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How heat impacts dogs and the 10 best products to help

Veterinarians explain how to keep dogs cool during the summer, and why heat is dangerous to their health.
Shirtless baby boy pouring water on dog while standing in wading pool at yard
Experts recommended keeping dogs cool by keeping them hydrated, soaking their paws or bodies with water and more.Cavan Images / Getty Images

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Parts of the United States are currently experiencing record-breaking temperatures, causing people to search for ways to keep cool like investing in air conditioners or inflatable pools. But we’re not the only ones who need to be careful when it comes to the climbing heat. It can be dangerous for dogs, too. “Just like people, dogs can overheat and suffer from heat exhaustion, which can become fatal,” said Zay Satchu, DVM.

When it’s particularly warm outside — due to a heat wave or just seasonality — Satchu, co-founder and chief veterinary officer of Bond Vet, said dogs should be limited to spending a maximum of five to 10 minutes outside, or just enough time to relieve themselves. She recommended limiting outdoor activities overall, and keeping leash walks short during the coolest parts of the day — early morning and late night. Overall, you want to prevent your dog from getting overheated in the first place instead of working to cool them down after the fact, noted Leni K. Kaplan, DVM, a senior lecturer and clinician of Small Animal Community Practice at Cornell University.

A specific heat-related scenario that poses a danger to dogs is leaving them in hot cars, which results in many pet deaths every year according to Douglas Kratt, DVM, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association. He said you should leave your dog at home while running errands in the summer — temperatures inside cars can quickly rise to life-threatening levels, even if you crack the windows open or park in the shade.

We consulted veterinarians about the best products to keep your dog cool this summer, from insulated water bowls to cooling mats. Kaplan emphasized an important takeaway for shoppers: These products “may work to help keep a pet cool, but will not succeed in cooling an animal off if they are already overheated.”

It’s a good bet that if it’s hot outside for you, it’s even hotter for your pet.

Douglas Kratt, DVM, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association

10 best products to keep dogs cool in 2021

Best elevated bed: K&H Pet Products

K&H Pet Products Original Elevated Bed

As we previously reported in our guide to the best outdoor dog beds, some are raised to allow air to circulate underneath and keep dogs from lying on hot surfaces. This dog bed — which has a 4.7-star average rating from 5,723 reviews on Amazon — is raised above ground and built with a bolster around the sides to provide head and neck support. The bed is made from water-resistant fabric and has a mesh center for added breathability. The removable cover and bolster is machine-washable, and the bed is available in Small, Medium and Large sizes. Kratt also said pets should always have access to shade when they’re outside in the heat, and you can purchase a Cot Canopy for this dog bed separately.

Best water bowl: YETI

YETI Boomer 4 Dog Bowl

According to Kaplan, “pets should have free access to water at all times, whether or not it’s a hot day.” But especially when it’s warm out, owners should make sure dogs’ water bowls are checked and filled regularly — Kaplan said dogs may drink more when the temperature is higher. YETI’s dog bowl holds up to 32-ounces of water and is constructed from stainless steel. The bowl also features a non-slip ring on the bottom so it doesn't move while being used, and has a 4.9-star average rating from 2,684 reviews on Amazon. You can purchase the bowl in colors ranging from Black to Ice Pink, and it’s dishwasher-safe.

Best travel water bowl: Bonza

Bonza Collapsible Dog Bowl

If you’re taking your dog on a walk or hike during the warmer months, Kaplan recommended bringing a portable collapsible water bowl. Bonza’s collapsible dog bowl has a 4.8-star average rating from 4,095 reviews on amazon. It can hold 16 ounces of water when semi-expanded and 40 ounces of water when fully expanded. The bowl is dishwasher-safe and comes with a water bottle holder and an aluminum carabiner clip to attach to a leash or backpack. The bowl comes in an Extra Large 55-ounce size, too.

Best cooling mat: Arf Pets

Arf Pets Cooling Mat

“While cooling vests and mats tend to work for short periods of time, they can end up warming with the environment and trap in heat,” Satchu said. This cooling mat can provide short-term relief for dogs inside or outside, and it has a 4.4-star average rating from 1,329 reviews on Amazon. When dogs lay on the mat, the gel inside of it activates, making it cool to the touch. The mat provides up to three hours of cooling and recharges after 15 minutes of nonuse. It supports dogs up to 80 pounds. The mat is made with non-toxic materials, can be wiped clean and comes in additional sizes.

Best paw booties: QUMY

QUMY Dog Boots

Satchu said “it’s important to consider the temperature of the ground on your pets paws. Booties are great to protect paws from harsh temperatures.” QUMY Dog Boots have a 4-star average rating from 11,640 reviews on Amazon, where they’re the No. 1 bestselling dog boot. They expand at the top with a wide split seam opening to put on and take off dogs’ paws, and feature reflective straps to ensure a secure fit. Kratt said hot pavement can burn paw pads, which these boots’ thick anti-slip soles protect against while providing traction. The boots are made with water-resistant breathable fabric and come in multiple sizes.

Best paw balm: Musher’s

Musher’s Secret Dog Paw Wax

“If your pup refuses to wear booties, you can opt for a protective paw balm to soothe their feet,” Satchu said. Musher’s Secret Dog Paw Wax has a 4.7-star average rating from 9,043 reviews on Amazon. It’s made with natural waxes and oils like vitamin E and beeswax, and when applied, it acts as a barrier between the ground and dogs’ paws. The brand said the wax allows perspiration to escape while keeping the paw pads protected from extreme temperatures, and should be applied two to three times a week. The wax can also be used on a dog’s snout, ears and elbows, and it absorbs into paws once applied.

Best dog pool: Jasonwell

Jasonwell Foldable Dog Pool

Kaplan said pet owners can wet or soak their dog’s paws and body with cool water when it’s hot out. This portable pool has a 4.5-star average rating from 24,740 rating on Amazon and it comes in five sizes ranging from Small to Extra Large. The pool folds in on itself to make it compact in size and easy to store when not in use. The drain caps allow you to fill and drain the pool quickly, and it features slip-resistant material on the inner bottom surface.

Best fan: SkyGenis

SkyGenius Clip-On Mini Fan

When your dog is inside, Satchu said it should “ideally be in a climate-controlled environment.” A mini fan can provide relief from the heat in addition or supplemental to air conditioning, and Kratt also said fanning an overheated dog helps encourage evaporation, thus aiding in the cooling process. This fan has a 4.5-star average rating from 19,350 reviews on Amazon. It’s built with a clip on one end that you can attach to your dog’s crate. It produces low noise and can be powered by a rechargeable battery or the included USB charger when plugged in.

Best dog hose and shower attachment: Aquapaw

Aquapaw Pet Sprayer

Instead of buying a pool for your dog, you can use a hose (so long as the water is not hot) or put them in the bathtub or shower, Kaplan said. This tool straps to your hand and lets you brush and water down your pet simultaneously. It comes with adapters to fit a shower spigot and a garden hose. The on/off button for the tool rests in the palm of your hand, allowing you to quickly and easily control it. The sprayer has a 4.4-star average rating from 4,101 reviews on Amazon.

Best UPF dog shirt: PlayaPup

PlayaPup UPF Dog Shirt

Kratt said “sunburn is another summer pet safety risk, and one many pet owners may not be aware of. While all dogs may be susceptible, some dogs are more at risk for sunburn than others, such as hairless dog breeds, dogs with white or thin coats, and dogs with light-pigmented noses and eyelids.” Some brands sell sunscreen specifically formulated for dogs, or you can opt for UPF clothing and hats, as well as goggles, for dogs. This UPF dog shirt has a 4.6-star average rating from 267 reviews on Amazon. It’s available in multiple sizes and styles. The shirt provides coverage for your dog’s back and stomach and is designed with UPF 50+ fabric to block the sun’s rays.

How heat impacts dogs

According to Kratt, “there’s no set temperature where heat becomes dangerous to our dogs; that level can vary based on a dog’s physical characteristics, age, weight, underlying medical conditions and activity level.” Generally, he said, pets with longer or darker fur or pets that are brachycephalic (have flat or pushed-in faces), may have extra trouble with managing heat. Satchu said puppies and senior dogs are more susceptible to heat than adolescent and adult dogs. And Kaplan noted that “the size of the dog does not matter — they are intolerant of the heat no matter their actual size.”

As a rule of thumb, Kratt noted, “It’s a good bet that if it’s hot outside for you, it’s even hotter for your pet.”

Additionally, and contrary to what many believe, breeds with long hair are not any more prone to heat-related issues than breeds with short coats. “This is because long hair can actually help keep a dog cool by acting as an insulator, similar to how insulation in your home keeps the AC inside,” Satchu said. Kratt does not recommend shaving dogs with long or double coats in the summer, as it could increase their chance of overheating and sunburn

Signs dogs are overheating

Satchu said heat begins to impact dogs’ health when they reach critically high body temperatures, at which point they can “become dehydrated and their body can begin to have multiple organ failure. If not treated rapidly, these pets may suffer from permanent organ damage or potentially die from complications of organ damage.” That’s why it’s important to keep an eye on your dog when they spend time outside in the heat — you have to watch for signs that your dog is overheating.

Kratt said telltale signs a dog is overheating include:

  • Anxiousness or relentlessness
  • Excessive panting and drooling
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Abnormal gum and tongue color
  • Unsteadiness or collapse

If you’re concerned your dog is severely overheating or experiencing heat stroke, Kaplan said you should immediately take them inside and bring them to a veterinarian.

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