Usually summer here isn’t that hot, so we don’t tend to get anxious about keeping our dog, Szuka, cool in the summer. We know the basics of avoiding dog heatstroke: lots of water, don’t leave her in a car, let her splash in the water. But recently we had a scare that got us really thinking about easy ways to keep a dog cool during the hot summer months.
Hubby had been away for work and the day he came home there was a heat advisory for our area – which is rare. We were loving the balmy weather (I even ordered two summer dresses online). Szuka was SO pumped Hubby was home and she just went nuts, jumping all over him and looking at me wide-eyed, like “do you SEE who is HOME?!?” We all went outside before she broke something – like her tail, which was thumping maniacally against the walls – and she had the zoomies in a big way. She darted around like crazy, diving under the deck of the guesthouse and burrowing under the deck stairs of the main house. She ran full tilt for about five minutes until she started to pant like crazy and we decided to take her inside. We gave her some fresh water to drink and encouraged her to lie on the cool tile. It was fairly cool inside our house, but maybe a little warmer than usual? Tuckered out from about five minutes of activity, Szuka (and Hubby) had a nap. Hours later, Szuka started to get restless and was panting like crazy. She just would not settle! As the evening wore on, I started Googling, “dog won’t stop panting” and all of these articles about heatstroke and dogs popped up. It had never occurred to me that a dog can get heatstroke from a few minutes of activity, but I read about a dog who died after a 10 minute walk! It was heartbreaking. We started researching ways to cool her down. We wrapped a pack of ice in a towel for her to cuddle. She happily curled up around her little ice pillow and munched on some pieces of ice. We grabbed a small hand towel, soaked in cool water, and placed it on her head. We read that wrapping a hot dog in a damp towel can have the opposite effect – creating a sauna heat trap – but she loved the towel on her head. She’s always been an odd duck. We encouraged her to drink a little water and she even nibbled on a snack. She started to calm down and the panting stopped, although her breathing was still pretty heavy. We phoned the emergency vet number and spoke with our vet, who asked follow up questions about her condition: Was she vomiting? Had she lost her appetite? Was she dizzy or unsteady on her feet? The vet was fairly certain that Szuka did not have heatstroke, but had just become overheated and likely overtired. We were encouraged to keep her cool, monitor her for other signs and, if we were at all uncertain, bring her in the next morning for an exam.
Szuka was fine – WHEW! – but it really gave me a scare! I thought I knew the basics of keeping a dog cool but, after doing research, I realized just how susceptible dogs are to heatstroke, so it made me want to get prepared to keep Szuka cool because it looks like this summer might be a hot one! Here are 13 easy (and stylish) ways to keep your dog cool this summer, to prevent heatstroke but also to make sure your dog is enjoying the balmy weather as much as you!
1. Encourage Your Dog to Stay Calm During Hottest Part of the Day
Seems like common sense, but it didn’t dawn on us that she shouldn’t run full tilt at 3:00pm! We were loving the warm weather and she didn’t seem bothered by it either – until she was. To be safe, keep your dog calm and preferably somewhere cool when it’s hottest, and try to stick with early morning or late evening for any activity.
We exercise Szuka on the grass, but if you walk your dog on pavement or asphalt, it can become scathingly hot on a puppy’s paws – even at night when the air is cool. There are many different styles of dog booties on the market that can protect your dog’s feet from scalding asphalt. Look for a style that can offer your dog traction and allow him or her to still feel the ground to prevent the booties from becoming a stumbling hazard.
I love these turquoise collapsible bowls for dogs,
which can be filled up on the go from your water bottle. In a pinch, toss an old plastic cottage cheese container or
ziploc container in the car, just in case.
When we’re at home, we keep TWO bowls of water handy – one inside and one outside. Szuka often won’t want to go inside for a drink, for fear of getting stuck in
there all day, so she will power through and go without. We
let her drink from the lake in a pinch, but I worry about her consuming
something she shouldn’t, like floating debris, so I keep an old,
dishwashered Pyrex bowl outside in the summer. When we’re playing or
she’s just chilling, it’s filled with fresh cool water from the hose and she often runs to it for a drink – giving me the stink eye if it hasn’t been filled with fresh fresh water in the last five minutes. She’ll drink from a swamp but not from a water bowl that’s a few minutes old.
A cooling vest – or a cooling bandana for those fashionable pups – is a great way to help keep your pup cool on hot days, and, as a bonus, can make him or her more visible on the road, when folks might be squinting in the sun (we have a bright yellow high-vis jacket that doubles as a cooling jacket – we just didn’t think to put in on her, duh! – but even blue is better than a dog’s natural coat for visibility). I couldn’t find Szuka’s vest online:
But this Ruffwear Swamp Cooler vest for dogs, although not bright, has amazing reviews on Amazon!
Szuka sweetie has ready access to the lake if she wants to cool down, but not every doggie does!
For land locked dogs something as simple as filling up an old kiddie pool – or a special doggie pool – with water can be enough for a dog to cool down on a hot day. Place the pool in shade and don’t worry if it’s really shallow – dogs cool from the feet up, so even if only the paws and belly get soaked, that should be enough.
6. OR… Let Pup Dig!
Gah, digging in soil is the
worst, but it’s one way Szuka keeps cool. At home she can jump in the
lake, but even here sometimes she prefer to just create a little soil
bed to keep cool. She loves shimmying under the truck, where it’s extra grimey. At my parents’ place, she’s done this a lot – to my
Mom’s chagrin. Yes, she’ll track in a little dirt but it’s a small
price to pay for keeping her comfy and healthy in the hotter months. So
if your pup dives for the garden and want to nestle in, that’s a sign
he or she is too hot so let ’em, or bring ’em inside to cool off.
Live in an apartment or don’t want your dog soaking wet from the kiddie pool or lake? That soil tip probably doesn’t sound super appealing either. A dog cooling pad is a clever way to keep your pup cool without the mess. Plus it can be used outdoors or inside.
We wrapped a ziploc bag of ice in a towel for a makeshift cooling pad that Szuka hugged against her chest. Bringing a dog’s temperature down too quickly by dousing him or her in
an ice cold bath, or surrounding him or her with ice packs, can actually do more harm than good, causing blood
vessels to constrict which prohibits their ability to let off heat. By wrapping the ice bag in a towel, it was only slightly cool, not freezing cold. My Mom makes all natural, buckwheat stuffed cotton lined heating/cool pads and I’m thinking that we need one too (for us and Szuka! We’ll share). I can keep it in the basement so it’s always cool, but not freezing, and it’s something I can hold against her chest to help her cool off.
If you buy a cooling pad, or make one, just watch your pup if he or she is a chewer because you don’t want a hole gnawed!
9. Spoil Your Dog with Covered Dog Shade
Some dog houses, although they offer shade, can really be quite the sauna on hot days. If your dog is outside a lot, consider a canopy dog house kennel cover, or try one of these easy-to-set-up covered dog canopies, which keep your dog off the ground and offer air flow.
This covered dog canopy is even stylish, for anyone who has an outdoor space that isn’t as…wild and untamed as our mess of a yard over here. That is a seriously chic dog canopy bed!
When Szuka was a puppy and we were still living in Ottawa, even though it was September there were some steamy, humid days so we’d make a fruit smoothie and pour her a little or pop one of her toys in the freezer. This adorable plush popsicle just needs to be soaked in water and popped in the freezer for a cool, crunchy chew toy with a squeaker inside. It comes in a ton of fun shapes, like a kiwi slice and ice cream cone.
11. Keep an Eye on Your Pup’s Activity
dogs can be dummies and they need us to look out for them and do what’s
in their best interests. But sometimes dogs can indicate what they
want or need so if you’re outside playing or hiking and your dog starts
seeking shade or wants to lie down, he or she is getting overheated.
Watch for these signs and act immediately. When Szuka started diving under the decks, I think she was seeking a cooler area but she also wanted to be close to Hubby, so she fought her instinctive urge to cool down in an effort to play with him more. We should have brought her in right away!
12. Leave Your Pup at Home
When it’s cold outside, I’ll often take Szuka into town with me. Often I leave her at my parents’, but if I’m running a few errands, she’ll hang out in the vehicle. When she’s woolly, even if it’s winter she’s totally fine in the car for fifteen minutes. Come summertime, it’s less convenient so she spends more time at home. I NEVER leave her in the car in the summer, not even for two seconds, but even just being at my parents’ place in the summer, because they lack air conditioning, can be taxing for her. I leave her at home where she knows where the cool spots are and let her just chill on the ceramic tile. A fan helps keep air moving and provides a cooling breeze in lieu of air conditioning.
13. Don’t Shave Your Pup!
Szuka’s fur is a bit long right now but shaving a dog right down is a bad idea because it can leave them exposed to sunburn – plus the coat does protect them from overheating. A trim can definitely help, but a naked shave is a bad idea. If your pup needs a haircut, chat with an experienced dog groomer about the right length for the summer.
There you have it: 13 easy ways to keep a dog cool in the summer, gleaned from hours of frantic research and an emergency call to our vet! We’re going to be implementing these tips for prevent dog heatstroke more rigorously to keep our pup cool as a cucumber.
Annnddd…Get a Doggie Thermometer.
This won’t keep your dog cool, so it didn’t make the official list, but getting a dog thermometer is the best way to monitor a dog’s temperature if you suspect heatstroke. Feeling a dog’s nose is unreliable and a rectal thermometer is cruel (to the human who needs to use it), but this thermometer goes in a dog’s ear! Yes. We definitely need to order one these right away because that’s one of the first questions the vet asked.
This goes without saying, but always check with your vet about what you should do to keep your pup healthy and happy.
What are your tips for keeping your dog cool in the summer heat? Have you had a heatstroke scare?