8 tips for keeping your dog cool this summer

Dr. Christine Savidge of P.E.I.'s Veterinary Medical Association offers her advice for keeping your four-legged best friend cool in the summer heat.

'Dogs that are overweight...or have respiratory conditions are at risk for overheating,' says vet

Your dog may enjoy a kiddie pool to splash around in, suggests Dr. Christine Savidge. (Bianca Grueneberg/Shutterstock )

More dog owners need to put themselves in the shoes — or paws — of their four-legged best friends in hot summer weather, says the vice-president of the P.E.I. Veterinary Medical Association. 

 Dr. Christine Savidge, also a professor at the Atlantic Veterinary College, offered her tips for keeping your pooch cool when temperatures start to climb.

"Animals, especially dogs, can get very hot and can actually suffer from heat stroke, and that can be very dangerous," said Savidge.

"So it is an important thing for owners to be aware of — that the heat's going to affect their dogs."

1. Leave them home

'There really is no safe time to leave a dog in the car in the summertime,' says P.E.I. vet Dr. Christine Savidge. (Associated Press File Photo)

 Savidge said a dog should never, ever be left in a car in the summertime.

"Even with the windows open the temperature can rise dangerously quickly. Leave them at home," she said. 

"There really is no safe time to leave a dog in the car in the summertime. Better to be safe than have a serious complication." 

2. Lots of drinking water

Lots of fresh water is essential to keep dogs hydrated on hot days, Savidge says. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

Lots of access to fresh, clean water is essential to keep dogs hydrated, Savidge said.

Some dogs enjoy cool and even ice water, while others don't. She recommends finding out what your dog prefers. 

3. Shade and cool air

Dogs do well indoors with air-conditioning or fans, Savidge said, advising owners keep the house shady and windows open for a breeze.

If outdoors, make sure they have access to shade and again, plenty of fresh water.

4. Walk when it's cool

Watch out for hot pavement, says Dr. Savidge — it can scorch paw pads. (Elysha Enos/CBC)

Limit the time of day dogs are exercised, Savidge said. 

"Cool early mornings are best," she said. "Be aware of hot pavement."

If it is too hot for a human to walk on the surface barefoot, it's likely also too hot for the dog. 

On really hot days, limit the amount of exercise too, even if your dog loves to run. Take breaks in the shade. 

"I kind of think of dogs as fun teenagers — they don't know what's good for them," Savidge said. "So we need to make those decisions for them."

5. Cool treats

Cool treats including dog-appropriate ice cream can be found in some pet stores, Savidge said. 

Her colleagues in veterinary dentistry say ice cubes can be damaging to dogs' teeth, Savidge notes — although she's never witnessed any specific cases. 

Any treats should be limited, she said, to no more than 10 per cent of a dog's daily food intake.

6. Appropriate grooming

Vets do not recommend cutting the hair of breeds like huskies — their hair might not grow back properly, Savidge says. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

Short cut, shave, or no cut?

Talk to your veterinarian or an informed groomer about grooming techniques for the summer, Savidge said.

Hair can actually help protect dogs from heat, she said, and cutting hair too short can expose skin to sunburn.

"Some dogs absolutely love their summer hair cut," she said, while certain Arctic breeds like huskies and malamutes are better protected by keeping their long hair and brushing out their undercoat, removing mats and keeping their coat clean and healthy. 

7. Take care of at-risk dogs

Flat-faced breeds like pugs and bulldogs already have compromised breathing, so keep a closer eye on them in the heat. (Frank Rumpenhorst/AFP/Getty Images)

Short-nosed breeds such as pugs, bulldogs and shih tzus — known as brachycephalic — already have compromised breathing and heat can compound this problem, Savidge warns.

Since dogs mostly dissipate heat through panting, and these breeds already can't pant effectively, they are at high risk of overheating. 

"Dogs that are overweight, geriatric or have respiratory conditions are at risk for overheating," she said. 

8. Get wet!

'Many dogs love the water, but not everybody does,' says Dr. Savidge. Introduce your dog to playing in the water but don't force them. (Andrew Petersen/Flickr)

"Many dogs love the water, but not everybody does," she said.

"Having a kiddie pool around with some cool water, and maybe keeping it in the shade so it doesn't warm up, can be a good way for dogs to lay in it and keep cool."

Don't force your dog into the water — introduce them to the water and invite them to play, if they want to, she said. 

It's important to watch for signs of overheating including trouble breathing, says Dr. Christine Savidge. (Submitted by Dr. Christine Savidge)

Cooling mats that can be purchased at the pet store are also a matter of preference, she said. Some dogs will use them and others won't. Your dog may also like access to cool floor tiles. 

It's very important to watch for signs of overheating including heavy panting or excessive drooling, trouble breathing, rapid heartbeat, dark or red gums and tongue, dizziness, weakness or agitation.

If you see those, seek shade, offer water to drink, douse your dog's ears, paws and belly with cool water, and seek veterinary care, she said. 

"Sadly this time of year it is very common," for dogs to experience heat stroke, Savidge said. 

About the Author

Sara Fraser

Web Journalist

Sara is a P.E.I. native who graduated from the University of King's College in Halifax. N.S., with a Bachelor of Journalism (Honours) degree. She's worked with CBC Radio and Television since 1988, moving to the CBC P.E.I. web team in 2015, focusing on weekend features. email