How To Keep Your Dog Cool: Summer Safety Tips

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Sun's out, pup's out! As summer sets in, you're likely spending more time outside. Whether it's in your garden, on the patio or at the park, you want to keep your canine companion as comfortable and content as can be. Learning how to keep a dog cool in summer will ensure that they're enjoying the warmer weather just as much as you — safely! Let's take a look at some health tips and fun things to do with your dog in the summer…

Young golden retriever running on the beach

Keeping Your Dog Cool in Warm Weather

Let's cut to the chase and address the number one concern pet parents have in the summer: their dog getting too hot. It's hard to know when your dog is getting overheated since they can't tell you with words, but they can show some classic signs like open-mouth breathing or excessive panting. If you see these signs, your dog looks panicked while breathing, or they lay down and can’t walk, you should treat this as a medical emergency. Get your dog to the vet as soon as you can and in the meantime, do anything you can to cool their whole body. Thoroughly wetting them to the skin and keeping wet towels wrapped around them on the way to the clinic can mean the difference between life and death.

When we get too hot, we sweat. But, did you know that dogs don't perspire like us? But, dogs do have sweat glands in their paws! The major way that dogs cool themselves is through panting. It was always thought that panting just moved cool air over the tongue, but we now know that dogs have a complex system of bony turbinates in their nose. These turbinates have a huge blood supply and dogs inhale through their nose when they pant. This passes the cool air over the blood vessels in the turbinates and cools the blood. This is why dogs with flat faces really struggle to keep cool. Their noses are so short there isn’t enough room for these bony gems. Typically these types of dogs start panting at much lower temperatures than dogs with normal noses. Always avoid walks in the heat of the day, but it’s a definite no-no  if you have a flat-faced breed.

For any dog, remember that being left in the car, even on mildly warm days, still tragically kills far too many dogs every year. Even if you think you won’t be gone long and even if you’ve cracked the windows open, your dog could still die of heat stroke very quickly. It simply isn’t worth the risk.

Is your summer filled with weekend family getaways, dog included? If so, they will need an overnight bag, too! In addition to food and medicines, don't forget to bring along a few favourite toys and a copy of their latest vaccine records. It’s also important to pack all the necessities for the journey itself, and plan with their comfort and health in mind.

Did you know that some dog breeds endure warmer climates and summer weather more successfully than others? Why? Smooth- or short-coat dogs can better tolerate the heat than double-coated fluffy pets. If you're preparing to adopt a new pup, or move to a warmer region, this list of dogs is a must-read. If you do have a thick-coated or long-haired dog, have them clipped. We wouldn’t want to wear our winter clothes all summer, so let’s not expect our dogs to either. They may look a little different but it can make a huge difference to their comfort.

Border Collie running through agility tunnel

Things to Do With Your Dog in the Summer

There's a breeze in the air, the sun is shining, and you and your pet can't wait to get outside with the kids for some playtime. Bonding as a family over games and activities is the perfect way to spend a summer afternoon. From teaching your dog a new trick to exploring a beautiful, shady wood, there are a ton of ideas for everyone to bond.

One way to help keep your dog cool in summer is to offer something icy and refreshing to snack on. Your dog loves chilled treats just as much as you do. Spoil your pet with some goodies beyond their usual meals with a recipe for homemade pupsicles, but make sure that treats don't account for more than ten percent of their daily caloric intake. Even just ice cubes infused with a little tuna juice can make a special treat for lots of dogs. Just don’t put them in your gin and tonic!

If you're headed to a swimming spot, maybe this weekend is the time to teach your dog to swim. Some dogs are natural swimmers; they'll pick up on these exercises quickly and become your best friend in the water. 

When the weather is just too hot to be outdoors, limit your pet's exercise. If you want to offer access to your garden, make sure your dog can come and go as they please, either to find shade or come inside if that’s what they want. Make sure there is always plenty of fresh water inside and out so that it’s never far away. If you or they have chosen to be inside, try and make their indoor time extra fun. Can you set up a scavenger hunt featuring their favourite bite-size treat?

Most importantly, be guided by your dog. Most dogs will very quickly adopt an instinctive rhythm in very hot weather and will rest in the shade for most of the day. All too often, we force them to exercise when they really don’t want to and probably shouldn't. Take the opportunity for both of you to enjoy those beautiful cool times in the early morning and late evening and plan your walks for then.

young woman playing with dogs in yard

Making the Best of Summer Parties

From holidays to seasonal celebrations, summer is when friends and family gather. If you're planning an all-day outdoor event, complete with a cool bag full of human food and drinks, think about your pet's needs too. Keep your dog safe outside by packing an umbrella to shade them, for instance. Learning how to keep a dog cool in summer includes more than having water available and spoiling them with an occasional icy treat!

As you plan for an amazing summer, be sure you and your canine companion pause for ample rest and water breaks. It's easy to get caught up in the fun and excitement of the season, but safety should always come first. If you have any concerns about your dog's health, give your vet a call for guidance and tips for how to keep your dog cool in summer. Exhaustion and overheating can sneak up on pets just as quickly as people. Balance activities with rest in the shade, and you're sure to have a safe, exciting summer together.

Contributor Bio

Angela Tague

Angela Tague

Angela Tague is a pet mum and writer living in the Midwest USA. When she's not making a mess in the kitchen, exploring nature trails with her dog Leo, or attending a yoga workshop, she's writing full-time for multiple lifestyle and technology brands. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn @AngelaTague.


Reviewed by Dr. Hein Meyer, DVM, PhD, Dipl-ECVIM-CA and Dr. Emma Milne BVSc FRCVS