A woman and her dog sitting in the tall grass in an open field

The Dog Days of Summer

How to Keep Your Dog Cool in the Heat

A summer hike in the mountains or floating in the river is always better with a dog by your side. Your dog loves reaching a new elevation, the thrill of landing another fish, and the fresh smell of the outdoors as much as you do. But as you reach for a drink of cool water or a shady spot below the trees to rest, it is important to remember your dog needs this too, often sooner than you do. 


Dehydration, overheating, and heat stroke in dogs can occur quickly in high temperatures making some of your favorite activities dangerous for your dog. Heat stroke is an increase in body temperature greater than 104ºF and occurs when your dog’s body can no longer cool itself using natural mechanisms due to high environmental heat. Heat stroke is a medical emergency and requires immediate veterinary care to prevent multiple organ failure and death. 


Read on to learn how to keep your dog cool and spot the warning signs of overheating to ensure their safety through the dog days of summer. 

A dog splashing through the water on a sunny day

Prevention

  1. Never leave your dog in a parked vehicle as the temperature inside your car can heat up rapidly within minutes to dangerous temperatures.
  2. Always have cool water available and offer it frequently.
  3. Provide shade and encourage your dog to rest often.
  4. Keep your dog cool throughout the day by swimming in moving water. Avoid shallow, stagnant water due to the risk of blue-green algae, which is toxic to dogs.
  5. Avoid extreme heat and humidity by recreating at cooler times of the day, such as early morning or late evening.
  6. Avoid walking or running on the pavement to prevent burn injuries to your dog’s paw pads.
A brown dog panting with closed eyes, looking hot

Warning Signs of Overheating and Heat Stroke

  1. Unanticipated restlessness
  2. Heavy, excessive panting
  3. Drooling
  4. Confusion
  5. Weakness 
  6. A rectal temperature greater than 104ºF indicates heat stroke and you should seek veterinary care immediately
A woman giving her muddy golden retriever dog an outdoor portable shower

Assisting Your Dog If They Are Overheating

  1. Remove your dog from the heat
  2. Restrict activity
  3. Offer cool, not cold, water*
  4. Pour cool, not cold, water over your dog’s extremities including their head, armpits, feet, and area in between their back legs. You can also place wet rolled-up towels in these areas as well.  

*It is important to use cool, instead of cold, water to cool your dog slowly because a fast decrease in temperature can constrict blood vessels or bring your dog’s body temperature too low causing further problems

Looking down at a small pug sitting on the sand at a beach

Risk Factors That Increase the Chance of Overheating and Heat Stroke

  1. Age extremes—dogs that are very young or very old
  2. Brachycephalic breeds that are flat-faced with short noses, such as French Bulldogs, Pugs, English Bulldogs, and Boston Terriers
  3. Field dogs with a strong drive that will not stop hunting, retrieving, or exercising even when it is too hot
  4. Thick hair coats
  5. Obesity
  6. A history of heat-related disease
  7. If your pet has an underlying disease, especially one that is heart or lung related, ask your veterinarian if it is safe for your dog to be outdoors in the summer heat