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Keeping your dog and cat cool in a heatwave

  • 25, Jul 2023
  • Read time: 9 mins

Our cats and dogs can suffer in the heat, just like us. 

It can be tempting to head out for some fun in the sun with your four-legged friend. But places like the seaside, where there's limited shade and hot ground, can be unsafe for them.

Our in-house vet team have shared some of their knowledge on how to look after your pets during those hot months. There'll also be some useful tips on what to do if they get heatstroke.

Dog playing with a ball.

How to keep your dog cool in hot weather

Here are our 7 top tips on how to keep your dog cool in summer.

1 - Apply sunscreen

Apply pet-friendly sunscreen to sensitive areas such as:

  • the nose
  • around the lips
  • tips of the ears
  • the groin area
  • the belly

Sunscreen is particularly important for white dogs. Your vet will be able to tell you which products are most appropriate for your dog.

2 - Grab a damp towel or cooling mat

Laying a towel or mat down on the floor for your dog to relax on can help to cool their body temperature down.

Top tip: don’t wrap your dog in a damp towel or cooling mat, as this could make them warmer!

3 - Have fresh water available

It’s important for your dog to stay hydrated. Be sure to always top up their water bowls and have a drink readily available at all times.

Adding ice to the water will help to keep it cool for longer. You could also have multiple bowls around the house and garden for easier access.

4 - Stay in a shaded area

Your dog will be cooler in the shade. Seek out an area with plenty of shelter from the sun such as under a tree or by a wall or fence.

5 - Go for a swim

Head out to the sea, or a nearby river or lake to let your dog have a paddle or swim to cool off.

You could also try out a paddling pool in the garden for your dog to splash around in.

Top tip: always check the temperature of the water before you let your dog dive in. If an overheating dog jumps into ice cold water, it can do more harm than good.

6 - Cool down your car before a journey

Dogs can very quickly overheat in cars, particularly in hot weather. Before a journey, wind down the windows and turn the air con on to try and cool the air inside the vehicle. Think about packing a bag with some essentials for your dog:

  • fresh water and bowl
  • cooling mat

  • window shades or blinds to block direct sunlight

Our in-house vet, Martin, says "Never leave your dog alone in a hot car, even for a minute or two. It can be rapidly fatal".

Top tip: before putting your dog into the car on a hot day, think about whether it’s necessary to take them. They may be better off staying at home if it’s cooler!

7 - Groom your dog

Ensuring your dog has had their fur trimmed or brushed can help to ensure they feel cooler during warm weather.

Walking your dog in hot weather

Try to avoid the hottest times of the day and walk your dog early morning and late evening when it’s cooler.

Avoid running or cycling with your dog during warm weather, as it’s easy for them to overheat.

If the weather outside is particularly hot, it might be better for your dog to stay at home. Instead of their daily walk, try some enrichment activities to burn off some energy, such as:

  • a frozen treat or chew
  • snuffle mat
  • playing a game of ‘find it’ around the house or garden
  • enrichment toy or game
  • lick mat with frozen or cool treats on

Top tip: when heading out, test how hot the ground is with the back of your hand. If it’s too hot for you, it’ll definitely be too hot for your dog’s sensitive paws!

Our in-house vet, Martin, says: " Check artificial grass, tarmac or any other surface with your hand for 10 seconds. If it's too hot for you, then it is too hot for your dog to walk, sit or lay on”.

Heatstroke in dogs and how to treat it

Heatstroke in dogs can be fatal, and ideally should be caught early. Look out for the following signs:

  • heavy panting
  • drooling more than usual
  • drowsiness
  • loss of consciousness
  • vomiting
  • shaking

If you spot any signs of heatstroke in your dog, try the following steps and seek immediate help from your vet:

  • move them indoors or into a shaded, cool area
  • pour cool (not ice cold) water over their body
  • offer them a drink of water

How to keep your cat cool in hot weather

Here are our 5 top tips on keeping your cat cool during the summer.

1 - Check hiding places before going out

Cats like to find warm and private places to sleep. Be sure to check before heading out to ensure your cat isn’t somewhere they can overheat, such as:

  • conservatories
  • greenhouses
  • sheds
  • garages
  • lofts

2 - Keep windows and doors open

If you can, try and keep your home well ventilated while your cat is indoors.

If your cat can’t go outdoors, keep your windows and doors closed. Close the curtains for shade and use a fan for a cool breeze.

3 - Find a shaded area

It’s important that your cat has access to a shaded spot both indoors and outdoors to help keep cool.

Top tip: if you don’t have any trees or shade outside, put up an umbrella or gazebo for your cat to go under.

4 - Groom your cat

Ensuring your cat has had their fur trimmed or brushed can help greatly with keeping them cool. Excess fur will trap unwanted heat.

5 - Apply sunscreen

Apply pet-friendly sunscreen to sensitive areas such as:

  • the nose
  • around the lips
  • tips of the ears
  • the groin area
  • the belly

Sunscreen is particularly important for white cats. Your vet will be able to tell you which products are most appropriate for your cat.

Protecting your pet

Ensuring your dog or cat is covered with pet insurance can be crucial if they were to fall ill during hot weather.

At MORE THAN, your pet could be covered for heatstroke* as part of our vet fee limits on our Basic, Classic and Premier cover levels. You'll also be able to make use of our 24/7 freephone vetfone advice line. Here, you can speak day or night with a qualified veterinary nurse about your concerns.

*Provided that you've given proper care and attention to your pet at all times, and taken all reasonable precautions to prevent accidents, injury or damage.

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