Summer is here and we're keen to make the most of the hot, sunny weather while it lasts. But our dogs can often struggle in the heat. What can we do to keep them cool and help them enjoy the summer?
Dogs can’t cool down as easily as we can. They mainly use panting to keep cool, and can’t sweat through all of their skin, only their paw pads. Coupled with their fur, which is like wearing an insulated coat, this can make them prone to overheating.
Which dogs feel the heat?
Any dog can feel uncomfortable in hot weather and all dog owners need to be aware of the signs of overheating and heatstroke. Common signs include:
- Panting heavily
- Wobbling and having trouble standing up
- Bright red gums.
Some dogs will struggle more than others on hot days. These dogs might need a bit of extra TLC in the summer months and extra care to stay hydrated.
- Flat-faced dogs. Dogs with short snouts and flat faces, such as Pugs, Bulldogs and Pekingese, often have breathing difficulties. If your pet snores or snorts they’re likely to have these problems. While they may cope most of the time, hot weather can make breathing more difficult for them and they are unable to cool themselves down as well through panting. If you have a flat-faced dog, it’s important to be aware of their breathing and take extra care that they don’t wear themselves out in hot weather.
- Dogs with thick coats. Dogs with thicker coats will get hot more quickly and be less able to cool down than dogs with shorter fur. Breeds like German Shepherds, Huskies or Chow Chows might need extra help cooling down during a heatwave. Regular grooming of these breeds is important to maintaining good coat health. When it comes to keeping cool, they might even appreciate a summer trim!
- Giant dogs. Big dog breeds can struggle to keep themselves cool simply because of their larger size. Giant breeds include Bernese Mountain Dogs, or St Bernards.
- Older dogs or dogs with ongoing health problems. Older dogs and dogs with health problems are generally more sensitive to hot weather and could overheat more easily.
- Overweight dogs. Carrying extra weight will put your dog’s whole body under additional strain. That can make a big difference when they’re trying to cool themselves down.
Exercise on hot days
Dogs still need regular walks, even during hotter weather. It helps keep their body and mind healthy.
Here are some things you can do to help keep your dog happy in the heat:
- Walk early or late. Avoid walking your dog in the hottest part of the day – early mornings and evenings will be much more comfortable for you both.
- Set an easy pace. Even if your dog loves a good run, they need some encouragement to take it slow on hot days. They can't plan ahead so they won't realise they might get too hot. Encourage them to slow down by setting a slower pace and giving them plenty of time to sniff and explore.
- Hot pavements and roads. Be aware that pavements and roads can become so hot they can burn your dog’s paw pads. Check the temperature of the road and pavements before you take your dog for a walk.
- Keep to shady areas. Plan your walks and try to include places where there is shade and natural paths.
- Short and sweet. Try taking two or three short walks throughout the day, instead of one long one.
- New exercises. If it’s too hot for long walks, do a shorter one and mix up your dog's exercise with some extra training or playtime in the shade. It'll keep them occupied and active but you can take regular breaks so they don't overheat.