Ensuring that your dog does not overheat in hot weather is really important, because dogs do not sweat and regulate their body temperatures in the ways that people do, and so have different needs and risk factors. The differences between the anatomy and physiology of dogs and people also explains why some factors that are ok for people can be so risky for dogs-including the risks that come about when leaving a dog in a car during hot weather.
While most people would be uncomfortable but not in danger sitting in a hot car for a while, for dogs, this can lead to heatstroke and potentially prove fatal within a very short period of time. This is because dogs need to hydrate and pant to cool down, and there is not enough cool air within an enclosed car to enable them to do this, hence heatstroke being very fast in onset in dogs in such situations.
Dogs naturally take what steps they can to stay cool and comfortable in the summer-such as by drinking more water than usual, seeking out shade, and conserving their energy by resting up until the temperature cools down. For many dogs, shade, access to water and staying calm and quiet in hot weather is enough to keep them safe-but for others, a more proactive approach on the part of the owner is needed.
Dogs that are particularly young or elderly, overweight or heavy, that have brachycephalic faces like the pug, and working or sporting dogs that are active all day are all likely to need a special effort on the part of the owner in order to keep their cool in the summer.
For some general advice on heatstroke in dogs and how to avoid it, check out this prior article.
In this article, we will look at some of the different products and implements that you can use to help to cool your dog down when the weather is hot, over and above the standard summer advice regarding shade, water, and avoiding exertion during the hottest hours of the day. Read on to learn more.
As mentioned, the ways in which dogs regulate their temperature and stay cool are not the same as those of people, and understanding this is vital in order to appreciate the ways in which dogs can overheat or avoid overheating.
While humans sweat as our main means of cooling down, this is not the case for dogs-dogs only sweat through their noses and the pads of their paws, and not in sufficient quantities to keep them cool. A combination of panting-which allows for the exchange of cool and hot air-drinking cool water, and in fact, the insulating properties of their coats are all physical methods by which a dog cools off. Lying in the shade and avoiding high-energy exercise in hot weather are also integral to the dog’s ability to stay cool.
Next, we will look at some equipment and products that can help to cool your dog down.
Cooling jackets are something that have really taken off in a big way in the UK over the last few years, and can provide a real helping hand for dogs that need extra help-such as brachycephalic dogs and working dogs.
These jackets come in a variety of shapes and sizes to fit all breeds and types of dogs, and look a little bit like a cross between a harness and a doggy life jacket. The construction of the jacket itself is porous and designed to hold water, and they are dipped in cool water and wrung out, before being put on the dog.
Once the dog is wearing the wet jacket, the dog’s body heat and the outside temperature cause the water to evaporate slowly over time, having a continual cooling effect on the dog.
It is important to remember that once all of the water has evaporated, the jacket will not help at all until the water has been replenished-and if left on the dog when dry, will of course contribute to overheating even further, so these should not be left on unsupervised.
Cooling mats are thin fabric mats that contain a cool gel layer or alternatively, are constructed and designed like a cooling jacket that needs to be soaked in water. While cooling mats are not useful for a dog on the move, they do have the added advantage of giving the dog the option of lying on the lat or not, so that when the mat is no longer cool, the dog can move away.
Soaking a towel in water and wrapping it around your dog for a short period of time (until the towel is drying out) or placed on the ground for your dog to lie on can have the same instant cooling effect as a cooling jacket or mat. However, the effect will be shorter in duration, and so will need regular replenishment.
Setting up a small paddling pool or other small, low-sided vessel that your dog can climb in and out of with ease is a great way of helping your dog to keep cool in the summer and make their own choice about whether they want to make use of it or not!
Your dog should be able to get in and out on their own and the water should be shallow enough to allow your dog to stand up. Also, the thick claws of dogs have a tendency to puncture inflatable paddling pools, and so choosing one of a solid construction is best.
Putting a few ice cubes in your dog’s water dish or even making them gravy ice lollies will all help to give your dog an instant cooling effect, although there are some disadvantages.
Try to keep the water or food cooler than the air temperature but nor freezing, because ingesting something very cold when the weather is hot can actually have the opposite effect to the one desired!
When the body ingests something very cold, the body compensates for this by heating up a little-and so often, a very cold substance rather than one that is simply cool can be counterproductive.