With summers getting steadily hotter, Sophie Mae, founder of Furends, reveals the 7 mistaken beliefs you should ignore while trying to keep your dog cool during hot spells.
Myth 1: “Dogs can’t overheat if they’re swimming”
UK online searches for “Dog pool” have spiked 827% this month to their highest point all year, indicating that Britons are looking for ways to help keep their dogs cool this summer. While water can certainly help to keep dogs cool, they can still get too hot while swimming or playing in the water, especially if the water is warm.
Make sure to limit their playtime in sunlit pools and rivers to avoid overheating!
Myth 2: “Dogs only cool by sweating through their paws”
Contrary to the common myth, dogs’ primary cooling mechanism isn’t through sweating from their paws. Their sweat glands, which are located in their paw pads, play a relatively minor role in thermoregulation.In fact, dogs primarily cool down by panting, which allows for the evaporation of water from the respiratory tract. Dogs pant, drawing in cooler air which facilitates the evaporation of water from their mouth and tongue. This clever method replaces the warmer air in their lungs with the cooler air they’ve just inhaled, thus effectively helping them to dissipate heat.
Myth 3: “Dogs will stop exercising when they’re too hot”
Some dogs, particularly breeds known for their energy and endurance, may not self-regulate their exercise in the heat. This can put them at risk of overheating, so it’s important for owners to enforce breaks and encourage hydration to avoid heatstroke.
Exertion or exercise accounts for 74% of heatstroke cases. In the UK, 1 in 7 dogs affected by a heat-related illness die from the condition.
Myth 4: “Shaving a dog’s fur will keep them cool”
Shaving a dog’s fur can actually expose them to the risk of sunburn and interfere with their natural ability to regulate body temperature. Instead, Sophie recommends regular brushing to remove excess fur and summer trims for medium and long-haired dogs.
Myth 5: “Dogs can’t eat ice cubes”
Contrary to popular belief, dogs can have ice cubes, but there are a few things to keep in mind. First, make sure the ice cubes are the right size for your dog. Large ice cubes can be a choking hazard, especially for smaller dogs. It’s safer to give them small ice cubes or ice chips instead.
If you think your dog is suffering from heatstroke, do not give them ice.
Instead, you should cool them with water and contact your vet immediately, as heatstroke needs urgent treatment.
Myth 6: “Wrapping your dog in a damp towel will keep them cool”
Wrapping a dog in a damp towel for long periods of time can act like insulation, which can be detrimental to the dog’s ability to regulate its body temperature. Instead, drench a thin towel or rag in water and drape it over your dog’s underbelly and inner thighs for short bursts of time.
Additionally, using pet-safe cooling gear like a cooling mat or vest can also help keep dogs cool during hot weather.
Myth 7: “It’s safe to leave a dog in a car if the windows are open a crack”
Even with the windows open, the temperature inside a car can rise dangerously quickly. It’s never safe to leave a dog unattended in a car on a warm day.If you must transport a dog in a car on a hot day, ensure that you pay attention to any warning signs of heat exhaustion and keep the car cool with air conditioning.
According to the RSPCA, the warning signs for heatstroke in dogs include:
Heavy panting and difficulty breathing
The dog appears lethargic, drowsy, or uncoordinated
Collapsed or vomiting
Sophie’s top tips this summer
- If you can, get a paddling pool for your dog and place it in the shade; this allows them to cool off at any point during the day.
- Fill a Kong toy (or something similar) with their favourite treats and pop it in the freezer for a few hours before giving it to your dog to enjoy. It’s a simple and enjoyable way to keep them cool and entertained on hot days.
- Walk your dog early in the mornings or later in the evenings to avoid the worst of the day’s heat. A simple way to test if it’s cool enough for your dog outside is to place the back of your hand on the tarmac or pavement for around 7 seconds. If it’s too hot for your hand, then it’s too hot for your dog’s paws.
- It’s always important to consult your vet when it comes to your dog’s health. This information is a great starting point for many, but your local vet can give you advice specific to your dog’s needs.
Sophie Mae, a Southampton-based dog enthusiast, is the owner of Furends Southampton, a dog walking & pet sitting service. She has trained with the Institute of Modern Dog Trainers and has over a decade of experience working with dogs. Find out more at letsbefurends.com/