prevent him from getting too much of a good thing.
And diving deep, though impressive, is probably a bad idea for dogs.
Yes. Water is recommended both to drink and for immersion. If you cannot immerse your dog in water, you can apply wet towels and rags to his body.
But if your dog is in a state of heat exhaustion, call your wet immediately. Don’t give your dog cold water or immerse him into cold water not to shock her system. You can use small amounts of cool water instead.
It can also help your dog stay cool in hot weather. But fanning your dog is not a cure for heat stroke. It’s a preventative measure.
Sometimes hot days turn into hot nights. When the sunset brings no relief, you can help your dog stay comfortable with a cooling mat or cooling vest, fresh-flowing air, and plenty of cool water.
It might be a good idea to have water bowls in multiple rooms of the house to make sure your pup has access at all times.
Panting isn’t all that unusual, and it’s not necessarily a sign of distress. Dogs pant from moderate exercise and warm temperatures.
Still, when you see your dog panting you’ll want to be make sure to check his water bowl. Keeping your pup hydrated is one of the best ways to help him stay cool.
If you don’t have air conditioning, there are still plenty of ways to help your dog stay cool in the house.
A cooling mat is one popular way of providing your dog with a cool spot all his own. A dog can also get good use out of a fan, wet towel, cooling vest, and the right summer haircut.
One of the best ways to keep your dog cool inside is crate is to place a cooling pad or mat along the bottom.
The great thing about dog cooling mats is they are lightweight, flexible, and easily positioned inside a crate.
These mats don’t require water or refrigeration and they’re great for travel too. The cooling gel inside the mats is activated by your dog’s body weight.
You’ll want to make sure your dog’s crate is not in contact with directly sunlight and he has access to cool water.
This depends on the breed and coat of your dog. Double-coated dogs can always benefit from a good trim, but shouldn’t be shaved.
Your groomer knows your breed and probably has all the answers when it comes to a trendy but safe summer trim.
To summarize, heat exhaustion or heat stroke can occur in hot weather or during intense exercise.
If you suspect either, you should call your vet immediately. You can cool your dog down immediately with wet towels.
You can also keep exercise light, short, sweet, and shady.
If you’ve ever wondered how to cool down a dog, now you know!
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