How to keep old dogs cool in summer: Tips for senior pet parents

July 5, 2024 - 5 min read
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s care, treatment, or medical conditions.
Old shepherd dog laying on a gray couch

As the temperature rises, it's crucial to ensure your senior dog stays cool and comfortable. Older pups are especially prone to overheating, which can lead to serious health issues.

Here's a comprehensive guide on how to keep an old dog cool in hot weather, including proactive tips, signs of overheating, and when to see a vet.

How dogs stay cool

dog drooling and panting

Dogs regulate their body temperature mainly through panting and a bit of sweating through their paw pads. Panting helps them evaporate moisture from their tongues, nasal passages, and lungs, which cools their blood.

Unlike us, dogs don't sweat all over, making them less efficient at cooling down through sweating. This means some cooling methods—like fans—might not be as effective for dogs, especially at higher temperatures. More on that later.

Why senior dogs are prone to overheating

Old dog

While keeping dogs comfortable in the heat is important at any age, senior dogs are at a higher risk of overheating.

Senior dogs often have a harder time regulating their body temperature due to factors like obesity and pre-existing health issues (heart disease and respiratory conditions are big ones).

A study in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine found that older dogs (and flat-faced breeds in particular) are more susceptible to heat stress and heat stroke, so it's crucial to keep a close eye on them during the summer months.

Diet and obesity: hidden factors in overheating

Portrait of an overweight Pug crossed with a Pekingese posing against a pale pink background. Colour, horizontal format with some copy space.

If your senior dog is a bit on the hefty side, they’re at a higher risk of overheating.


In scientific terms, "obesity limits heat conduction and radiation from the skin and can limit effective cooling via respiration." In simple terms, fat traps heat and slows down your dog's ability to cool off by panting.

Additionally, overweight dogs take longer to cool down than their leaner counterparts. As dogs age, their metabolism and activity levels slow down. That diet that worked when they were younger might be contributing to weight gain now.

A balanced diet tailored to senior dogs can help maintain a healthy weight and improve overall health. Chat with your vet for recommendations, and check out our guide on food for older pets.

How to keep your senior dog cool

adult senior black mutt dog sitting in the grass outside

Keeping your senior dog cool during hot weather is all about being proactive! Here are some practical tips to help your older pup stay comfortable and avoid overheating.

Hit up the pool

Swimming is a fantastic way to help your senior dog stay cool, and technically, it's been studied as the most effective method of cooling a dog down. It also provides low-impact exercise, making it perfect for older dogs with joint issues.

You don't need a full-sized pool—a small kiddie pool or even a large tub can work wonders for cooling your dog down (although they won't have the hydrotherapy benefits they would in a submersive pool). Just ensure it’s clean and the water isn’t too cold.

Always supervise your pup while they swim to ensure their safety!

Create a cool environment

Face of an old beautiful Irish Setter pet dog as panting in summer

Set up a cool, shaded area for your dog to rest. Air conditioning can help keep indoor temperatures comfy. (Fans may have less of an impact at higher temperatures because dogs don't have the same cooldown mechanisms as we do.)

Cooling mats and elevated beds can also reduce body heat. Can't buy a cooling mat right now? Place damp, cool towels on your dog's body or let them lie on them.

Use cooling products

dog wearing a Kurgo cooling vest outside

Consider cooling vests, collars, and bandanas designed to lower body temperature. While their effectiveness is still being studied, these products might help your pup while you're on walks or cooling down from a play session.

Adjust exercise routines

Exercise your senior dog during the cooler parts of the day, like early morning or late evening. Avoid strenuous activities and provide plenty of breaks—your dog likely doesn't have the same stamina they used to!

Focus on hydration

Older yellow mixed breed dog drinking water from bowl in living room

Encourage your senior dog to drink more water by providing multiple water sources and adding water to their food. If they're not interested in drinking water, talk to your vet. They could have an underlying health condition.

Best-case scenario? They're just bored with plain water and would appreciate some alternative hydrating treats (like ice cubes made with dog-friendly ingredients).

Keep on grooming

poodle mix being shaved by groomer

Regular grooming helps remove excess fur and reduce insulation, making it easier for your dog to stay cool.

Thinking about shaving your dog to keep them cool? It might or might not be a good idea, depending on their breed and coat type. Always discuss grooming options with your vet to determine the best approach for your senior dog.

What if your senior dog spends a lot of time outside?

senior golden retriever looks off into distance

If your senior dog loves being outdoors, a lot of the same tips above apply. Make sure there's always a shaded spot where they can escape the sun, and keep fresh, cool water available, adding ice cubes to keep it cooler for longer.

How to tell if your senior dog is too hot

Recognizing the signs of overheating is crucial to preventing heat stroke. Common symptoms include:

If your senior dog shows any of these signs, it's important to take immediate action to cool them down. For more information, check out our piece on how to recognize heatstroke in pets.

When to see a vet about a senior dog that's overheating

A small, fluffy dog is being examined by a veterinarian wearing a white coat and blue gloves. The vet is using a stethoscope to listen to the dog's chest. A clipboard with a pen is on the examination table in the foreground.

If you suspect your senior dog is overheating—or you're worried for any reason—reach out to your vet ASAP. If your dog has other conditions, overheating can be life-threatening.

Your vet can provide additional guidance on how to manage your dog's health during hot weather and suggest any necessary treatments or lifestyle adjustments!

Keeping your senior dog cool in hot weather requires proactive measures and careful monitoring. By following these tips, you can help your beloved pet stay comfortable and healthy all summer.

Additionally, consider whether pet insurance for your older dog might be a good option. It can help reimburse you for unexpected health issues related to heat exposure (pre-existing conditions excluded—always see your policy for details!). Learn more:

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Leanna Zeibak
Content Manager

Leanna Zeibak is a Content Manager at ManyPets. In her spare time, she paints pet portraits and bakes far too many chocolate chip cookies.