How to Cool a Dog Down Quickly (and prevent deadly heatstroke)

Heatstroke can be a rapid killer so learning how to cool a dog down quickly and prevent heatstroke might just save your dogs life.  Join me as I run through the 5 key steps to cool dog down quickly.

 
 

How to cool a dog down quickly

  1. Move your dog to a cooler location + encourage them to drink
  2. Spray and soak their coat with tepid, lukewarm water
  3. Blow air over your dog
  4. Ice pack your dogs groin, armpits + neck area
  5. Placing soaked towels over your dog

Read on for details of each step as well as a crucial 6th step to take once you've started to cool your dog.

Heatstroke in dogs is deadly

Don't underestimate the importance of cooling your dog quickly if you think they are developing heatstroke.  In one study, dogs with heat stroke who were cooled by their owners had a 38% chance of dying compared to a 61% chance if dying in those dogs who were not cooled.  Make no mistake, learning how to cool a dog down quickly can definitely be a lifesaver so make sure you share this article with all your dog owning friends.

Stop, find shade and a drink

Step number 1 is to stop any activity, move your dog into the shade (or a cooler location) and encourage your pet to drink some cool water.  Cool water is actually better than really cold water and any water is better than nothing.

A hot dog can quickly become a dehydrated dog.  This not only reduced the ability of panting to keep their body cool, in also can be responsible for some of the complications we see in heatstroke in dogs.  Dehydration exacerbates organ damage, and so makes heatstroke more dangerous.

Carrying water is so important and is one of my 11 tips to keeping a dog cool in summer and preventing heatstroke in the first place.

Spray and soak their coat with tepid, lukewarm water

The second step to cool a dog down quickly is to spray and soak their coat with tepid, lukewarm water.  You might think that using cold water would be best but this will actually cause your pets body temperature to become higher.  the reason for this is that cold water causes the outside blood vessels to constrict or become much more narrow.  This has the effect of actually trapping the heat within the bodies core, causing a dogs temperature to climb not cool.

Using a spray bottle, water bottle, hose or even standing your dog in a stream or lake will do the job.  If it's hot out then chances are all these water sources won't be too cold.  Just be carefull if your out on an unusually hot day in spring.

As the water on your dogs fur evaporates, it will have a cooling effect on your dog.  Keeping their coat wet is important so be ready to add more water as needed to keep them damp.

Blow air over your dog

The 3rd step in how to cool a dog quickly is to use a fan to blow air over your dog.  This air movement helps speed up the rate of evaporation and so helps cool a dog down much faster.

 
 dogs with heat stroke who were cooled down quickly by their owners had a 38% chance of dying compared to a 61% chance if dying in those dogs who were not cooled
 

You will have felt this yourself after getting out of the water on a hot day.  If there is no wind you will feel hot but if there is a breeze you can actually end up feeling quite cold even when the outside temperature is really high.

As well as using a fan, you could move your dog to a spot that is in the wind (and shade too if possible).  When you are driving your dog to the vet you can also open all of the windows as well as turn the air conditioning up to full.

Ice pack your dogs groin, armpits + neck area

My 4th cooling step is one to use if your pet has collaped with heatstroke at home.  Place an ice pack, frozen peas or whatever you have close at hand in your dogs groin, armpits and on the side of their neck.

All of these areas are where the really big blood vessels run which don't constrict to a degree that will trap heat in the same way that soaking your dog with cold water will (which I've already discussed above).

Any ice pack should be wrapped to prevent cold injury to the skin and their location should be moved every 20 minutes or so.  They should also be removed if your dog actually starts shivering.

Placing soaked towels over your dog

My final step to cool a dog quickly is to cover them with a wet towel.  A towel has the ability to hold a large amount of water.  If a wet towel is placed over a damp dog (and being in a breeze too is even better), then it will help cool your dog faster.  Because the towel is not in direct contact with the skin, it won't cause the narrowing of the blood vessels that cold water will.

 
 dogs that were cooled down by their owners AND presented to the vet within 90 minutes all survived their heat stroke
 

As well as becoming very cold, wicking heat away from your dogs body, it will also reduce the need for you to keep adding water to your dogs fur.  This is clearly ideal if you are driving to the vet alone with your dog in the back.  The cooling effect can last much longer without you needing to keep stopping.

Take your dog to the vet...QUICKLY

If you've carried out all of these steps then clearly there is one more vital part to ensuring your dog survives heatstroke that I've already alluded to.  Take your dog to the vet as quickly as possible.

From the same study I've already mentioned, it was also reported that if a dog was presented to the vet clinic within 90 minutes of developing heat stroke their chance of dying was 27%, so 1-in-4.  If it took longer than 90 minutes then 62% of dogs died, which is more like 2-in-3.

And for those dogs that were cooled by their owners AND presented to the vet within 90 minutes...100% survived!

Clearly there is a risk of death with any dog who develops heat stroke but these figures highlight just how important both cooling a dog down quickly and rapidly transporting  your dog to a veterinarian can be.

If you know what to do (an know you do!) then it will only take 5-10 minutes to start to cool your dog down quickly.  This is time very well spent.  If at all possible you should then call ahead to let your vet know you are coming.  This will give them some time to get ready to treat your dog as soon as you set foot in the veterinary clinic.  Again, time is of the essence.

As you are driving remember to open the windows and turn on the air conditioning.  Time is crucial but drive safely.  Having an accident will not help your dog.

Preventing heatstroke is better

Preventing heat stroke is clearly better than trying to treat it so make sure you check out my 11 tips to keeping your dog cool in summer (due out in a couple of days!).

Please share this article with friends and family.  The more owners who know how to cool their dog down quickly, the less likely heatstroke is to be deadly.

Our Pets Health: because they're family

Dr Alex AveryComment