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How To Keep Your Dog Cool

Figuring out how to keep your dog cool when it's hot outdoors (or inside) is important because dogs have a limited ability to sweat and aren't in control of their surroundings.

Best case scenario this can lead to Fido being uncomfortable, or at worst he could be in real danger from heatstroke (which can be deadly).

This article has loads of tips which will help you keep your dog cool, comfortable and safe, whether he's indoors, outdoors or on the move:

Is your dog already too hot?

If you've come to this page because your dog is already much too hot, or is suffering from heatstroke or heat exhaustion, go to my Heatstroke Guide for symptoms and treatment options.

Heatstroke is a veterinary emergency.

White Spitz type dog sitting in the shade in yard with lots of trees

How to Keep Your Dog Cool Outdoors

Overall, your dog is at the greatest risk of overheating when he's outdoors on a hot day, and the more humid it is the harder it will be for him to cool himself. So you always need to be extra vigilant to keep him safe in the summertime.

Common sense and caution are your biggest allies here, and if it's really hot outdoors the safest thing to do is to keep Fido indoors where it's cool. But of course he needs a potty break, and to stretch his legs and maybe work off a bit of excess energy, so these tips will help you to allow him to do that safely...

Avoid the hottest part of the day

Would you be surprised to find out that the hottest part of the day is between approx. 3:00pm and 4:30pm?

Dog and owner taking a walk outdoors as the sun is going down

The sun reaches it's peak around mid-day but the air and ground temperatures continue to rise for several hours after that, before eventually beginning to cool off in the early evening.

So if your dog is to be outdoors for more than it takes him to do a quick piddle, then it's best to make sure that happens before 10:00am or after 5:00pm

Take your daily walk/s, visit the park, or just play around in the back yard, during these times and Fido will be safer and enjoy himself a lot more.

always provide shade

If your dog is going to be outdoors on a hot day he should always have access to shade. 

The shade provided by trees is much better, and several degrees cooler, than shade provided by an umbrella or tarp, but in a pinch, any shade is better than none.

Older blonde dog lying outdoors under the shade of a tree

If the shaded area is on grass or dirt so much the better. Soil and trees don't absorb and reflect heat the same way as asphalt, concrete, brick, steel, glass etc. do. This means that natural surfaces are almost always going to be cooler than man-made ones. 

You can increase how cool your dog feels when lying outdoors by putting down towels or a blanket and soaking it with water for  him to lie on. Not all dogs will choose that spot of course, but if they start to feel hot they'll often give it a try.

always provide plenty of drinking water

Your dog should always have access to plenty of cool, clean drinking water. Inside and outside, regardless of temperature. But when it's hot this becomes even more vital.

Beagle drinking fresh water from bowl in shade outdoors

Keeping Fido well hydrated helps him to regulate his body temperature properly and replaces any moisture lost as sweat (dogs sweat only through their paw pads) or as drool (there can be a lot of panting when a dog is hot or stressed).

Top up his water regularly with cool water as it's amazing how fast that water will get hot outdoors, especially if you use a stainless steel bowl.

A few ice cubes, or some frozen dog treats (you can make these yourself at home quickly and easily) to play with/snack on can help too, and I've yet to find a dog who didn't have fun with them.

give  him water to play in

Most dogs LOVE to play in water, and it's an excellent, fun way to keep Fido cool and comfortable while he's out in the sun.

German Shepherd dog playing in the water from a garden hose held by owner

A cheap and easy way to give him water to play, paddle and lie in is to use a kiddie pool. Every dog I've ever known adored these!

However bear in mind that dogs have sharp nails and teeth which they may well use on the pool, so inflatable kiddie pools aren't a great choice. The rigid, molded plastic ones can work well but they do have a few disadvantages:

  • Can still be punctured by your dog's nails
  • Can be slippery inside, both when wet and when dry
  • Your dog can chew pieces off which can be a health hazard
  • Are heavy when full of water and tricky to empty 

I've used them many times for my dogs and as long as you keep an eye on Fido while he's around one, and empty and clean it daily, they've worked well.

However, you can also buy wading pools, in a variety of sizes, that are designed specifically for dogs. These generally consist of collapsible panels made from heavy duty, puncture-resistant material. They also usually have a drain that allows you to empty the pool without pulling a muscle in your back! Check out the Jasonwell Foldable Pet Pool, it's a great example of a pet pool and won't break the bank.

Other ways to use water to help keep your dog cool outdoors is to use a garden hose. If you want to be involved you can spray him with the hose, most dogs adore playing with their owners this way. Or, for a more long-term and less interactive option you can attach the hose to a portable garden sprinkler and let your dog run through it at will. Be sure to set it in the shade and move it to keep it shaded if necessary.

Cooling products

The pet wading pools I mentioned in the paragraph above aren't the only cooling products on the market. Some are more useful than others, and each dog will have different preferences, but if Fido has to spend time in the heat one of them (or even several) might make all the difference to how comfortable, and protected, he is.

Boston Terrier Dog cooling down in wading pool while wearing goggles and a bandana

Wearing a cooling collars, bandanna, harness or vest will not provide protection from heatstroke if your dog is out in the sun/heat for more than a short period of time because they lose their cooling powers the longer they're worn.

Cooling dog beds are another great way to help keep Fido comfy when the temperatures are rising. They can often be used indoors or out. Cooling pads that can be used in a regular dog bed are another option.

cooling dog collars & Bandanas

Cooling dog collars or cooling bandannas are a great way to give your dog a little boost of coolness. Blood flows to and from the heart through the veins/arteries in the neck so cooling this area helps cool Fido's whole body.

There are three main ways in which dog cooling collars work. 

  • Use of gel inserts which are frozen before use
  • Made from cooling fabrics which can be frozen before use
  • A combination of both gel inserts and cooling fabric

Obviously the amount of cooling your dog is going to get from these is limited. On average your dog might get about an hour of useful cooling from a cooling collar or bandanna.

Although many manufacturers claim that some of their products can provide anywhere up to 10 hours of 'cooling', this would be in ideal conditions, where the heat is not extreme, there is adequate shade, airflow and cool drinking water.

The word 'cooling' is pretty vague, and while these products can help to slow down the over-heating process, they are not enough to keep a dog's temperature out of the danger zone if he's out in the heat for any significant length of time. 

With some collar designs you can also replace the gel inserts with ice cubes when they get warm.

Choose a collar or bandana that works best for  your dogs size, breed and neck shape (bulldogs and greyhounds have very different necks for example). Some may be too heavy for a small dogs, others not large enough to be effective for a larger one. Most cooling dog collars come in a range of sizes. 

There are loads of different styles in a variety of price ranges so it will be easy to find one that works for your dog. Here are just a couple of examples for you to check out....

Cooling dog vests & Harnesses

Dog cooling vests or harnesses are made from fabrics that utilize evaporation to help keep your dog's temperature down.

Generally there are several layers of fabric which both partially block the sun's rays as well as absorbing a fair amount of water (BEFORE you put them on your dog). This water then cools him as it evaporates in the heat. This is how humans cool themselves by sweating. As dogs can't sweat a dog cooling vest mimics that action for them. 

These work best in dry heat, and when outdoor humidity is high they're not as effective at cooling. 

As with the collars, you'll need to take your dogs size and shape into account when picking out a cooling dog vest. It's not one-style-fits-all! 

A cooling vest or harness will be more efficient than a cooling collar in terms of how long it will keep Fido cool. Generally you can get up to an hour, or maybe a little more, of heat relief from a good vest, but again that is in ideal conditions where there's adequate shade and water to drink. If you're out walking with your dog you can re-wet most dog cooling vests with cool water to extend their effectiveness a little.

But don't overdo it.... these products are designed to help keep your dog cool for short periods of time under your supervision. They won't protect your dog if he's out in full sun or high heat for any length of time. Also remember, humidity reduces their cooling powers.

Here are just a couple examples... 

dog cooling beds & pads

Cooling dog beds come in a variety of designs and materials, and work in different ways.

Elevated beds such as the Coolaroo elevated pet bed (other brands have similar designs) keep your dog up off the ground and allow air to circulate under, and around him. They're made from durable, breathable, mildew-resistant, easy-to-clean material stretched over a lightweight frame.

Put one in a shady spot and it'll be a great outdoor spot for Fido to hang out. The design of these beds make them able to handle being outside much better than most other beds.

Some traditional-looking dog beds are made with a layer of cooling gel memory foam to help your dog stay cooler when napping. Again, there are lots of options to choose from and a variety of sizes, colors and designs. These are often best  used indoors.

Then there's a variety of cooling dog mats and pads which can be used on top of some regular dog beds, inside dog crates, or on their own as a nice cool spot for Fido to while the day away. Most of them use cooling gel, some use cold water. Pick size, material, color, filling.... there's something for everyone!

How To Keep Your Dog Cool Indoors

If you live in a hot climate, or a location where the summers get toasty, you're likely to have air-conditioning in your home, and probably in your car too. I live in Oklahoma, USA and those are both a necessity!

But this isn't always the case around the world, plus there are times when the A/C goes out, and so on. Maybe you don't want to keep your home at 68F (I know I don't) but your dog would be more comfy if you did.

Luckily there are a few things you can do to help Fido cool down indoors if it's warmer than he'd like.

Access to cool flooring

Tile or stone are the coolest type of flooring and most of us at least have tiled bathrooms, kitchens or even hallways.

Chow Chow lying on tile floor while wearing sunglasses

Make sure you let your dog have access to these areas if it's hot indoors. Chances are he'll instinctively seek the coolest floor in the house to nap on as long as he gets the chance.

Concrete floors are also cool, wood is slightly less so but definitely cooler than carpeting.

Access to cool water

In hot weather or conditions Fido needs free access to plenty of cool, fresh water at all times, even when he's indoors.

Dehydration is a serious condition in itself and can lead to severe health issues such as organ failure, or even be fatal. 

When it's hot outside, or if you have an active dog or working dog in the summer time, adding some extra electrolytes to his fluid intake can help to keep his body balanced.

A great way to do this is to give him DoggieWater, an electrolyte supplement formulated especially for dogs and which also contains essential B vitamins and iodine. It's available in dog-friendly flavors, or unflavored, and can be bought as concentrate which you add to your dog's water bowl or bottle, or in convenient pouches that can be taken with you when you're out and about.

Ice cubes to lick or play with and frozen dog treats can all give a little extra boost of coolness which every dog enjoys.

give Fido room to move around

When it's hot, dogs can cool themselves a little by getting up, walking, stretching and so on. It improves air flow around them and through their coat across their skin.

It's important that your dog has plenty of space to move about in and isn't confined to a crate, or even a small room if possible. The heat he generates will build up if he's confined and make him overheat more quickly.

If you MUST put Fido in a crate in a hot location, be sure it's a wire crate so that there is still free flow of air around him.

keep air circulating

Moving air cools us, it also cools your dog, albeit not as effectively because they don't sweat (it's the sweat evaporating that causes the cooling effect). 

Tibetan Terrier sitting in front of oscillating fan to cool himself

If you have ceiling fans it's important to have them on in whichever room/s your dog is in. 

A box or oscillating portable fan is a great addition to ceiling fans. Just don't turn it up to high or the noise/force of the air might make Fido avoid it rather than benefit from it!

More Tips To Keep Your Dog Cool

The information above will help you keep your dog cool, comfortable and safe when the temperatures are rising outdoors, or in. 

There are a few extra tips I'd like to share that are more general in nature but play an important role in preventing Fido from getting too hot, and to protect him from the dangers of the summer sun/heat.

protect his paws

It's not just the air that gets hot when that summer sun beats down. Asphalt and concrete can become extremely hot, hot enough to cause serious burns to our dogs paws.

Dogs paw being held in child's hand with blue sky and clouds in the background

Taking your dogs daily walk early in the morning is the best way to prevent this from happening, or later in the evening when the ground has had time to cool off.

As a general rule of thumb, if the ground is too hot for you to hold your hand or foot on it for ten seconds without flinching, then it's definitely too hot for your dog's paws.

Even when air temperatures are in the 70's, ground temperatures could easily be into the 100's due to the direct sunshine. Here's a quick look at how ground temperatures look if air temps are into the 90's... 

Infographic showing how hot ground temperatures can be in the summertime

never leave your dog alone in a car

It's so obviously dangerous, yet every year dogs die a horrible death from heatstroke after being left alone in a car.

Please, no matter how quick you'll be, or how cool you think it is outside, NEVER do this to your dog!

infographic showing the danger of heatstroke for dogs left alone in hot cars

don't shave your dog's coat

If you own a dog with a thick double coat (like huskies and other Northern breeds, or long-haired Shepherds and such), it might sound logical to you that shaving him will help keep him cool right? WRONG!

A dogs coat is perfectly designed to help him regulate his body temperature, yes, even thick, woolly double coats. The undercoat is directly involved in temperature regulation, while the top coat protects his skin from the sun's rays.

When temperatures start to rise your dog will shed some of his undercoat which allows the air to travel across his skin even more effectively.

If you shave his coat this will destroy his body's natural ability to regulate his temperature and the risk of Fido getting heatstroke will increase. His risk of sunburn will do likewise.

Plus, a coat like this may never recover (in terms of looks and texture) once shaved as it will grow in unevenly, with the undercoat coming in faster. It may never look the same, or work the same.

Basically, just please don't do this!

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