How to keep your dog cool in the summer: Winter and working dogs

dark colored dog

As temperatures soar in the summer months, it’s important to understand the impact excessive heat can have on your working dogs to ensure that your canines remain comfortable and safe.

Working dogs – such as those used by farmers, the police, armed forces and search-and-rescue services – are at an increased risk of overheating during the summer months. Certain breeds which are naturally suited to colder climates are much more susceptible to heatstroke, too. Husky, Malamute and Akita pedigrees all fall into the working dogs category.

By arming yourself with the knowledge needed to keep your winter and working dogs cool in the summer, you will decrease the risk of your animals coming to any harm during particularly hot days.

Acclimatising your winter dog

Acclimatisation means that your dog won’t suddenly be shocked by extreme heat – try to avoid exclusively keeping your pet in air conditioned, ultra-cool rooms and instead allow them to experience the warmth of the outside for short periods, gradually increasing the level of exposure day-by-day.

Ways to keep winter dogs cool

  1. Shelter

    Active dogs need access to shade during the day. If it’s practical, you should allow your dog to stay inside during the hottest periods of the day. In the UK, temperatures peak between 11am and 3pm, although high temperatures can last well into the early evening on particularly warm days.

    In hot weather, certain types of winter dog like to dig small ditches to sleep in. Although this can potentially create issues in the garden, it’s perhaps wiser to allow this behaviour than risk health problems due to overheating.
  2. Regular brushing

    Although trimming or cutting fur should be avoided, regular brushing is encouraged. This is because winter dogs begin to shed their coats when the warm weather arrives, and the removal of excess fur allows your dog to cool down more effectively.
  3. Paddling pools

    A paddling pool can be a great way for your dog to cool down. Most supermarkets offer affordable plastic paddling pools which can be filled in next to no time.

    However, it’s important to regularly change the water to avoid stagnation. If your dog ingests stagnant water, it may experience an upset stomach.
  4. Frozen fruit

    Zoos and wildlife parks have been using fruit frozen in water to keep winter animals cool for years – and many domestic pet owners are now following suit. Frozen fruit gives your dog something to play with, eat and enjoy while simultaneously helping them to cool down.

    In order to create a healthy frozen treat for your pet, simply take an empty ice cream container, margarine tub or Tupperware box, fill it with water and place fruit in it (for example, an apple, pear or berries). Allow this to freeze and keep it ready-to-go for a hot day.

    If you are intending to provide your dog with a paddling pool, you could simply freeze the fruit by itself and place it in the pool when ready. Dogs love bobbing frozen apples up and down in water, and this game will keep them cool and hydrated.
  5. Cooling dog bed

    Cooling dog beds and mats are designed to allow air to flow freely through the material, making them comfortable and refreshing to lie on, and are perfect for the summer months.
dog in the garden

Walking dogs in hot weather

All dogs need exercise, but to avoid the risk of heatstroke you should consider walking your dog during the coolest times of the day; at dawn or in the mid-evening.

You should also be aware of the surfaces your dog is walking on: concrete absorbs heat and can potentially be too hot for your dog’s paws. As a general rule, if it is uncomfortable to keep the palm of your hand on the surface for around thirty seconds, it will be uncomfortable for your dog to walk on. Grass is a much cooler alternative, so it makes sense to take your dog to a park or woodland area during hot days.

During summer walks, always remember to pack a spray bottle in order to provide your dog with a cooling jet of water at regular intervals. Don’t forget to bring a drink for your dog, too. It’s good practice to keep a water bottle and bowl in the boot of your car for when your pooch needs it the most.

When it’s too hot…

Sometimes it’s simply too hot to take your working dogs outside. If the temperature is too high for your regular jaunt, try instead to keep your dog mentally stimulated by playing some brain games. Refresh basic training with ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ commands, or teach them new tricks in exchange for frozen treats.

Checking your dog’s temperature

The normal body temperature for a dog is between 101 and 102.5 F (38°C and 39°C). Although it may sound unpleasant, you will need a rectal thermometer to take your dog’s temperature. Lubricate the thermometer with some vaseline and leave it in place for 2 minutes. Remove it after the two minutes and read the temperature at the end of the column to check your dog isn’t overheating.

Recognising the signs of heatstroke in working dogs

Heatstroke, if left untreated, can be fatal in dogs. Unlike humans and other mammals, dogs cannot sweat via pores in the skin, relying instead on panting or releasing heat through their nose and paw pads to help regulate body temperature.

Symptoms of heatstroke in dogs include excessive panting, dribbling and collapsing. If you suspect that your dog is suffering from heatstroke, you should move them to a cold place. You should then wet the dog’s coat with cool water, and contact your local vet – particularly if you hear a dog whining.

While calling a vet may seem like a drastic measure, it’s particularly important because once a dog begins to show signs of heatstroke it means that potentially serious damage has already been done – and this is why it’s imperative that you do everything in your power to prevent it from occurring in the first place.

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