Keep Your Dog Cool at Summer Shows and Events

Summertime living is not easy for a fully coated English Setter. If you want to see what it’s like for our dogs in hot weather, the next time it’s 90-plus degrees, put on your warmest coat and go outside. Now try running.

English Setters, like most breeds, are built to conserve rather than dissipate heat. They don’t have sweat glands, and most of their body is wrapped in dense fur with no exposed skin; they lose heat through the pads of their feet and through their mouths by panting.

As you assemble your gear for summer dog events, you might consider including the following:

  • battery-operated fans
  • shade cloths to cover your vehicle
  • a canopy
  • cool cloths
  • plenty of cool water
  • a rectal thermometer with lubricant (to take your dog’s temperature if you suspect heatstroke)
  • pediatric electrolyte solution (for the dog to drink if he gets dehydrated)

“Cool cloths” are made of chamois material, like those used to dry cars at a car wash. You can put a moist chamois on your dog’s back without getting him too wet, take it off, and present him to the judge, who probably will only feel a tiny bit of dampness when going over the dog.

If you keep your cool cloth in a cooler, don’t put it directly into the ice. You don’t want to put anything ice-cold onto a dog, because that shrinks the blood vessels and actually generates more internal heat. Instead, whatever you apply should be cool but not cold.

Another good way to keep your dog cool is to have him stand on a damp towel to help the footpads release heat. If you spray your dog with cool water, spray his underside that is not exposed to the hot sun (such as the groin area, where the hair is less dense), the bottoms of his feet, and inside his mouth.

Of course, you know to seek shade wherever you can find it. Throughout the day, a thoughtful judge will take advantage of every scrap of shade by shifting the location of where the dogs are examined and gaited as the sun and shade shift in the ring.

In spite of your best efforts, your dog could develop heatstroke. Here are the symptoms:

Symptoms of Heatstroke

  • unusual breathing (rapid and loud)
  • high rectal temperature (103 or higher)
  • extreme thirst
  • weakness and/or fatigue
  • frequent vomiting
  • disorientation
  • a bright-red tongue and pale gums
  • skin around the muzzle or neck doesn’t snap back when pinched (dehydration)
  • difficulty breathing
  • thick saliva
  • increased heart rate, collapse or coma

If you suspect that your dog is overheated, immediately take him to a shady spot or into a cool indoor room, or into a cooled-off car with the air conditioner running, or turn a fan on him. Separate his fur with your fingers so the cool air can penetrate to the skin.

To cool your dog down as quickly as possible, pour cool water over his head and body, or gently hose a very gentle stream of cool water over him, or, where possible, submerge him in a tub of cool water.

As soon as your dog is somewhat stable, it’s a good idea to take him to the nearest vet for evaluation and treatment if necessary.And we know you would never, ever leave a dog in a closed vehicle when outside temperatures are above 60 degrees F.

— Jill Warren, English Setter Association of America  (July 2014 AKC Gazette)