Hot tips to keep dogs cool and comfortable in the car this summer

SUMMER road trips are always more fun when it’s hot enough to buzz the windows down, get your elbow out in the breeze and allow the wind to blow out that in-car heat build-up.

However, if you’re bringing your dog along for the ride this summer, you probably already know that hot cars can be potentially deadly for four-legged co-pilots: accidentally leave your pooch in the passenger seat on a hot day and the ‘greenhouse effect’ will ensure that the temperature inside the car can double within 10 minutes – even if the windows are left open.

Dog behaviourist and nutritionist Anna Webb
Dog behaviourist and nutritionist Anna Webb Dog behaviourist and nutritionist Anna Webb

Skoda has positioned itself as one of the most dog-friendly manufacturers around, sponsoring this year’s Crufts and offering a full range of pet-friendly accessories. The Czech marque is currently urging dog-owning drivers to brush up on their warm weather safety routines with the help of dog behaviourist and nutritionist Anna Webb, who warns that when a dog’s temperature hits 40C, they are at risk of life-threatening heatstroke.

Earlier this year, Anna helped to create a Happy Hounds mindfulness playlist to help keep anxious dogs calm in the car: she advises that a dog’s mental health has a big impact on its body temperature, as raised cortisol levels due to stress will increase body temperature and thirst levels.

“It can take under an hour for a dog to be pushed to the brink by extreme heat, and that time comes around so much faster when they are in a warm car,” explains Anna, who has come up with a list of top tips to help dog owners keep their pets safe during hot journeys.

“Pet owners need to be aware of the dangers so they can help protect their pups.”

Anna Webb’s top tips for cool, car-safe pooches:

  • A dog’s body temperature is always two degrees warmer than ours, with normal levels between 38.3C and 39.2C. Small dogs tend to run hotter as they have faster metabolisms than larger dogs. Never leave your dog in a stationary car, even with the windows open, or in the shade, as the car turns into a greenhouse. When it’s 22C outside in a stationary vehicle, without air conditioning, temperatures in-car can reach 47C in under 10 minutes.
  • De-sensitise your dog to travelling in the car before any long journey, but especially when it’s hot. Signs that your dog is feeling the heat (or going hyperthermic) will be excessive panting, drooling and restlessness. A dog that’s relaxed in the car will be less likely to feel hot. Raised cortisol levels increase a dog’s body temperature and thirst. [[ge:irishnews:irishnews:3312606]]
  • Cooling vests and mats work to keep your dog’s underbelly nice and chilled. Make sure your dog is ‘carrier-trained’ for maximum comfort. Carriers should be well-ventilated and spacious enough for your pooch to turn around.
  • Use tasty treats to help train your dog to enjoy their cooling accessories in their carrier (or seat belt) indoors first. Make the acclimatising sessions very short and always finish on a positive note. Your dog could get stressed or bored in the car and chew the cooling mat and/or the vest, becoming more stressed and even hotter.   [[ge:irishnews:irishnews:3312599]]
  • Cooling vests should be soaked in cold water before you put them on your pet. The simple process of evaporation from the heat of the dog dries the vest, cooling them down. They do need to be re-dampened, so maybe combine this with a comfort break for the dog (and yourself) at the services.
  • Combine these indoor travel sessions with the Skoda Happy Hounds playlist. Association with positive experiences indoors, like this calming playlist, will help your dog relax. When you’re confident your dog is calm in their pet carrier with their cooling ‘kit’ and the playlist, transfer them to the car. Gradually extend the time with the engine off and the engine on. At the first sign of any stress, including panting or drooling, stop and try again tomorrow.   [[ge:irishnews:irishnews:3312601]]  
  • Before setting off, check that your air-conditioning is reaching the back seat or rear load area. If not, securely attach some portable fans to encourage air circulation and cooling.
  • Take regular comfort breaks in the shade so your dog keeps cool. Avoid tarmac and concrete paths — both absorb heat and can burn bare paw-pads. Be mindful to park your car in a shady spot and think of windscreen sun shades to help keep your car cool.
  • In summer, travel during cooler times of the day such as early morning or evening.
  • Be prepared: take your dog’s drinking bowl or a portable bowl your dog will definitely drink from.   [[ge:irishnews:irishnews:3312608]]  
  • Take a cool bag with plenty of fresh bottled water and a flask of ice cubes. Simply melting an ice cube on your dog’s gums cools them very quickly, or just offering an ice cube to lick and crunch is fun on your comfort break.
  • Keep a wet towel in your cool bag. If your dog overheats, wrap them in the cool towel and keep dampening it with cold water to take advantage of the cooling evaporation effect. Do this in the shade or in a cool room.
  • An overheated dog will often refuse to drink, as they associate drinking with peeing and loss of bodily fluids. Pack an isotonic hydration drink especially for dogs, or some pre-packed broth, in your cool bag. Both contain electrolytes and minerals which will get your dog drinking and hydrate them quickly.
  • When driving to a ‘staycation’ destination, always take familiar toys, chews and blankets with you to ensure your dog feels at home.   [[ge:irishnews:irishnews:3312622]]