Whether we’re talking about the early, mid, or late summer, or even early autumn as it is right now, as temperatures soar, it’s surprisingly easy for our dogs to get overheated which poses serious risks. Having a list of effective ways on how to cool down a dog should be on every pet owner's arsenal of “know-hows”.
Table of Contents
- Difference Between Overheating and Heatstroke
- 12 Most Efficient and Effective Ways on How to Cool Down a Dog by Yourself
- 5 Dangerous Ways to Cool Down a Dog
This is the last month we're occasionally experiencing high temperatures. While we follow safety protocols to keep our pets from heat strokes, it’s still possible for our dogs to get uncomfortably warm in these months. So today we’re talking about some of the most efficient ways on how to cool down a dog when this happens and I'll mentioned a few very common online recommendations that you should absolutely avoid.
ALSO READ: 24 Ways to Prevent Heatstroke in Dogs
Difference Between Overheating and Heatstroke
Before we look at the most efficient ways on how to cool down a dog, it’s important to understand the difference between overheating and heatstroke in dogs. When your pup is overheated, their body temperature will be above 103 degrees Fahrenheit. This increase in temperature puts a strain on your dog’s bodily systems as they fight to cool themselves down through panting since they are unable to sweat as humans do. This condition is not fatal, unless it progresses.
When your dog’s body temperature rises to 106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher then it's a new territory and they are at a serious risk of heatstroke. Like overheating, heatstroke taxes your dog’s body; however, it stresses the body to a point where the organs are at substantial risk of shutting down completely, thereby causing death. Thus this condition can often be fatal.
Signs That Your Dog is Overheated
When your dog is overheated you may notice the following signs and symptoms:
- Body temperature above 103 degrees Fahrenheit
- Excessive panting
- Bright red gums
- Slowed response time
- Inability to get comfortable
- Seeking cooler out surfaces such as tile
- Rapid heart rate
If your dog displays any of these signs of overheating, act quickly to bring down their body temperature while monitoring their symptoms and using the below tips on how to cool down a dog effectively. If symptoms begin to wane with cooling, keep a watchful eye on your dog and continue helping to lower their body temperature until their body's temperature has reached a healthy 102 degrees Fahrenheit.
Once the dog's body reaches a normal body temperature, keep a close eye on your pup for the next 24 hours in case of any signs of damage to the bodily systems and don’t put the dog in any situation that may raise their body temperature again.
Signs of Heatstroke
When your dog is at risk of suffering heatstroke or is already suffering from the effects of heatstroke, you may notice the following signs and symptoms:
- Body temperature above 106 degrees Fahrenheit
- Blue or bright red gums
- Glazed eyes
- Excessive drooling
- Rapid heart rate
- Loss of consciousness
- Loss of coordination
If your dog shows any of these signs of heatstroke, it’s imperative that you head straight to your vet or the closest emergency vet clinic immediately while attempting any of the below ways on how to cool down a dog effectively.
On your way to the clinic have a friend call ahead while you’re driving or use your hands-free device to call ahead to the clinic yourself. Let them know that you are on the way with an emergency patient and explain your dog’s symptoms. If possible, let them know your dog’s current temperature as well.
When you're driving yourself, most of the below tips on how to cool down a dog will not be possible. However, if you are able in any way, it’s also helpful to implement any cooling techniques as you travel to the vet clinic to try and keep your dog’s body temperature from rising any higher as you drive as this will increase the chance of survival.
When In Doubt…
If you are ever in doubt as to whether your dog is experiencing overheating or suffering the effects of heatstroke, it’s always better to be safe and check your dog's temperature and then check in with your vet immediately in case something seems off to you. With that being said, here are some of the most effective ways on how to cool down a dog.
12 Most Efficient and Effective Ways on How to Cool Down a Dog by Yourself
1. A Wet Towel
One of the easiest methods and ways on how to cool down a dog when he's overheated is to take a towel and soak it with cool water. Place the wet towel on your dog’s underbelly being sure to cover the inner thighs to speed up cooling by cooling the dog's femoral artery.
- Use flour sack or kitchen towels if possible because they are thinner;
- Keep two towels handy so that as one warms up to room temperature, you can switch it out for a cool towel.
2. Put Your Dog in the Shower
If you can carry your dog or if your dog is still able to stand and/or walk, take them into the shower. Use the shower head to run tepid water over your dog’s body slowly until they begin to cool down.
- Do NOT use cold water to cool your dog as it can shock their system and cause complications. Again, do NOT use very cold water;
- If you are still outdoors and not at home, use any available source of cool water – streams, lakes, the ocean, etc.
3. Create a Breeze
Creating a breeze using a fan helps to move air in the room and bring down the overall temperature. There's not always a way to do this, but if you have a dog friendly fan in your home, or a car doggy fan in your vehicle, use those. There are also fans that you can place in your dog crate, and many of them are special dog crate fans that are safe for pets.
- Do NOT point a fan directly at your dog’s face. Your dog will be panting to try and cool themselves down and pointing a fan directly at their open mouth can cause an excessive consumption of air leading to further complications;
- If you have access to a block of ice, place it in front of your fan to make a cooler breeze.
4. Provide a Cooler Environment
It goes without saying that a cooler environment is one of the best ways on how to cool down a dog and will help to bring down your dog’s body temperature quicker, but again, creating too cold of an environment can cause a dangerous and sudden drop in body temperature so be careful about this.
- Lay your dog on a tile, marble, linoleum, or wooden floor inside your home rather than on carpet;
- Draw curtains and pull down drapes to keep the room shaded from any sun exposure;
- Cover windows with blankets if you don’t have blackout curtains to keep rooms dark and cool;
- Close doors to allow a room to cool down faster;
- Seek lower levels of the house like basements and cellars which are naturally cooler.
5. Air Conditioning
Make sure that your dog is in a room with access to air conditioning but try not to let them lay directly on the air conditioning vent to prevent cooling too rapidly. If you don’t have central air conditioning, use a portable air conditioning unit to bring down the temperature of the room.
- Keep doors closed to allow the room to cool down faster (and mind the environment cooling tips mentioned above).
If you are still outside and your dog is overheated but not dangerously so and you don’t have access to a cool water source, one of most effective ways on how to cool down a dog in that situation is to find a shady area and dig a hole in the dirt or sand.
Underneath the top layer, you will find a cooler layer of dirt or sand – let your dog lay on this cooler surface. Be sure that any areas of bare skin (for example, the underbelly) are touching this cooler surface to help your dog to cool down a little faster.
Keep this in mind:
- While this is an effective method on how to cool down a dog when he's overheated, it’s not always practical for obvious reasons, but if you find yourself with no other choice, it can help to mitigate circumstances until you can find a better solution or until help arrives.
7. Cooling Vests
One of the best options for preventing overheating in dogs in the first place before it takes hold is to use a cooling vest. On the linked list, you'll see that our and other pet owners' favorite cooling vest is the Ruffwear Swamp Cooler which retails for about $60.
The best cooling vest will have a middle section of the three-layer vest that uses water that is stored in the vest’s reservoir to keep your dog’s body cool. These vests also work to bring down your dog’s body temperature by reflecting heat while promoting evaporation.
- Dog cooling vests are a great option for preventing overheating because they can be rewetted while you’re out so that they can provide longer acting cooling effects;
- Other than cooling vests, there are also cooling mats and cooling beds that you can use to prevent or deal with a dog who's overheating.
If your dog is hot but not overheating just yet, swimming in a dog pool, lake, ocean or elsewhere can be one of the best ways on how to cool down a dog while also burning off some extra energy. Provided that the water source is cool but not cold and safe for swimming in, it can very efficiently bring down your dog’s body temperature.
- Do NOT assume that your dog can swim, because while some dogs are great swimmers other dogs have more trouble with swimming;
- Be wary of currents and undertows if your dog is swimming in the ocean;
- Do NOT allow your dog to swim in fast-moving water sources.
9. Provide an Ongoing Supply of Fresh Water
Freshwater will keep your dog hydrated and you should always make it available to your dog regardless of the weather. Water is particularly important in summer months though, because it allows your dog to cool themselves more efficiently.
- Consider using cooling water bowls to provide cooler water during summer months. Take note, however, that not all dogs will drink water that has been chilled, so if you notice that your dog is reluctant to drink chilled water, provide room temperature or slightly cooler than room temperature water instead;
- For your backyard, you can also implement a misting system which will help your dog to keep cooler and these systems are very cheap.
10. A Footbath
If you don't have a dog pool or paddling pool, then you can use what you definitely have as one of the ways on how to cool down a dog. For example, you can help your dog to cool down by filling a large tub or your own home bathtub with cool water and having them stand in it. With their paws submerged in cooler water, your dog will be able to cool down more effectively.
Keep this in mind:
- Again, be sure to avoid using very cold water because a sudden extreme temperature change can shock the dog's system.
11. Regular Grooming
Regular grooming will keep your dog’s coat healthy and eliminate tangles and mats that can prevent the free flow of air on your dog’s skin. Do not shave your dog, and be particularly careful with double coated dogs.
- Use a dog brush that is best suited to your dog’s coat type. If you’re not sure what type of brush is best, talk to a local groomer or check this article.
12. Make Frozen Treats
Frozen dog treats is one of the great ways on how to cool down a dog and keep your pooch cool during hot months and they’re easy and affordable to make. If you’re looking for recipes, take a look at Samantha's recipes, like this one or this one.
This rounds up the whole list of most effective and efficient ways on how to cool down a dog, any of which you can use to prevent and deal with a dog whose overheating, but few that can be used when your pooch is already in a heatstroke state (see above). With that being said, here are the five worst and dangerous ways on how to cool down a dog which are sometimes found as advice online but you should absolutely AVOID.
5 Dangerous Ways to Cool Down a Dog
1. Ice Packs
If your dog is overheated, never apply ice packs to their skin. You'll see me mention this in my tips on using cool baths and showers above – such rapid cooling can cause blood vessels in dog's body to contract and reduce blood flow, making it much harder for your dog to cool themselves down and cause further complications.
2. Ice Baths
You’ve likely seen videos of dog’s wallowing in children’s wading pools filled with ice. That's totally fine in summer when your pooch is not in danger, but when your dog is already overheated, this can be extremely dangerous for the same reason noted above.
3. Shave Your Dog Completely
Many pet owners assume this to be one of the best ways on how to cool down a dog, but it's not. Resist the temptation to shave your dog in summer (unless directed to do so for health reasons by your vet) because a healthy coat can not only protect against overheating, but it also protects against sunburn.
4. Allow Your Dog to Swim in Water with Signs of Algae
Swimming can be a great way to lower your dog’s body temperature, but if there is any sign of algae in the water, avoid it completely. Certain types of algae are toxic to your dog if ingested and can lead to health complications and water intoxication.
5. Leaving Your Dog in the Car with the AC On
This has been said over and over already, but worth mentioning. No matter the reason, NEVER leave your dog in the car alone, even if you leave the air conditioning on. Although the AC in your car can keep your dog cool, it can also cut off if your car stalls or your AC unit encounters a problem and your dog will overheat very quickly. If you’re not going straight to the vet or doggy daycare and back, leave your dog at home so you don't need any of these ways on how to cool a dog down and risk picking the wrong one.