How to keep your dog cool over summer

Bully breed resting on owner's leg
Bully breed resting on owner's leg Photo: Sheryl Salisbury

The long, hot months of summer are upon us, which means sweltering days and balmy nights. While we humans may get a little hot and bothered, spare a thought for our dogs. Unlike humans, dogs have limited ways to regulate their body temperature. It's up to us to make things more comfortable for them.

Heat stress and heat stroke can be deadly for dogs, so here are five ideas that will help them cool down in no time.

1. Stay on top of grooming

When temperatures rise some dog owners are tempted to clip their dog's hair - especially breeds with thick, double coats. We may think that a Samoyed, for example, is uncomfortable under all that hair, but that isn't necessarily the case. Samoyeds, Siberian Huskies and other double-coat breeds are well equipped to regulate their body temperature - their coat acts as insulation against the cold in winter and heat in summer. During certain times of the year, double-coated dogs shed their undercoat. If this is brushed out properly, air circulation close to the skin is greatly improved, providing heat relief.

Single-coat breeds like Bichons, Poodles and Shih Tzus may benefit from clipping, but it's important not to clip too close to the skin otherwise your dog is at risk of sunburn. If your dog has developed mats or knots, see a professional groomer. Mats, in particular, trap heat close to the skin and can cause pain and irritation.

Every dog owner should regularly brush and wash their dog in the summer months. Consistent grooming will significantly influence how a dog experiences the heat.

2. Provide plenty of clean, cold water

Dogs pant to cool their body. The hotter it is, the more they pant. All this panting is thirsty work, which is why it is important to have a few different sources of cool, clean water throughout the house and yard.

A great way of making sure that water bowls stay chilled is to drop some ice cubes into the water periodically throughout the day. You can also freeze a bucket or tub of water overnight to create a giant ice cube - just make sure it melts quickly enough to provide drinkable water.

3. Save exercise for cooler times of the day

Exercising during the heat of the day is dangerous for dogs. Not only do cement, asphalt and paving reflect heat, they can also burn the pads of your dog's paws. Stick to exercising during the cooler parts of the day or early evening.

4. Switch up exercise locations

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The warmer months provide a great opportunity to switch up your exercise routine and keep your dog cool at the same time. Temperatures are cooler on the coast, so why not head to the local dog beach for a walk? If your dog is confident in the water, he might enjoy a swim. If he is hesitant, a wade in the shallows may help cool him down. Go for a walk along a river or lake, or find a nice, shady park to play in.

5. Ensure your dog has access to shade

If your dog is spending time outside, ensure she has access to shade. Shade from trees is ideal, as the grass or soil underneath is often significantly cooler than the ambient air. Be sure to track the different areas of the garden that get more or less shade throughout the day.

An important note about dogs in cars

We've all heard the 'dogs die in hot cars' message, but there are still some dog owners who don't heed the warning. Here's what we know:

  • It can take less than six minutes for a dog to die in a hot car.
  • The temperature within a car doubles in the space of 10 minutes and triples in 20 - even on mild days.
  • Dogs on the back of utes can also suffer from heat stress if tethered and left in the sun.
  • Parking in the shade isn't a compromise. The temperature within the car will still rise to dangerous levels.
  • The RSPCA suggests that if you see a dog left in a hot car, call the police immediately. Officers will be dispatched quickly, which is critical in this situation.

The summer months are full of lots of fun for the whole family - furry members included. For the canine members of the family to stay nice and cool, it's important to check the weather ahead of time and provide your pet with all the essentials he or she needs to stay safe and comfortable.

Do you have any suggestions we should add to the list? How do you keep your dog cool over summer?

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