How to protect your dog from the summer heat

yellow labrador swimming with a big stick in her mouth

Written by: Polona

Long, sunny days during the summer months attract us to spend more time outside. But as tempting as it can be, your dog may not like it as much as you do. Dogs do not sweat like us. They can only cool down by panting and minor sweating through their foot pads. But if the air temperature is close to their body temperature, cooling by panting is not efficient enough. That is why they can easily get overheated. 

Some dogs may adapt and tolerate the hot summer months better than the others. The ones at most risk are the brachycephalic dogs. For them it is much harder to regulate their temperature through shorter nasal passages. Elderly, obese, diabetic dogs and dogs suffering from heart or lung disease may also need more attention.

To safely spend the summer months, follow these rules: 

  1. NEVER, EVER leave your dog in the car. Not even for a minute. Don’t even think about doing it. Even if you don’t think it’s too hot outside, the temperature in the closed car can rise quickly and dangerously high. With temperature this high it is possible your dog gets a heat stroke and die. Take you dog with you if you can otherwise leave them at home. 
  2. Keep your house cool: open the windows at night to let your house air. Close the drapes during the day and leave the windows slightly open. If you have AC, turn it on. Don’t rely on a fan. A fan can’t cool down your dog, because they’re only sweating through their paws. 
  3. Keep the water bowl cool and full because during the heat your dog will drink more water than usual. Drinking plenty of water will help them keep cool and hydrated.
  4. Provide plenty of shade, but never leave your dog outside alone. Even though your dog has plenty of shade, they may still lie down directly under the sun, unprotected. Dogs do not perceive the heat like we do. They do not realise lying in the sun makes them even hotter. So, keep an eye on your dog the whole time. 
  5. Limit you exercise during the midday heat. Only take your dog for a short walk if necessary. Don’t walk on the asphalt, walk on the grass. Take your walks in the morning and in the evening when it is cooler and the sun is not shining directly on your dog.
  6. Don’t go running with your dog during the day. Even if it’s not so hot, the direct sunshine on the fur of your friend absorbs too much heat that your dog can’t regulate fast enough. 
  7. Protect your friend with the sunscreen. Yes, dogs can get sunburned as well. The fur protects their skin, but not everywhere. Protect your dog’s nose, ear tips and skin around the lips. 
  8. Don’t shave your dog! Dogs fur is vital to regulate their body temperature and protects them from sunburns. Trim and comb your dog regularly, but don’t ever shave them! 
  9. Take your dog to swim. Jumping in the water is the best way to cool your dog. But be careful, not all dogs are good swimmers. You can also shower your dog a few times a day to cool them. 
  10. Warm months are also a prime time for ticks, fleas and mosquitos. Protect your pet well. Read more about parasite prevention. 

Just in case…

The signs of a heat stroke:

  • raised temperature, rectal temperature rises to 40° to 43.3°C,
  • rapid, difficult breathing and panting,
  • thickened and excessive salivation,
  • fatigue,
  • muscle tremors,
  • staggering,
  • vomiting,
  • bloody diarrhoea.

Heat stroke treatment:

  • instantly move the dog into the shadow, if possible, into the air-conditioned building,
  • start cooling the dog with water. Wipe their pads with cool water, apply cool packs to the groin area.
  • when rectal temperature falls to 39°C stop the cooling process and dry the dog.
  • take the dog to the veterinarian!


Eldredge, D.M, Carlson, L.D., Carlson, D.G., AND Griffin, J.M. 2007. Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook, 4th edition, 22-23.