Oh, summer! What a glorious time. Except, of course, for the huge worry about our dog’s staying cool and safe in the sunshine.
Cooling coats for dogs have become more and more popular in recent years in a bid to help keep our dogs cool and comfortable when temperatures rise.
But are cooling coats effective in keeping your dog cool? Or are they giving you a false sense of security?
Why do dogs overheat
A study by Hot Dogs Canine Research revealed that 70% of dogs treated in veterinary clinics for heat-related illness were as a result of exercise, often in hot weather.
Dogs exercising in warmer conditions have developed heatstroke in as little as 6 minutes, highlighting the potential risk of even walking a dog to the veterinary practice in hot weather.
(Bruchim et al., 2006).
It’s not just the temperature that your dog is exposed to which can cause significant damage, but the amount of time they spend above a critical temperature that can have severe repercussions.
So, how we cool our dogs down has a massive impact on their well-being.
Anne Carter and Emily Hall are a canine behaviourist and a vet on a mission to empower dog owners to keep their dog’s safe in hot weather. They provide accurate and practical advice on how to effectively cool your dog down safely.
The simple way to cool your dog down safely
Anne and Emily recently presented a review of cooling methods used in both canine and human heatstroke studies and reported that a very effective way to cool a dog down is a combination of using water and evaporation.
This is simply wetting your dog with water and using a fan or air conditioning to aid the cooling process. The result is that the heat leaves your dog’s body quickly and helps return them to a comfortable and safe temperature.
Using wet towels over your dog will limit air circulation, so it’s less effective than using the above method of water + air circulation to cool.
The other thing is if you don’t top the towel up with water, it will dry and simply act as another layer of warmth on top of your dog.
How is this relevant to dog cooling coats?
Generally speaking, people put cool coats on their dogs to go out in hot weather as a means of trying to keep their dogs cool. Obvs.
But is this giving us a false sense of security?
If you feel the need to put a cool coat on your dog to go out, then is it too hot to be going out at all?
And are you more likely to stay out longer or allow your dog to exercise more in the heat if they are wearing a cooling coat?
There is no published evidence to support the use of cooling coats.
Anne and Emily found that when they assessed a dog in a cooling coat, it had dried out within 15 minutes.
Essentially that dog ended up wearing a coat in hot weather.
This is obviously not what the dog’s owners thought was going to happen.
When you put a cooling coat on your dog and go out for exercise in it, your dog essentially has another layer on them, preventing air circulation and adding weight to your dog.
If it’s hot enough for your dog to need a cooling coat, then perhaps it’s wiser to stay indoors.
Here are some enrichment activities you can try at home with your dog to keep them cool and entertained!
Learn the signs - dog overheating symptoms
The best thing you can do to keep your dog safe in hot weather is to learn the signs of overheating and to seek veterinary help urgently, especially if your dog is in the moderate to severe phase of overheating.
It is vitally important that owners know to take action when their dogs show these milder signs, in order to prevent progression to heatstroke. Once dogs get to that severe stage, it’s really a coin toss as to whether they will survive.
Emily Hall – MA VetMB PGCAP MRSB SFHEA MRCVS
Dogs at high risk of overheating
No dog is immune to the risks of overheating, no matter how much they may tell you they love to sunbathe!
But some dogs are at a heightened risk of suffering heatstroke or other heat-related illnesses.
Brachycephalic breeds (Frenchies, Boxers, Pugs, etc.)
Overweight or obese dogs
Dogs who are unfit
Dogs with underlying diseases, particularly heart or breathing disorders
Dogs on medications such as Beta Blockers
Anne and Emily identified nine dog breeds at particular risk:
Dogue de Bordeaux
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
English Springer Spaniel
You can read the full study exploring the risk factors that make a dog at higher risk of suffering a heat related illness here.
What to do if you think your dog is overheating
If you think your dog may be overheating, then it’s essential to act fast. Get your dog into the shade or an air-conditioned vehicle, get some water on your dog and try to create airflow either with a fan or even a DIY paper fan if you have nothing else available.
The sooner we can cool these patients and get their temperature below that critical threshold, the less damage has been done and the better the outcome is likely to be.
Dr. Anne Carter - BSc (Hons) MSc PhD PGCEP FHEA MRSB
As always, prevention is better than cure. It simply isn’t worth the risk of walking and exercising your dog in hot weather.
Walk early or late at night, or opt for enrichment activities at home.
Your dog will not die of boredom. However, they may die of a heat-related illness.
Don’t take the risk.
For more information on keeping your dog safe in hot weather, please visit Heatstroke.dog