During warmer weather you should be aware of the risk that overheating poses to your dogs health and well being. Our recent article Overheating & Heat Stroke in Dogs provides information on how to recognise and treat overheating; this time were are going to offer a few ideas for keeping your dog cool in the summer.
The following suggestions are all preventative measures for overheating and will help your pet to dissipate some of their core body temperature through conduction (passing his body heat directly to a conductive material) and convection (transferring his body heat to the air through evaporation) or a mixture of the two. These suggestions can be used in addition to always providing your dog with plenty of cool, fresh drinking water and the availability of shade and ventilation.
In warm weather we all reach to the fridge for a cooling drink or snack, why not do the same for your dog. A slice of cool melon, a chilled carrot, some natural yoghurt; anything that is dog safe and will help keep him cool too.
The freezer is also a source of cooling treats. Most dogs will enjoy a chew on an ice cube or frozen vegetable sticks. There are pet safe ice creams and frozen yoghurts available from many pet stores that your dog will love. Alternatively, buy and freeze some pouches of baby food (checking the ingredients for items that a poisonous to dogs), snip across the top of the pouch and then slide out the tasty, cold treat for your dog to enjoy.
Make an Ice Treat
Use an ice cube, cupcake or muffin tray to make some individual ice treats made from a watery chicken broth, fish stock or gravy. You could also use some of your dogs favourite treats by freezing chunks of cheese or cooked meat in water.
There are plenty of frozen toys with a sponge centre that you soak and freeze available from pet stores. The idea is that your dog will chew, lick and shake them thus releasing cool water and cooling their mouth. If you decide to buy one of these items, please check its durability and suitability for your breed.
You can use existing treat toys such as a frozen Kong stuffed with fruit; alternatively you can make your own frozen toy by soaking a tea towel in water, place treats randomly across it (hotdog slices and cheese work well), roll it up, scrunch it, then pop it in the freezer for a couple of hours until partially frozen.
When giving your dog any kind of frozen or chilled toy, alway monitor the condition of the toy and remove from the dog if parts become damaged or loose.
Perfect for summer walks, in the garden or at the beach or park, cooler coats are fitted dog jackets created from absorbent material that you can soak with water. The water held in the material slowly evaporates, drawing heat away from your dog’s body and reducing their temperature.
If your dog is overheating you can create the same effect by getting him to shade and placing a cool, wet towel over his body. You can aid the evaporation process by creating a breeze using fans.
Cooling Collars and Bandanas
Working on the same principle as (although less effective than) cooler coats, cooling collars and bandanas hold water by your dogs skin, thus allowing the heat to transfer through evaporation.
Some collars contain pouches that store ice or gel packs which will aid cooling. Ice shouldn’t be used in cases of overheating as this may cause blood vessels near the surface of the body to constrict and may decrease heat transfer.
Again, you can create the effect of a cooling collar/bandana by creating your own from a tea towel, soaked in water and tied loosely around your dogs neck.
Cooling mats fall into 2 categories, wet and dry. They are great for the home, garden or in the back of a car.
Wet mats are made from a highly absorbent material, usually backed with a waterproof material. The user activates the mat by soaking the mat. As your dog lies on the mat, heat is transferred to the mat and dissipated through evaporation.
Dry mats are usually gel filled and require no activation. As your dog lies on the mat, heat is transferred and dissipated to cooler regions of the mat. These mats can be folded and chilled in the fridge for extra effectiveness.
Yet again, the effect of a cooling mat can be replicated using a towel soaked in cool water.
Paddling Pool / Hose Play
You may have noticed a theme in some of these ideas/products; cool water helps to keep a dog cool. All dog owners know that a dogs coat can take ages to dry so let’s get old school and get the hose out, fill the paddling pool and have some fun.
By soaking your dogs coat, his body heat will transfer to the water and evaporate. Keep soaking him and he’ll stay cool. If you are out and about, let him swim or pour water on him and rub it down to the skin.
Fans, Air Conditioning & Dehumidifiers
Heat transfers to the air very slowly, if that air is moving heat can transfer much quicker (think how the slightest draught can give you a chill). By fanning your dog or providing an electric fan this heat transfer is accelerated. A wet dog that is fanned will cool much quicker than a dry dog in still air.
If you have air con in the home or car, turn it on to help keep your dog cool on warm days. The cool, moving air will transfer heat from his body; whilst the reduced humidity will allow water to evaporate from his mouth and tongue more easily thus dissipating heat more easily.
Humidifiers do not cool the air significantly, but the reduction in humidity will again aid evaporation and heat dissipation.
As your dog heats up he starts panting, evaporating water from his system. This evaporation takes heat away from his body, cooling him down. This water needs replenishing through drinking plenty of clean fresh water.
When you are out and about, particularly in the summer months, you should carry water for your dog and provide the opportunity to drink at regular intervals. You can either plan a walk around places where your dog can drink or carry a water supply with you.
Carry a lightweight flexible bowl and bottle of water that you can refill it water sources to ensure that you always have plenty of water available.
Wherever you go, your dog will follow. If you spend a sunny day in the garden, at the park or on the beach your dog will be right by your side. Without shade, your dog will overheat on a hot sunny day.
There are countless options for buying dog specific beds and shades, but a simple beach shelter will provide perfect shade. The beauty of these is that they can be relatively cheap and once erected can be turned as the sun crossed the sky to maximise the shade all day. They tend to have a floor that you can place a cooling mat in for maximum effectiveness.
If you don’t have a shelter, create some shade using 2 deck chairs and a towel, turn your windbreak into a tunnel tent or go home.
Enjoy the Summer
We hope you have enjoyed reading a few of our ideas for keeping your dog cool in summer. Please post any of your suggestions in the comments section below.
Enjoy your summer and stay cool.
Recently, we’ve had a couple of nice warm, sunny days here in Bolton and it got me pondering the perennial concerns relating to dogs and hot weather.
We all know that dogs die in hot cars thanks to excellent campaigns by the RSPCA, Dogs Trust, PETA and other animal organisations; what often gets overlooked is the fact that dogs die needlessly from heatstroke on warm days in parks, houses and gardens too.
In this article I’ll attempt to outline some of the facts surrounding dogs and overheating. Why and how it happens, the signs of overheating and what to do if your dog is overheating. Please take time to read and share this article, it may help to prevent the needless suffering of a loved pet.
A dogs core temperature
The average core temperature of a healthy dog is considered to be 38°C (101°F); however, the normal temperature of a healthy dog may range from 37°C to 39°C (99 °F to 102.5°F). A core temperature of over 39°C (103°F) is considered abnormal and requires immediate action. At 41°C (106°F) a dog will be suffering from heat stroke which can lead to multiple organ dysfunction and ultimately death.
Some dogs are more at risk to overheating than others, but at The Way of the Dog we consider this information superfluous to the need for education on overheating and heat stroke in dogs. We believe that all dog owners should be aware of the signs of overheating and heat stroke and be aware of the actions they need to take.
The causes and effects of overheating
There are many medical and physiological causes of overheating. As this article is related to the heat of a summer day we will focus only on these causes, but the symptoms and required actions are the same whatever the cause.
By exposing a dog to excessive environmental heat and humidity, excessive exercise or a combination of both heat and exercise your dogs core body temperature will begin to rise. His mind and body will respond as he attempts to regulate it.
First, he will attempt to remove himself from the heat source by finding shade and/or stopping exercising. His blood vessels will dilate bringing hot blood close to the surface allowing it to cool. He will begin to sweat from the pads of his paws and will pant to bring air into his upper respiratory system to evaporate water from his mouth, tongue, throat and lungs thus dissipating heat. He will need to drink a lot of water to compensate for this evaporation. You should assist him to achieve this reduction in temperature by stopping exercising immediately and by providing shade, a breeze and plenty of cool fresh water.
In most cases this is enough to allow the dog to slowly reduce his core body temperature to it’s normal level. You should continue to monitor him for further symptoms and respond accordingly.
When overheating leads to heat stroke
If your dog is not removed from the heat source, is continued to be exercised and/or is unable to access enough water his temperature will continue to rise above 39°C (103°F). As he struggles to overcome the heat this starts a series of reactions that are difficult to stop, even if the animal eventually gets his temperature down. Heat stroke causes his organs and body systems to be affected and shut down, possibly leading to the death of your pet. By 41°C (106°F), irreversible damage will have occurred.
Symptoms of heat stroke
- Body temperature above 39°C (103°F)
- Severe panting
- Sudden breathing distress
- Lying down and won’t get up (panting may have ceased)
- Excessive drooling
- Reddened gums and moist tissues of the body
- Diarrhoea, sometimes bloody
- Vomiting, sometimes bloody
- Rapid heart rate
- Irregular heart beats
- Weak rapid pulse
- Changes in mental status
- Lack of awareness of surroundings
- Staggering, appears blind or drunken
- Muscle tremors
Treatment of heat stroke
Your objective here is to gradually reduce the dogs core body temperature; reducing it too quickly can cause further problems for your dog. Use cool, not cold water. Never use ice or iced water.
- Remove your dog from any external heat sources. Find a shaded, well ventilated area that is close to a water source.
- Provide the dog with plenty of cool, fresh drinking water. Do not force it to drink but you can moisten its tongue and mouth if it is lying down and panting.
- Spray cool water over the dogs coat and rub in to the skin. Continue spraying.
- Wrap the dog in cool wet towels, replacing them regularly.
- Immerse the dog in cool water.
- Use a fan to create a breeze.
- Call your vet and explain what is happening and that you will be coming in.
If possible, you should monitor the dogs temperature and stop cooling once it returns to 39°C (103°F). Whilst continuing to monitor its temperature, you should now get your dog to your veterinary surgeon as soon as possible. Take wet towels/spray bottles for the journey to keep him cool.
Your pet will have undergone severe stress to its body and organs. Your vet will will need to examine your dog to check that its temperature has been reduced and has stabilized, and that no long lasting damage has taken place. Complications, such as a blood-clotting disorder, kidney failure, or fluid build-up in the brain will need to be immediately and thoroughly treated.
At The Way of the Dog, we sincerely hope that this article has provided you with some essential advice on recognising and acting upon any signs of overheating in dogs. There are 4 key elements to remember:
- Be aware of putting your dog in a situation or environment where overheating is possible.
- Always monitor your dog for signs of overheating.
- Act to reduce the temperature of an overheating dog quickly and effectively.
- Always consult your vet if overheating has occurred and any of the symptoms of heat stroke have been displayed.
Enjoy the summer. Enjoy your dog.
Contribution by Matthew@HeppinessWebDesign
Sources and further reading:
Various articles at www.petmd.com
Temperature of a Healthy Dog (1999) – Jie Yao Huang (Janice)
Thermoregulation in Dogs and the Dangers of Hyperthermia for the Layperson (2011) – Jerilee A. Zezula, D.V.M.