Are you taken a little bit by surprise each year on that first day that the sun is hot enough to pinch at your skin, the air makes your tongue feel dry, and you find yourself compulsively commenting, "It's hot!"? You know it's coming, yet each time the Australian sun kicks into summer-mode, it can still catch you off guard.
Imagine now that you had no concept of time or seasons, and suddenly it became too hot – sometimes unbearable – to walk outside. That's what it can be like for our four-legged friends. Dogs have natural mechanisms that help keep them cool, but there are also steps you, as a dog owner, should take to keep them safe and comfy through the hot months.
How do dogs keep themselves cool naturally?
The main ways dogs can help cool themselves down are:
Panting: Panting helps evaporate water on the tongue and mouth. By cooling down the tongue and passing airflow over the mucous membranes in their mouth and nose, panting can circulate a cooler temperature throughout a dog's whole body.
Releasing heat through their paw pads and noses: Heat can escape through the nose and paw pads. Keeping their paw pads groomed from too much hair can help their natural cool-down process. If trimming the hair around your dog's paw pads is difficult to DIY, the Best Friends Pets Grooming service is here to help.
Double coats – dogs either have single or double coats, depending on the breed. Dogs with single coats can be shaven or trimmed to help them stay cool in hot months. Dogs with double coats should not be shaved, as their naturally thicker outer layer of hair protects a fluffier inner layer of hair, which together help insulate against cold or cool down against heat. You can learn more about whether to shave or not to shave your pooch in this article.
How to keep your dog cool in summer
It's important to help prevent your pooch from overheating by being mindful of heat safety for walks, beach trips, car trips, hydration and lounging around on sunny days.
Walking your dog safely on hot days
An important question here is: when is it too hot to walk your dog? A rule of thumb is to stick to temperatures below 25℃ – the risk of heatstroke often outweighs the downside of having to skip a walk on a really hot day, but speak with a vet if you’re worried your dog isn’t getting enough exercise through summer.
Through the hotter months, walk your dog in the morning before the sun heats up too much or in the evening once it’s cooled down. Seek shade wherever you can to minimise sun exposure while they’re exercising. Keeping up your dog's hydration on walks is important, especially on hotter days. Bring a collapsible dog bowl with you and fill it with water from your bottle or clean water from a public tap. In summary, walk your dog safely on hot days by:
- Seeking shade
- Bringing a water bowl
- Walking in the early morning or late evening
- Avoiding walks when the temperature is over 25℃
- Checking the pavement with your hands – if it’s too hot for your hands, it’s too hot for their paws.
Our article How often should I be walking my dog has more helpful tips and suggestions for when to take your pooch on a W-A-L-K.
Keeping your dog safe in the car on hot days
Cars can hit temperatures up to 45℃ quickly in a closed vehicle on a hot day. Even with the windows cracked, your dog can still suffer dehydration or heatstroke when a car gets too hot for them to cool down through panting. If you’re leaving the car, please take your dog with you.
A dog car harness or adjustable seatbelt attachment can help keep your dog safe in the car. If your harness has any metal elements, be mindful on hot days not to touch them to your dog’s body as the metal can get very hot. Dog cooling mats are great on hot days, and they can slip easily into the backseat for long drives – check out our range here.
Dog car seat covers can also make for safer drives as they help keep your dog secure and less of a distraction to the driver, plus they help keep the car seats clean from sandy or muddy paws! This dog car hammock has mesh windows to help with airflow, and you can use it as a standard seat cover too. You can learn more about transporting your dog safely in the car in this article.
Safe beach days with your dog
A dog-friendly beach is a great spot for the whole family to cool down on hot days, as long as you take care to keep everyone hydrated and protected from the sun! Here are the most important things to know:
- Bring a travel dog bowl and fresh water for your pooch to the dog beach.
- Keep an eye on your dog to ensure they're not swallowing seawater.
- Bring a tent or a place for shade between swims.
Hot day safety for dogs
It's important to be mindful of your dog’s temperature on hot days, even when just hanging out at home. If you have an inside dog and run the air conditioner, ensure you're still keeping them hydrated. If your dog enjoys the great outdoors, make sure there's shade for them outside, whether it's a comfy kennel, a big tree, or a verandah.
A summer dog bed can help keep your pooch cool while they lounge around. You may like to try a cooling dog bed, a breathable raised bed that helps regulate temperature, or a reversible dog bed with a warmer side for winter and a cooler side for summer.
A dog cooling vest is a great way to help cool down your dog even while they’re moving around. Run the vest under cold water, wring it out and adjust it for your pup – as the water evaporates, it will cool down your dog. Plus, they look super cute – check out our dog cooling vest designs here.
If you notice your dog panting very heavily or losing energy while out in the sun, do what you can to cool them down. This might mean finding shade and taking a break from walking, giving them water, getting them somewhere with a pet cooling mat or air conditioner, or heading to the vet if you need further help.
Cold treats can help keep your dog’s temp down too – try stuffing a KONG and freezing it, or freezing some treats into ice cubes (just remember which tray is for the pooch and which is for you!).
Summer is a wonderful time to make memories with the whole family. With enough water and shade, you can climb mountains, go for swims or hang by the pool with your pooch all summer long. If you’re ever unsure about your dog’s health through the hot season, or you’d like more personalised advice, head into your local store for a chat with the friendly Best Friends Pets team, or book an Our Vet check-up. Happy summer!