Tips to help your dog stay cool during preseason Tra

Working dogs in the water helps keep them cool. (Photo courtesy of Eukanuba)

How cool are dogs

According to Russ Kelly, Scientific Services Nutritionist at the Eukanuba™ Center for Animal Health and Nutrition, “Dogs reduce their body temperature in a number of ways. 70% of their heat is released through their skin. But the intense heat and humidity means dogs’ core body temperatures are close to ambient, so they don’t cool down as easily. Winds usually help, but in summer winds are usually very light. Dogs also cool by panting, which is the exchange of internal air with external air. During hunting season, hot indoor air is exchanged for cool outdoor air, and dogs are better able to regulate their temperature. However, in summer, warm indoor air is replaced by warm outdoor air, so minimal cooling occurs. Dogs also sweat and do so through their noses and pads. The nose has a small surface area, and often the pads are caused by exercise, so neither allows enough heat to escape. Dogs can also lower their body temperature by lying on a cool surface, but in the summer, even shady areas are warm. It’s hard for dogs to stay cool while working in the summer, so it’s up to business people to keep them safe.”

When Dogs Overheat

When a dog’s activity causes his body to generate more heat than it can release, he is at risk of developing heat-related heat illness (HRI). There are three phases of HRI: heat stress, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Signs of heat stress are when dogs lose focus, are visibly tired, panting heavily, or have white, pasty saliva on their gums. With heat exhaustion, they may stumble or stagger, mentally alert but too tired to react physically or breathe uncontrollably. Heat stroke is dangerous and dogs may vomit, have diarrhea or collapse. There are other signs, and owners who recognize them are better equipped to help their dog get the help they need. Learn more about signs and actions to take at

Some Dogs Are at Risk for Cautious HRI

Overweight dogs are at greater risk of HII than those at an ideal weight. Sedentary dogs that are called to work unconditioned and unacclimated to hot temperatures may also be at risk. Older dogs, especially those with medical conditions, can be affected. But also watch out for young dogs, as they have a lot of energy and don’t always know their limits.

Tips for keeping dogs cool

Combat Weight: Start with weight and assess your dog’s body condition. Overweight dogs should lose some weight before exercising in the heat.

Adapt slowly: Dogs living in the house get used to air conditioning. Prepare your dog for summer work by slowly adjusting to the rising outdoor temperatures.

dog trainer on grass with four labrador retrievers
Exercise during the coolest part of the day, which is usually before dawn. (Photo courtesy of Eukanuba)

Moisturizer: Plenty of cool, fresh water is a must. But how much? A 44-pound dog can lose between .5 and 1.5 gallons of water per day, depending on its activity and environmental conditions. At the very least, an active dog needs to consume as much water as it loses while running around in the heat. If you are not sure how much water your dog should drink, then one size is three times the amount of dry food you are feeding.

Prehydration: A few days before outdoor activity, pre-hydrate dogs by adding water to dried fish. Feed immediately, as some dogs do not like neat food. Another method is water feeding, which is done by adding a tablespoon of wet dog food to a bowl of water. Dogs trying to get food will drink more water.

Progressive conditioning: Start with a progressive exercise program. Understand your dog’s natural abilities and only push him as far as he can handle. Gradually increase the time and intensity as his tolerance improves.

Swim: Your preseason conditioning program includes water and swimming. Not only will dogs get a great workout, but water lowers core body temperature faster than air.

Rate the weather: Use Rule 140. Add the temperature to the humidity percentage, and if it’s over 140, you can wait until it’s cooler. Also, watch the heat index and be careful if it goes over 75.

Rate the area: Some environments can cause dogs to work harder. Running on sand, mud, hills, or loose shale can be more challenging than running on flat, grassy terrain. Air circulation is limited in areas such as thick grass and dense cover.

two labrador retrievers, a foxy red lab and a yellow lab on the grass
In the summer, work the dogs in open areas with pockets of shade. Circulating air helps keep them cool. (Photo courtesy of Eukanuba)

Take frequent breaks: Take a break every half hour to let your dog rest in the shade and hydrate. The ideal resting spot also has a breeze to help keep your dog cool.

Educate yourself: It is important to know if your dog is overheated and what to do if he does. Learn more about stress HRI, how to recognize the signs and what steps to take if your dog overheats at

This summer, make the most of your preseason training by taking steps to help keep your dog cool. Know the signs of overheating and how to help keep it running safely and powerfully. After all, Opening Day isn’t far away.


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