How to keep your dog cool in summer

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.

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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
  • Dribbling
  • Wobbling and having trouble standing up
  • Bright red gums.

If you're worried your dog is suffering from heatstroke, read our first aid advice.

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.

Cool tricks

There are lots of fun things you can do to help your dog cool down on hot summer days.

  • Keep hydrated. It’s important that your dog drinks enough in hot weather so they don’t get dehydrated. Take a look at our tips on helping them keep up their fluids.
  • Stick to the shade. Does your dog love to spend time in the garden? Make sure they have a shady spot to lounge in. Trees and shrubs create natural shade but you can also hang a tarpaulin or put up a gazebo to give your dog somewhere cool to mooch about.
  • A paddling pool for paws. A shallow paddling pool or washing up bowl filled with cool water can give your dog a chance to cool off their paws. Keep a close eye on them around water to make sure they’re safe.
  • Create a cool room. Some dogs will seek out a tiled floor on hot days as they’re nice and cool to lie down on. You could also set up a fan for them or an area with some cool, damp towels for your dog to lie on.
  • Ice packs and cool pads. You may be able to buy cooling beds and mats from your local pet shop for your dog to lie on. If you can’t find them, an alternative is to wrap ice packs in a towel and pop that in your dog’s bed to cool it down.

Well groomed

Is your dog a little hairier than average? Regular grooming can really help them in hot weather as it helps to remove some of that insulating fluff.

Dogs are more likely to shed their hair as the summer sets in. A good, daily brush will help your dog get rid of the extra hair and help keep them cool.

Your dog might also appreciate a trim for summer. If you don’t feel confident with the clippers, take them to a professional groomer. Make sure you and your groomer both know the best way to care for your dog’s coat – some dog’s fur will need special treatment to keep it in top condition.

Your dog’s skin might be more sensitive to the sun after they’ve had a trim. Stock up on some pet-safe sun cream to protect them while they’re out and about. Read our advice on sun safety for more information.

Dog days out

Summer is a great chance to hit the road with your four-legged friend and have an adventure. Here are some things to bear in mind:

Sun safety

Read our vet's top tips on keeping your friend safe in the sun and how to protect them against skin cancer.

Stay safe in the sun


Just like us, our pets can suffer a variety of heat-related illnesses. Read our top tips on preventing heatstroke

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