We can hardly wait until summer is here again. Sunshine, blue skies, summer holidays, retrieving water dummies and swimming in the lake or sea, hot temperatures, licking an ice cream in a light summer dress, being able to move sport outside again and enjoying nature with our dogs.
We always love to go hiking in the cool mountains with our dog Nala during the holiday season. Most of the time we are also lucky enough to walk along rivers, lakes or smaller streams. That makes for wonderful cooling.
In this article, you will learn how your dog sweats, what heat stroke is and what else you can look out for to keep your dog as cool, relaxed and healthy as possible during the summer.
Because: Anything above 27 degrees is very exhausting for our dogs!
They cannot regulate their body temperature through their skin like us. This makes it much harder for them to cool down.
How dogs are sweating and why heat is a problem for them?
Have you ever noticed that your dog sometimes leaves wet paw prints on the floor in summer?
This is because dogs sweat through their pads. Unfortunately, this is not enough to reduce their body temperature in summer, because they only have a few sweat glands on their paws and in the pad area.
Our dogs regulate their body temperature mainly by panting.
The airflow caused by panting evaporates more moisture in the mucous membranes and thus leads to a lowering of the body temperature.
However, panting only helps to a limited extent at temperatures above 27 degrees. And if your dog has thick fur, panting alone is no longer enough to cool him down. Therefore, there is a risk of overheating and heat stroke for him in summer, which can end dramatically.
However, there are many easy-to-implement tips for cooling down.
15 heat tips to get your dog relaxed and healthy through the hot summer
1. Drink a lot
When panting, a lot of liquid is evaporated in a short time. Provide enough water for drinking.
A dog should drink an average of 40-50 ml of water per kg body weight.
In very hot weather, the drinking requirement increases to 100-150 ml per kg body weight.
If your dog does not drink that much, you can simply mix some water into his food.
When out and about, either prefer shady forest paths with streams/rivers to cool down or take a bottle of water with you.
2. Chilling in a shady place
With relaxation and rest, less energy is used and the body does not heat up as quickly.
Allow your furry friend to choose his own place.
Our dogs especially like to lie on tiles because it is nice and cool.
Outside, it is important to offer a shady place.
3. Walks in the morning or evening
Move long walks to the cooler morning and evening hours and choose shady forest paths rather than sunlit fields. During the day, I recommend shorter dog walks, but more often.
4. Cooling down
In your own dog pool, at streams, rivers or lakes.
There are special water toys that you can use to practise fetch, for example.
This is also a nice way to introduce your dog to water in a playful way. Remember that water increases your dog's excitement level and he might react faster to new stimuli (e.g. other dogs).
Stay away from stagnant water as there is a risk of gastrointestinal illness from bacteria.
When it comes to cooling mats, I can recommend self-cooling mats, as they react to the body heat of your dog. The advantage of mats over waistcoats is that your dog can leave the mat at any time and protect himself from hypothermia. Or lay down a wet towel. Make sure that your dog is free to choose whether and for how long he wants to lie on it.
Keep driving to a minimum and NEVER leave your dog in the car in summer!
Even with the windows open, the temperature inside the car will quickly rise and there is a risk of heat stroke, which in the worst case can even lead to death.
Dogs are in real pain when the temperature is too high. They regulate the body temperature with their tongues when panting. You can well imagine that it simply takes longer for the body to cool down a bit - especially when it is no longer able to release the heat from inside the body to the environment.
If you look at the temperature development in a closed car in the following table from Peta, it quickly becomes clear that we should not leave our furry friends in the car for "just a short time".
6. Air conditioning
Be careful with air conditioning. The inside temperature should not be more than 6 degrees cooler than outside, otherwise you may have circulation problems.
You should also avoid draughts, e.g. in the car, as this can lead to eye inflammation and more.
7. Heat means stress
High temperatures cause stress for our dogs. Therefore, let any kind of training be more relaxed.
It is better to postpone new challenges until cooler temperatures, such as early in the morning or late in the evening.
8. No heavy exertion
Athletic exertion (e.g. training, jogging or cycling) should be avoided in hot weather.
9. Generally keep outdoor exercise to a minimum
Did you know that your furry friend has to stop panting during nose work?
Your dog will not be able to cool down sufficiently, if the training sessions are too long.
10. Hot surfaces
Make sure that you do not walk over hot surfaces, such as heated asphalt or sand. Your dogs paws are very sensitive to heat.
11. Sun protection
Fur protects (as hair does for us). Sensitive and bald areas, such as the dog's nose, are unprotected and should be creamed.
In dogs with light-coloured fur, several areas of the body may be more sensitive.
Brush your dog regularly to allow his skin to breathe. There are special brushes for brushing out undercoat. Shortening the coat is recommended for some longhaired dogs.
Be careful not to cut it too short, as the coat also serves as sun protection.
13. Special care for dogs with shortened noses (e.g. pugs)
If your dog has a shortened nose, his thermoregulation is particularly limited.
Pay special attention to protection, because intense heat can quickly become life-threatening.
14. Overweight, sick or older dogs
The physical strain in the heat is particularly high in overweight, sick or elderly dogs.
Heat also affects appetite and your dog may eat less.
If his eating behaviour remains unchanged, offer him several small and lighter meals throughout the day rather than one large one.
A great thing is a Kong, which you can fill with a variety of foods. The prerequisite is that your dog tolerates it. For example, do you have some quark or yoghurt (not too thin) in the fridge? Then mix it with a handful of treats and fill the Kong with it. You can find many other suitable recipes on the internet.
In addition to the tasty cooling effect, you will also promote your dog's ability to solve problems without help from others. This calms your dog down, makes him tired and strengthens his self-esteem at the same time.
Is your dog new to the Kong?
Make sure that he can get to the contents quickly and easily at first. Success motivates.
As time goes by, you can make the Kong filling a little more challenging.
What is heat stroke in dogs and how do I recognise it?
When your dog's body temperature rises above 38.5°C, it is called a fever.
In heatstroke, it is above 40.5°C and can cause a breakdown of metabolic cycles throughout the body.
You can tell if your dog has heat stroke by the following symptoms. Note that these symptoms can vary in severity.
- Heavy panting
- Accelerated pulse rate
- Rapid shallow breathing
- Increased body temperature
- Deep red tongue
- Mucous membranes may be pale
- Glassy look
- Sunken eyes
- Staggering gait, balance problems
- Disturbances of consciousness: recognisable when your dog responds poorly or not at all to your direct address. He also moves around staggering or simply drops.
What should I do if my dog has heat stroke?
You can help your dog with these measures:
- Careful cooling as soon as possible.
- Move out of the sun into cooler shade.
- Wet and cold towels or cooling bags (do not keep them on the same spot for more than 10 minutes) on the legs, arms and neck, so that his body temperature can come down.
- Offer water to drink (not ice cold!). Measure out the water so that your dog doesn't drink too hastily.
In general, I recommend that you visit a vet or veterinary clinic to make sure your dog gets well quickly.
You can find more detailed information about heat exhaustion, heat stroke and sunstroke on the website "First aid for dogs". (Please note, that this page is only in German, unfortunately.)
Conclusion: Cooling down, sufficient water and relaxation
Every dog tolerates heat differently.
Our dog Nala is a real sun worshipper and switches between sun and shade areas several times a day.
That's why I recommend you:
- Keep a close eye on your dog.
- Offer him shady spots and places to cool down.
- Make sure he drinks enough water.
- Try to recognise his limits and give him plenty of rest and relaxation.
- Heat is exhausting and uses up a lot of energy.
Have a great holiday season and get relaxed and healthy through the summer!