I’ve been incredibly lucky to travel and live in many different countries with my dog, and as such have had to adapt to life in the heat of Miami and the Caribbean, and the extremes of cold in Siberia and the Baltic’s, and everything in between, especially whilst living in Britain. My dog is an Italian Greyhound, a breed renowned for their love of sunbathing and cosying up under the duvet, even on a hot day. Here are some of the tips and tricks that I’ve picked up for looking after your dog when the weather gets hot, hot, hot!
I learnt this trick whilst we lived in Grenada, West Indies. I’d not had my puppy for very long. It was tricky to get hold of dog toys and things for a pup to chew on, and with no air conditioning in our little place by the beach, the days were hot and sticky. So I decided to make some ice bars in the freezer, and dropped these into my dog’s water bowl, along with the occasional ice cube. They melted quickly, but she loved to chase the ice across the tiled floor, crunched them up, and licked up the water as it melted. Cheap, easy, and a few minutes of entertainment before the ice melted. If you are feeling a little more adventurous, you could make your ice bars with dog friendly flavours or simply freeze some home-made treats for your dog.
You might not think it, but the pavements and tarmac in the UK can be just as hot as they get in places like Miami. On hot days, try to walk your dog as early and as late in the day as you can, so that you avoid midday and afternoon when the sun is at its hottest. Walking on a hot floor can burn your dog’s pads and their feet can become incredibly painful and open to infection. Where possible walk in the shade, and if the floor is hot even in the early morning or late at night, then invest in some dog boots to protect their feet and pads from burning.
In the heat of the summer, shade is your friend. When out walking, or even in the garden, or on the beach, make sure that your dog has access to shady areas. This could be a bush or tree, or a towel hung over a bench, or you could invest in a shade tent that can be folded away as required. If your dog is at home and the room is hot from the sunshine, try closing the curtains to keep the room cooler and create shady places that they have access to. If your dog is crated whilst you are at work, make sure that the crate isn’t in direct sunlight, and the room is well ventilated and cool, but not too cold.
Be sure to give your dog access to water at all times, especially if your dog is fussy about their drinking water source, as my dog is. I always carry a bottle of water with me wherever we go, and have spare dog poo bags in my pocket, that can double up as water receptacles, especially if I need to travel light and don’t have a collapsible dog bowl with me. Offer your dog water, even if they don’t want it.
Fans and open windows are great for circulating air around your dog and keeping them cool (as long as your dog isn’t going to come to harm from an open window or room fan). These can help dogs to regulate their temperature especially if they are a breed with a flatter face that struggles to keep cool through panting, such as a pug.
Unlike most breeds of dog, my Italian Greyhound is not a great fan of water, but if your dog is a water lover, you could set up a paddling pool in your yard, have fun with the mist option on your garden hose pipe, or go for a dip together in the sea or a lake. I do a lot of outdoor swimming in some amazingly beautiful places, and on the really hot days, I sometimes carry my dog into the water with me to cool off, just for a minute or so. Be cautious around water though, not all dogs enjoy water, some might be afraid or not used to swimming, and if your dog is already suffering from the heat, you could do more harm than good as the cold water draws the heat into their internal organs and away from the skin. You might want to think about investing in a dog lifejacket or teaching your dog how to get out of water, in the event that they do fall in, and never leave your dog unsupervised around water, even paddling pools.
Dog fur as much as it might look like it gets too hot in summer, can actually keep your dog cool by keeping the hot air away from the skin. Do not be tempted to shave off your dog’s fur as this could impede its ability to regulate its body temperature.
If your dog is afraid of the water, dislikes water, or you simply don’t have access to a pool of water or a hose, then you could try soaking a blanket in water and draping it over your dog, you could even put a towel in the freezer to cool it. Applying the blanket to your dog, especially around the groin or neck area can be a great way to cool your dog down if you do not already have a dog cooling mat.
If the weather is simply too hot, then you might want to just stay indoors or leave your dog at home until the day has cooled a bit. Does your dog really need to go on that outing with you? Do you really need to go and run that errand right now, or can it wait until later in the day? Can you catch a train or bus earlier in the day when it is less busy and less warm?
And finally, an easy way to keep your dog hydrated on a hot day, is to replace some of their dried food with a canned food that has a higher moisture content. You could also offer treats that are moisture rich, like apples or peas, but seek advice from your vet if your dog is on a special diet or has a particularly sensitive tummy.
Written by Sarah Weldon
Sarah is a British explorer and ice swimmer, who loves nothing more than hikes in the mountain with her Italian Greyhound and cosy nights by the fire with her three devious cats.