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How to Cool Off Your Dog

Three Methods:Checking for Signs of Overheating and DehydrationCooling Off Your DogPreventing Overheating

When hot weather arrives, it's natural to want to get out and soak up as much sun as possible. Of course you want to bring your dog with you on your summer adventures, but it's important to know that dogs don't respond to heat the same way we do and may have trouble cooling down after being exposed to temperatures above 80°F (28°C). This article will teach how to tell if your pooch is too hot, how to cool him down, and how to keep him safe and comfortable all summer long.

Method 1
Checking for Signs of Overheating and Dehydration

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    Notice if your dog is panting excessively, drooling, or has thick, sticky saliva. These are all signs that your dog is overheated and, if you don't act, could lead to heatstroke. If you notice your dog displaying these symptoms, begin cooling her down right away. Even if you think she's just hot and not experiencing overheating yet, it's worth it to call your vet and get their opinion.[1]
    • More severe overheating can cause diarrhea, vomiting (sometimes bloody), seizures, coma, cardiac arrest and death.[2]
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    Check the elasticity of your dog's skin to see if he is dehydrated. Gently pull the skin on the back of your dog's neck. If your dog is hydrated, the skin should immediately go back to it's normal position. If the skin sticks up or stays wrinkled, your dog may be dehydrated.[3]
    • The longer it takes the skin to return to normal, the more severe the dehydration.[4] Take your dog to the vet so he can get treated with IV fluid.
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    Check your dog's gums to see if she is dehydrated. Lift your dog's lip and press your finger against her gums until the turn white. When you remove your finger, a healthy dog's gums will turn pink again immediately. If the gums stay white or take a while to turn back to their normal color, your dog is likely suffering from dehydration.[5]
    • If you suspect your dog is dehydrated, give her access to water immediately (if she wont drink, try wetting her tongue or just take her straight to the vet). Untreated dehydration can lead to organ failure and death.[6]
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    Watch your dog's movements. If she displays signs of fatigue, weakness, dizziness, listlessness, she could be overheated and need medical attention. If she collapses or has a seizure, take her to vet immediately. Call ahead so they can be ready to treat her immediately.[7]
    • Fatigue is one of the earliest signs of overheating. Don't drag your dog along on a walk or ignore her if she starts laying down or keeps straying into the shade. Give her some water and take her somewhere cool.[8]
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    Check her temperature. Dogs naturally have a higher temperature than humans, and if his temperature is any higher than 104°F (40°C), then he is overheated and you need to start cooling him down as soon as possible and call your veterinarian for an exam.[9]
    • Check his rectal temperature every five minutes to check his progress.
    • Once his body temperature has reached 103°F (39.4°C), stop all cooling measures. Dry him off and keep him covered so he doesn't lose more heat.[10]
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    Evaluate whether or not your dog needs medical attention. Dehydration and overheating can be fatal to dogs. Watch your dog's behavior and check for signs of severe overheating or dehydration. If you're unsure, call your dog's veterinarian or an emergency pet hospital and describe your dog's symptoms. They may ask you to continue to monitor her health or to bring her in for treatment.

Method 2
Cooling Off Your Dog

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    Give your dog access to plenty of fresh, cool water. Make sure the bowl is clean and hasn't been sitting out in the sun all day--bacteria can grow in their bowl if you don't wash it and provide fresh water[11]. Don't try to force or pour water into your dog's mouth, even if he refuses to drink, as he will likely just suck it into his lungs and choke.[12]
    • If your dog won't drink, try wetting his tongue with water. You can use your hand or squeeze water from a cloth and onto his tongue.
    • Don't give your dog ice water or ice if you think he is overheated. This can actually cool him down too quickly and shock his system.[13]
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    Remove your dog from the heat. Get him indoors as soon as possible. If you are outdoors and can pick your dog up, carry him back to your car or house. If there is a pond or stream nearby, allow him to stand in the water and cool down a little before heading back.[14] At the very least, try to get your dog into a shady spot.
    • Try to get your dog someplace with air conditioning or fans that you can position to blow on him.[15]
    • Once he is removed from the heat, evaluate his symptoms and call your veterinarian. It may be necessary to bring him in for emergency treatment.
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    Cool your dog down by draping cool, wet towels over her neck, under her forelimbs (in her armpits) and between her hind legs (around her groin).[16] These towels should be cool, not cold. Don't ice ice or icepacks--you need to bring her temperature down gradually. If you lower her temperature too quickly or it falls too low, it could be just as dangerous as overheating.[17]
    • If you don't have towels, you can cool her by pouring room temperature water on her body.[18]
    • Wet her ear flaps and her paw pads. Most of a dog's sweat glands are in her paws, and cooling these down may help lower her temperature.[19]
    • You can also try evaporative cooling by rubbing her footpads and groin with isopropyl alcohol.[20] Evaporative cooling works using the same principles as sweating--as the alcohol evaporates, it removes the heat from your dog's body.[21]

Method 3
Preventing Overheating

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    Keep your dog in a cool, safe environment. Your dog should be indoors (and in the A/C or in front of a fan) as much as possible during really hot days and not left outside in the heat.[22] If he does spend a lot of time outside, make sure he has a shady area where he can cool down out of the sun and plenty of fresh water to drink.[23]
    • The car is never a safe environment for a dog on a warm day--even if it's not that hot, even if you are parked in the shade, even if you crack a window and are only gone fora little while. The temperature in a parked car can quickly soar to 140°F (60°C).[24]
    • Garages, beaches with no shelter, or hot, sunny rooms are also not suitable environments for your dog on a warm day.[25]
    • A shaded, wooded area with a pond or shallow, running water is an acceptable place to walk your dog when it's hot. Be sure he has plenty of water and you watch for signs of fatigue and overheating.[26]
    • Provide a water dip for your dog to stand in if he is outside. Fill a tub with some cool water and allow him to cool the pads of his feet by sitting, standing, or sometimes laying in the water.
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    Don't overexercise your dog. Especially if your dog is older or a breed with a short muzzle (like Pugs, bulldogs, Pekingese, and Boston terriers), too much activity on a hot day can cause your dog to overheat. Try not to take your dog on a long run or walk on hot days. If you do go out, notice if she's seeking out shady spots and lying down. This is her way of telling you "it's too hot, let's get out of here."[27]
    • Dogs sometimes don't know their limits, especially if they're field dogs that love to run, hunt, and play. They may push themselves until they collapse and their lives are in danger. It is your responsibility to watch her for signs of overheating or save the hunt for a cooler day.[28]
    • Dogs with short muzzles are not as efficient at cooling themselves because they can't pant as well as other dogs. Panting is the main way a dog can cool himself.[29] Even normal activity can be too much for these breeds on a hot day.
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    Walk your dog during the coolest parts of the day. Morning and early afternoon or evening are the best times to walk your dog--taking him out at high-noon is asking for trouble. Aside from the hot rays of the sun and the warm air, the hot asphalt, concrete, or sand can burn the sensitive pads of your dog's feet and cause them to blister.[30] If it's too hot for you to walk barefoot, it's definitely too hot for your dog too.
    • If you take your dog out before or after the sun goes down, you can fit in adequate exercise so he won't become bored or destructive during the day.[31]
    • Try to keep your dog on the grass or even alternate between the sidewalk and the grass so his food pads don't get too hot.[32]
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    Get your dog some cool accessories. A cooling vest or collar can help keep your dog from overheating on hot days. Some use cooling packs that are built into the side, others just need to be soaked in water to cause the heat to evaporate off your dog's core. Look for one that is reflective and lightweight.[33]
    • You may also want to get your dog a cooling mat or elevated bed so he has a comfortable place to rest when he gets too warm. These are usually very portable and rely on different cooling methods, from gel mats to evaporation cooling to water cooling to inserts, you have tons of options to fit your space and lifestyle.[34]
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    Give your dog's hair a trim, but do not shave her. Though you may imagine your poor dog suffering in her fur coat in 100°F (38°C) temperatures, your dog's fur actually provides insulation and helps her regulate her temperature.[35] Just as it keeps her warm in winter, it also keeps her cool in the summer.[36]
    • If your dog has long hair, it's okay to give her a little summer trim or summer cut.[37]
    • Make sure you keep her fur clean and brushed, as this allows for better air circulation.[38]
    • Your dog's coat also protects her from UV rays and keeps her from getting sunburned or skin cancer.[39]
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    Make sure your dog is drinking enough water and give him some frozen treats. Keeping your dog well hydrated is essential to keeping him safe from overheating. If he is dehydrated and his tongue is dry, his method of cooling himself (panting) will be rendered ineffective. If you are out with a field dog on a hot day, make sure he is drinking water at least once an hour, if not more often.[40]
    • If your dog is not overheated, it's okay to give him some ice or a frozen treat to munch on. Try making him ice cream or ice pops. Just remember that feeding an overheated (not just warm) dog ice or frozen food can be very dangerous and can cause him to go into shock.

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Article Info

Categories: Canine Health