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How to Keep Dogs Cool in Summer Without Air Conditioning: 8 Easy Ways

Kristin Hitchcock

By Kristin Hitchcock

Italian Greyhound basks in the summer heat

Air conditioning is the prime standard for keeping dogs (and people) cool in the summer. But it isn’t always available.

You can’t exactly take your air conditioning to the park with you. Not all homes even have air conditioning, especially if they were built decades ago.

Like people, dogs can suffer from heatstroke and other severe complications if they get too hot. You wouldn’t head outside on a hot day without taking any precautions – you shouldn’t expect your dog to either.

Luckily, other ways to keep your canine cool don’t involve blatantly changing the area’s temperature.

Keep reading below for several ways you can help your dog stay cool and safe this summer.

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The 8 Ways How to Keep Dogs Cool Without Air Conditioning

1. Provide Plenty of Cold Water

Cold water is the best way to prevent heat exhaustion and heatstroke. All dogs need water, just like people. When they’re out and about in the heat, they will need more water than usual.

People take water bottles whenever they go hiking in the heat. Your dog needs to take one as well.

Providing this water is relatively easy when your dog is simply romping around in your backyard. Set out a cold bowl of water, changing it regularly.

You shouldn’t wait for the water to be empty before you change it. Once it is lukewarm and appears dirty, switch it out with some fresh.

When you’re on the go, things get a bit more complicated. You could carry a dog bowl of water around with you, but this isn’t practical in the least.

Your best bet is typically a collapsible water bowl or a squirt bottle. They make bottles with bowl-like extensions on them. Squeeze out the water, and, voila, your dog gets a fresh drink.

Offer your dog water every 15 to 20 minutes. They may not drink it each time, but near-constant access is vital. Smaller dogs will need more often sips than large dogs, as they tend to drink less at a time.

Don’t provide too much water at once, though. Dogs may drink too fast and upset their stomach. When your dog is dehydrated, vomiting is not what you want them to do.

2. Avoid the Hottest Part of the Day

The time between one and four is often the hottest. Avoid doing any exercising during this time. Morning and evening walks will be far more comfortable for both you and your dog. If it’s too hot for you to go on a walk, it’s likely too hot for your dog as well.

Be sure to check on the humidity as well. It may be cooler after a rain shower – technically. But one look at the humidity gauge will tell another story.

Sheltie at night
Image Credit: kcho1200, Pixabay

3. Watch Your Dog’s Paws

If you walk on pavement, be extra sure to check the temperature of the pavement before you walk. Place your bare hand on the pavement for seven seconds. If it is uncomfortable, the pavement is too hot for your canine.

You can also pour a drop of water on the pavement. If it steams, it is far too hot for your canine.

Dogs can quickly burn their paws on the hot pavement.  This injury can require veterinary attention and potentially permanent injury.

It simply isn’t safe to walk your dog in the heat of the day in most areas. Not only can it lead to heat exhaustion, but your dog’s paws won’t be too happy about it!

There are several ways you can help your dog’s paws stay safe in hotter conditions. Doggy shoes are an easy example. Many dogs will be unsure how to walk in them initially, but that doesn’t mean you should give up.

If you never wore shoes before, they would probably feel quite weird as well!

Practice putting the shoes on your dog inside and give them plenty of time to practice. The terrain indoors is flat and even. Outdoors – not so much. Your dog needs to get a handle on how the shoes change their coordination before they can tackle the outdoors.

Paw wax is an alternative to shoes. Smear it on your pet’s paws before contact with a hot surface to avoid burns. It can also be used in the winter to counter the potentially harmful chemicals on the road, like road salts.

Your dog may still look like the star of a YouTube video with paw wax, though. It may be easier to adapt to their shoes, but many dogs still need time to get used to it.

4. Provide Alternative Bedding

Dog houses typically have no airflow. Inside can feel like an oven, especially if it is sitting in the sun.

Some fancier dog houses are made to combat the heat. They may have reflective tops and insulated insides. However, most are not suitable for use in the summertime.

Instead, you’ll need to provide your dog with alternative places to relax in the heat of summer.

Find a nice shady spot and consider adding an elevated dog bed. Not only will these dog beds keep your grass alive, but they also allow the air to flow underneath your dog.

Avoid closed-in areas, even if they are shaded. A mostly enclosed porch is probably not the best option. Instead, look for spaces under shady trees where your dog can stay cool.

dog in a dog bed licking
Image Credit: Ira Lee Nesbitt, Pixabay

5. Have Some Water Fun

Not all dogs enjoy playing in the water. Many will give it a try when it is sweltering outside, though.

Just like lounging in a pool helps you stay cool, a small kiddy pool for your dog can be conducive.

Labrador Retrievers and similar breeds are known for having plenty of water fun. Splashing and swimming are what they do best. Shih Tzus, Bulldogs, and similar breeds? Not so much.

Even those that typically don’t enjoy water may have a fun time laying in it when the heat index starts to rise. We recommend offering it anyway, even if your dog has never touched the water before. Preferably, set the pool somewhere in the shade so that the water doesn’t heat up.

A big pool may easily retain its coolness in the sun, but a small pool can turn into a bathtub.

Be sure to adjust the water level for the dog. Don’t exact a Dachshund to have fun in water that is three feet deep.

6. Intervene Before It’s Too Late

There are several stages of heat exhaustion and stroke. If you intervene before it gets too severe, your dog may need very minimal treatment.

Sometimes, a trip to the shade is all that is needed!

Severe heatstroke requires a visit to an emergency vet hospital, though. It is potentially deadly, significantly, if your dog isn’t cooled off right away. Pets can even experience permanent organ damage or other complications – even after the heatstroke has been treated.

The thermoregulatory system is often damaged after a heat stroke, making the dog more prone to heatstroke in the future.

The symptoms of heatstroke are similar to those in humans. Usually, the dog will start by panting heavily. Dogs cannot sweat like people. They have very few sweat glands.

While this does have its advantages – dogs won’t get stinky from sweating, for instance – it does mean that their only way to cool down is panting. If a dog is panting excessively, it often means that this method itself is no longer enough.

Now is the time to intervene. Move your dog to a cooler location, provide fresh water, and consider pouring cool water on your canine.

Other symptoms often include drooling, reddened gums, vomiting, and diarrhea. As it progresses, your dog will begin to experience mental symptoms, like loss of consciousness, uncoordinated movements, and collapse. These are signs that your dog needs to see a vet ASAP.

Dogs with more severe symptoms are much more likely to experience organ damage and complications, which require vet attention – even if you manage to get the heatstroke under control by yourself.

dog outside in shade
Image Credit: ALEKSEI SEMYKIN, Shutterstock

7. Cooling Mats

In the winter, heated blankets are the gold standard for keeping your dog warm. In the summer, switch them out with cooling mats.

Cooling mats work similarly to a heated blanket – but they do the opposite.

When your dog lays on them, the cooling mat springs into action and begins to cool down your dog. Many mats have cooling effects that last for several hours, so your pet stays cool through the hottest part of the day.

How these cooling mats work can vary. Some must be plugged up, but many don’t.

We recommend one that uses a gel, as these can be laid down and forgotten about. No recharging and shoving the mat into the fridge necessary.  This cooling mat by Green Pet Shop is a good example. It even comes in multiple sizes, so you can select one that works best for your canine.

Cooling mats should be placed somewhere in the shade with airflow. Don’t put it in the dog house. Instead, put it underneath a tree or on a covered porch.

“Cool” beds are not the same as cooling mats. Many beds have increased airflow, allowing your dog to stay cooler while sleeping. However, they don’t have an active cooling element and cannot tackle any severe heat.

8. Don’t Forget the Sunscreen!

Dogs can get sunburned just like us. The only difference is that they can’t complain about it.

On days that you use sunscreen, you should consider it for your dog as well. Sunburns aren’t only uncomfortable; they can also cause dehydration and make your dog more susceptible to heatstroke.

Plus, a hot and sunburned dog is probably not having any fun.

Luckily, there are many brands of sunscreen out there for dogs. Sprays and balms are both available. If your dog isn’t scared of the sound of the can, we recommend a spray. They’re easier to use, as you don’t have to wrestle your dog to rub it all in.

Not all dogs have an equal need for sunscreen, though. Very little UVB light is getting to a malamute’s skin. It just isn’t.

On the other hand, hairless dogs or those with very little hair will get about the same amount of sun exposure as a person. If you wear sunscreen, they need sunscreen. Greyhounds, Chinese Crested, and Chihuahuas all need sunscreen throughout the summer months.

Light-colored hair will allow more sunlight in than darker hair. While Dalmatians have a bit of hair, its white color means that they can still get sunburned with some ease.

brindle and white french bulldog playing with a ball
Image Credit: Kossi007, Pixabay

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Final Thoughts

Dogs stay cool in many of the same ways people do.

Plenty of freshwater is essential to maintain a dog’s body temperature. Dogs don’t sweat nearly as much as people, though, so they may drink less than you’d imagine.

The cool water mostly brings down their internal body temperature – not to replace water lost through sweat.

Playing in the water and utilizing cooling mats are both reliable ways to reduce your dog’s overall body temperature. We also recommend elevated beds, as they allow for increased airflow.

Don’t forget to protect your dog’s paws and skin during the summer months. Hot pavement can quickly burn and crack a dog’s paws, while some breeds are prone to sunburns.

This list may seem like a lot to remember, but it isn’t more prep than you probably do for yourself. If you put sunscreen on, put some on your dog. Is pavement too hot for bare feet? It’s probably too hot for your dog’s paws too.

When you grab your water for your morning walk, remember to grab your dog’s water too.

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Featured Image Credit: Rebekah Zemansky, Shutterstock

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