We all know not to take our dogs out for walks when it's really hot, but how can you actually tell if it’s too hot for a walk?
And what can you do instead to keep your dog happy and busy at home in the shade?
In June 2022 we surveyed 500 dog owners to find out how they take care of their pets during hot weather.
And we’ve got some expert veterinary advice for the things they’re less sure about.
How to keep your dog cool in hot weather
UK dog owners are good at finding ways to keep their dogs cool in the heat according to our survey.
The most popular way to keep your pet safe in the sun was to avoid dog walks during the hottest hours of the daytime – a huge 78% of you said you do this already.
Almost 54% of the dog owners who responded to our survey said they put ice cubes in their dogs’ water bowls to cool off their hot dogs in summer.
Frozen food treats are also a popular strategy, with 42% offering them to their dogs in sweltering weather.
And 30% of you got the clippers out to give your pet a short back and sides to cool them down and 27% liked to take your dog swimming to give them relief from the heat.
But over half of you (56%) said you’d bought a product to help keep your dog cool. We don't want you to waste your money on the wrong cooling products for your pet, so we've tried, tested and reviewed some of best cooling mats and jackets around.
Cooling down your dog: the vet's advice
Veterinary surgeon Dr Neerja Muncaster has this advice for heatwaves:
“The research shows many owners already use some of the best DIY techniques to help cool down pets, such as ice cubes in water bowls and toys stuffed with frozen dog food treat paste or water.
“They can also provide shade in the garden and an area of soil they can dig and lie in."
For a bit of inspiration, we've filmed some great garden hacks to keep your pet cool and happy with pet and garden expert Jean Vernon.
"Most importantly, owners should be mindful of only taking their dogs out very early or late in the day," says Dr Muncaster.
Luckily, eight out of 10 of you already do this.
Sometimes this means that dogs might be getting less exercise, so Dr Muncaster recommends increasing training activities at home. You could try some of these fun tennis ball games with no throwing.
“If you can’t time your walks for the coolest hours of the day and you do go out, take cold bottles of water and travel bowls with you,” Dr Muncaster says.
How to check if it’s too hot to walk your dog
“If you place the back of your hand on the pavement and it feels hot, it's too hot for your dog's paws,” says Dr Muncaster.
Dogs Trust calls this the 'seven-second pavement test'. The charity recommends that you hold your hand on the pavement for seven seconds – if you can't hold it there for the full seven seconds, then it's too hot for a dog to walk on.
Our survey revealed that 60% of dog owners don't know that dogs' main sweat glands are located on their paw pads. This is one of the reasons why walking on hot pavement is unpleasant for dogs.
We also found that while owners in the UK know how to keep their dogs cool at home during heatwaves, this was more difficult when they’re out and about. Almost all owners (98%) said restaurants and shops should do more to help keep dogs cool in the heat.
If you find yourself in a hot shop or restaurant and are worried about your dog, be on the lookout for heatstroke symptoms:
Drowsiness or loss of co-ordination
Can you give your dog ice to keep them cool?
Some people think it’s dangerous to give dogs ice water in hot weather, but that’s a myth, as long as your dog’s in good health.
“Dogs who are fit and healthy and not showing any signs of heatstroke can be offered ice in their water, frozen treats such as blueberries or raspberries (both excellent antioxidant foods for dogs) and ice cream made for dogs,” says veterinary surgeon Dr Sophie Bell.
“Licking ice can help keep them cool on the hot days. It’s fine for them to ingest, but if you think your dog is overheating you shouldn’t suddenly cover them or immerse them in ice or freezing water.”
Using cooling mats, a paddling pool, shaded areas, and mental stimulation will help reduce the risk of heatstroke – and don’t forget to make sure they’ve always got a bowl of water available.
We've rounded up and reviewed all the best cooling mats and vests for dogs to help you choose the right ones for your best friend.
“Hydration is especially important when it’s hot, says Dr Bell. Remind your dog to drink, keep the water clean and cool, and add extra water bowls around the house.”
She agrees with Dr Muncaster about being cautious of walks in very hot weather.
“Don’t walk your dog in the heat, choose early morning or late evening walks instead of during the hotter parts of the day,” says Bell. “No dog died from missing one walk, but they can die from heatstroke.”
Heatstroke in dogs
When the weather’s hot, the risk of heatstroke to your dog increases. Most cases are due to owners leaving their dog in a car while they pop into a shop. But just five minutes can be too long especially for high-risk dogs, including:
Dogs with breathing problems
Dogs with heart disease
Overweight and obese dogs
Brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds
All the above cannot tolerate temperatures over 20˚C, so they shouldn’t be walked or left in a car when it’s hot, not even for a minute.
Within 10 minutes, if the outside temperature is 21˚C, the temperature inside the car will exceed 32˚C putting all dogs at risk of this condition that kills dogs in the UK every summertime.
For dogs showing signs of heatstroke, do not offer ice and do not be tempted to submerge them completely into cold water. Both actions can lead to shock and worsen the situation.
If you suspect your dog is suffering heatstroke, immediately contact the nearest vet practice. If you have a pet insurance policy with us you'll have access to free unlimited video vet calls. You can use it to get immediate first aid advice while you arrange for your dog to see a vet in person.