11 tips to keep your dog cool in car from cooling vests to soothing play list

A dog expert has given her top tips to keep our furry friends safe in cars as the UK is set to be hit with the hottest day of the year this Bank Holiday weekend.

Temperatures will rise above 24C in the south with warm weather across much of the country as we enjoy another May Bank Holiday.

Dog behaviourist and Nutritionist Anna Webb stressed a dog’s body temperature is consistently two degrees warmer than a human’s and they will be feeling the heat, especially in the car.

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Webb, who is working with Škoda in looking after dogs in hot cars, warned that when a dog’s temperature hits 40C, they are at risk of life-threatening heatstroke.

Her top tips for the nation’s dog-owning drivers in the hot weather include rubbing ice cubes on dogs' gums, meaty mocktail drinks to keep them cool and a cooling vest or mat to chill underbellies.

She also said if a hound is relaxed in the car, it’ll be less likely to feel hot, so Škoda created a mindfulness playlist to calm anxious dogs in the motor.

Anna said: "During a time where we will be making the most of the warmer weather, it’s important to remember that we share our homes and our cars with our pets, so we must keep their needs in mind.”

“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.

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

She added: “It’s heart-warming to see Škoda continuing to speak-up for the nation’s pets, as they so often go unspoken for. I’m also proud that I can be the voice of the community, to better everyone’s understanding of what dogs need.”

Top tips on keeping dogs safe in a car during warmer weather

1. A dog’s body temperature is always two degrees Celsius hotter than ours, with normal levels between 38.3 – 39.2 degrees Celsius. 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 22ºC outside in a stationary vehicle, without air conditioning, temperatures ‘in car’ can reach 47ºC in fewer than 10 minutes.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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. 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 — maybe combine this with a comfort break for the dog (or for you) at the services.

5. Combine these indoor travel sessions with the Škoda ‘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! Try again tomorrow…

6. Before setting off, check that your air-conditioning is reaching the back seat. If not, or if your dog travels in the boot, securely attach some portable fans to encourage air circulation and cooling.

7. 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.

8. In summer months, travel in the cooler times of the day – early morning or evening. Make sure your car is roadworthy to minimise concerns of breaking down in the heat.

9. Be prepared – take your dog’s drinking bowl or a portable bowl, but check your dog will drink from it before you set off! 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. Do this in the shade or in a cool room. Pouring water directly on your dog is ineffective as it simply runs off and evaporates.

10. Frequently, an overheated dog will refuse to drink. This is their instinct kicking in as they associate drinking with peeing, which means they would lose body fluids. I recommend packing an isotonic hydration drink especially for dogs, or some pre-packed broth, in your cool bag. Both contain electrolytes and minerals, along with a meaty flavour, which will get your dog drinking and hydrate them quickly.

11. When ‘staycationing’ always take familiar toys, chews and blankets with you to make your dog feel at home!

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