With the dog days of summer upon us, it’s important to remember your four-legged friends and provide them with every opportunity to beat the heat. While you may have packed your wool and fleece away until fall, your dog can’t just make a quick outfit change. Every time your pooch leaves the air conditioned oasis of your home they begin to heat up!

Here are some tips to keep your pup safe and cool so you can have a happy and healthy summer together.

Recognize the signs of overheating in dogs

Whether you own a dog or not, it’s important to be able to quickly identify signs of heat exhaustion, heat stroke and dehydration to protect our beloved companions from harm. Unlike humans, dogs don’t sweat to regulate body temperature. Instead, they pant and release heat through the pads of their paws.

If you notice a dog exhibiting symptoms of overheating, it’s important to act quickly to get the dog out of the hot environment and cool their body temperature. It can take very little time for a dog’s body temperature to go from mildly overheated to dangerously high.

Signs of overheating in dogs:

  • Excessive panting or drooling
  • Sunken eyes that appear glassy
  • Loud or labored breathing
  • Dry, dark or pale gums
  • Vomiting
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Acting disoriented or having difficulty walking
  • Body temperature above 105° F
  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Diarrhea

If you see any of these signs, cool your dog immediately using a wet towel and drive them to the nearest vet or urgent animal care center. Contact your vet while you are en route to ensure they are ready to act fast.

Of course, the best way to protect your furry friend is to prevent them from being in situations where they can easily overheat. Here are our top tips for preventing heat exhaustion and keeping your dog happy and healthy during hot weather.

Avoid hot pavement

In high temperatures, don’t let your pooch linger on hot asphalt. When walking on hot pavement, your pup can’t effectively release heat through their paw pads – and their pads could burn!

A general rule of thumb is that if the pavement is too hot for you to walk on barefoot, it’s too hot for your dog’s bare paws. If you cannot avoid having your dog walk on pavement, try having them wear booties to protect their sensitive paw pads.

Never leave your dog in a parked car

Never leave a dog alone in a parked car – not even with the windows open. Cars heat up very quickly (the temperature can exceed 120° Fahrenheit in just a few minutes). This not only can lead to fatal heat stroke or suffocation, but it’s also illegal in several states.

Watch the time of day for walks

Avoiding walking your pup when the temperature is at its peak. Try to get out for a walk early in the day or in the evening, when the sun isn’t at full strength. If you’ve got an active canine who likes to hike or jog with you, early morning is ideal to avoid overheating. Be sure to bring plenty of water – for both you and your pup – on outdoor excursions.

Provide access to water and shade

Whenever your pup is spending time outside in hot weather, be sure they have access to plenty of clean drinking water and shady areas. Because dogs can’t regulate their body temperature the way humans can, they rely on staying hydrated to keep cool. Put out an extra bowl of water, and consider adding some ice cubes to the bowl!

Spend time inside

Keep your pup inside during the hottest parts of the day, and give them indoor breaks after spending time outside, to prevent against heatstroke and also sunburn. Be careful not to over-exercise your dog when temperatures are high; many pups are energetic and don’t know when to slow down! Aim to make your house as cool as possible with AC and fans, to help your dog (and yourself!) stay comfortable and healthy.

Go swimming

Swimming is a great way to exercise your pup while keeping cool! For a day of fun in the sun, consider breaking out the hose and filling a shallow wading pool for a cool place for supervised play. Dog pools and kiddie pools are convenient and inexpensive options for giving your pup their own backyard water park.

If your dog enjoys going for a dip in your human-sized swimming pool, be sure to keep a close eye on them and always exercise pool safety. Try to prevent your pup from drinking pool water, as the chlorine and other chemicals can make them sick. Just like with children, never leave dogs unsupervised around a pool.

Oceans, rivers, and lakes can also be fun for swimming. Always check first that the water has been tested and that conditions are safe. Introduce your pet to water gradually, and make sure they wear a flotation device when on boats.

Dry off thoroughly

With all the swimming, it’s important to take care of your pup’s skin and coat after getting wet (and not just because of the wet dog smell!). 

The chemicals in chlorine can cause dogs’ skin to become dry and itchy, and their coat to become dull or take on a green tint. Lakes and ponds carry bacteria and algae that can be harmful to your dog’s coat. And for those beach-goers, the sun, salt and sand can be tough on your dog’s skin.

One way to help avoid these issues is to use a conditioning spray over your dog’s coat before going into a pool, pond, or lake. When your pet is done swimming, rinse them with cold, clean water and towel them off or blow-dry thoroughly. If your dog has a long or thick coat, you may want to re-rinse and brush out any tangles. After any beach trip, give your dog a thorough brushing to dislodge any uncomfortable sand and salt in their coat.

Lastly, don’t forget: After swimming, it’s very important to dry out your pet’s ears and collar! This prevents potential ear infections or hot spots along the neck where the collar sits.

Think twice before shaving – maybe just a trim!

Many people think that giving their dog a “buzzcut” in the summer will keep them cool, but think twice before shaving off all of your dog’s fur! Always consult with a professional groomer first. For some breeds, their coat provides important cooling properties and protection from sunburn, and shaving can actually put them at higher risk of overheating. With that said, a summer trim can be beneficial to certain breeds. Ask your groomer or vet what type of haircut would best benefit your furry friend’s hair type.

For all dogs (and cats!), regardless of breed, one of the best things you can do is brush your pet more often during the summer. This removes layers of dead hair and fur, and helps air flow through their coat more easily to cool them down. You can also invest in animal-safe sunscreen and animal-safe insect repellent to protect your four-legged pal from harmful UV rays and insect bites.

Know your own pet

Not all dogs overheat at the same rate. Learn everything you can about your dog’s breed(s) and coat type, to understand their level of risk for dehydration or heat stroke.

In general, short-haired dogs with long noses (such as hound breeds) are better prepared to regulate their body temperature. Long-haired dogs, giant breeds, and flat-faced (brachycephalic) breeds often need extra help keeping cool. Animals with flat faces – such as Pugs, French Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Pekingese, and Persian cats – are more susceptible to heat stroke because they cannot pant as effectively as other breeds. These pets should be kept in cool, air-conditioned spaces as much as possible.

Other at-risk dogs may include: overweight pets, young puppies, senior dogs, pups with special medical needs, and highly active dogs who may over-exert themselves. You know your dog best, and what is "normal" for their behavior and health. When in doubt about any symptoms your dog is showing, or about prevention of heat stroke, always ask your veterinarian for advice specific to your dog.