How to Keep Dogs Cool in Hot Weather

This black dog is cooling off in hot weather by frolicking in a stream.

A dog overheating in hot weather can quickly become life-threatening. Dogs cool themselves through panting, and if the air they are taking in is too hot (like in a parked car in hot weather), then panting has little cooling effect and the dog overheats. Here's what you need to know about how to keep a dog cool in hot weather.

Heatstroke in dogs

Signs of heatstroke in dogs include: 

  • Heavy panting that does not resolve as the pet rests
  • Increasing distress
  • A tongue color that is dark red to almost purple
  • Weakness or collapse
  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Labored breathing

If you suspect a dog is suffering from heatstroke, move them to a cooler environment immediately and apply cool water to the abdomen, ears, and foot pads. Don’t pour ice water over the whole animal, submerge them in a tub of cold water, or cover them in a cold wet blanket. 

Once the dog is stable, get them to a vet as quickly as possible, even if they seem to be cooling down and they appear healthy. Things can be happening on the inside of the body that are not obvious from the outside.

Dogs in hot cars and truck beds

Many people think their dog will be OK if they leave car windows open in hot weather. But even with the windows wide open, the car can quickly become hot enough to cause heatstroke, brain damage, and even death. Your pet might pay dearly for even a few minutes spent in a sweltering car. 

Also, never let your dog ride in an open pickup truck bed. Not only is there a risk of physical injury from the open nature of the truck bed, but it’s especially dangerous in hot weather because truck beds are often dark colors, which can get very hot.

Walking a dog in hot weather

Asphalt can get very hot when the outdoor temperature is high. In fact, it can get hot enough to burn a dog’s pads. So you might want to do only short walks early in the morning or later in the evening, when the temperatures are lower. 

Before taking your dog for a walk, check the ground for heat with one of your hands or bare feet. If you can’t keep your hand (or foot) on the ground for more than a few seconds, it’s probably too hot to walk your furry friend. Dogs who are older or overweight, have a thick coat, or have a pushed-in nose (such as bulldogs, Boston terriers, and pugs) are especially at risk of overheating. 

Keeping a dog hydrated in hot weather

Providing water for your dog is always important, but it’s especially critical during hot weather. If your dog is inside during the day, make sure you supply fresh, cool water that remains in a shaded spot throughout the day. Even sun coming through a window can heat a bowl of water, and many dogs won’t drink hot water no matter how thirsty they are.

If your dog is outside during the day, make sure their water bowl isn’t in a place where they will tip it over. Water bowls can be tipped over by dogs trying to make a cool spot to lie down. If necessary, buy a tip-proof water bowl. Also, make sure your dog has a shady place where they can get relief from the sun. Kiddie pools are a nice way to give dogs their own clean puddle in which to play.

On walks, bring water for both you and your pet — or a collapsible bowl if there’s a water source on your route.

Seasonal grooming for dogs

Grooming all dogs, even dogs with short coats, helps to keep them comfortable as the seasons change. A natural coat that has been groomed offers protection from sunburn and acts as cooling insulation. 

Shaving your dog’s coat will take away that protection, so it is inadvisable to shave any dog during hot weather. In fact, even shaving double-coated dogs isn’t a good idea. Dogs with double coats have an inner layer that traps air, allowing the dog to thermoregulate more effectively. When their coats are shaved down, they are unable to do that and are more susceptible to overheating.  

Dogs who are either hairless or have bald patches may need sunscreen. Be sure to get dog-approved sunscreen; you can consult your veterinarian about which brand to buy. 

A little empathy goes a long way in keeping dogs safe in hot weather. If it’s too hot for us to stay comfortable in the car, in the yard, or on a walk, it’s even hotter for our furry friends.