Travelling in a car, camper or motorhome with your dog this summer? Here are some tips to cool them down if they get overheated, and how to keep them cool.
It is hot.
Baking hot. Like 37 degrees hot (99F for my American friends)
Lovely sunny weather makes travelling a joy and most dog owners relish the thought of road trips and outdoor adventures with their pup. We definitely love travelling with our dog- can't imagine adventures without him.
However, our furry friends often struggle with warm temperatures- especially if you're heading into Europe where it's a lot hotter than the UK. Here are some tips on how to keep your dog cool in a car or motorhome, both during the travelling part of your road trip and also during your rest days.
NOTE: If you're heading to France or Europe with your dog after 01 January 2021, some things have changed. Here's what you need to know about dog travel to Europe after BREXIT.
*We work hard to make this the best motorhome blog and road trip website possible, full of helpful content for you. The website is supported by our readers, so if you buy through links on this site we may earn a commission- at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain our own.
If you find this post useful, you can also treat us to a coffee at the bottom of this page- we promise to enjoy it while creating more useful content like this- we might even indulge in a biscuit (or two!)
Accessories to keep a dog cool in a car on a road trip
There are some dog travel accessories we've tried which are fantastic for keeping Mac cool whilst we're driving and when we've stopped.
It's important to know how to cool your dog down if they get overheated- they have a lot less awareness of heatstroke than we do. Our cocker spaniel Mac will literally run himself into the ground to chase a ball, so we need to be really careful how long we let him play for.
Dog Cooling vest
This dog cooling vest is one of the best things we've EVER bought. You wet it and keep it in the fridge (we put ours in a sealable bag). Then, take it out when your dog needs cooling down, strap it on them and watch the magic happen. We actually have two during the summer, so there's always one chilling in the fridge for later.
We prefer the style like this, which just wraps around him, rather than one you have to put their paws into- when he's hot and panting he's got no patience for being manhandled- and I don't blame him!
Dog cooling collar
A cool towel on the back of your neck always feels good when you're overheated- and it's the same for dogs. These cooling collars and bandanas are great- and they look cute, which makes me even happier! 🙂
Dog cooling mat
Another great idea is the dog cooling mat. You don't need to do anything to it- as soon as you sit on it it feels cool.
TOP TIP: Our dog doesn't love the feel of it, but if we put his towel over it he's quite happy.
Keep dogs hydrated while travelling
Another important thing to do is give your dog access to fresh water regularly. We've found this BRILLIANT non-spill dog water bowl, meaning we can leave it on the floor while driving and we don't forget to put it down for him when we stop.
Window Shades (yes, for dogs)
It's perfectly normal to buy window shades to protect children from the glare of the sun while travelling in a car or campervan. But we often forget that dogs need similar protection to keep them cool while driving.
If you're in a motorhome, you can use the built-in fly-screen if you have them. If not, these window shades are great- no suckers or adhesives necessary- they just stick and can be removed easily.
How to keep a dog cool during summer travel
Ok, you've kept your dog cool in the car during your road trip- but as soon as you open the door they want to leap out, and run/ explore/ roll in something disgusting.
Here are some tips for keeping them cool during hot, sunny days:
- Go for a walk early, before it heats up. I’ve been getting up at 6am to walk Mac (and even then it’s warm enough for shorts and t-shirt!)
- Take water with you, even on short walks. This is the best dog travel water bottle we've ever seen!
- Refuse to play ball, even when your over-excited pup really REALLY wants to play
- Don’t let them out in the hottest part of the day (12-3pm). Keep them in the shade where possible. It can be hard to plan your sightseeing around this- but you'll probably be glad of a rest then too.
How to keep a dog cool outside
There are those of us who, no matter how hard we try, have dogs who find SOMETHING to do which involves running! (Shout out to my fellow spaniel owners!)
I took Mac for a walk about 9am one morning and hadn’t fully appreciated how hot he was getting.
After about 20 minutes of him running around, he lay down in the ditch, panting hard and refused to move. After about 10 minutes, I had to climb in (yep, into the nettles!), pick him up and carry him back. He's only 15kg but after a while he was like a dead weight- thank goodness we didn’t get a labrador!
How to cool down a dog which is overheating
Cooling down an overheated dog is not easy. Dogs don’t sweat in the same way we do, and when they get hot it’s not easy for them to regulate their body temperature.
If you suspect your dog is overheating, or need to cool down a panting dog, take them to shade and cool them down gradually. Put them in water if possible (not deep water) or put cool, damp towels/ cool jacket on them. Give them cool water to drink, but only small amounts at a time. Our lifesaver jerrycan is great for this- the shower attachment is perfect for cooling him down.
How to tell if a dog is overheating
Heatstroke is serious in dogs, so learn these signs:
- Excessive panting/ drooling
- Are they collapsed or vomiting?
- Are they lethargic, confused, or uncoordinated?
- Excessive drowsiness- this is a tough one as Mac has slept way more than usual this week, but then so have I! It’s too hot to do anything else! But keep an eye on them if they’re sleeping a lot.
Things to feed a hot dog
- Feed them ice cubes or cold meat. Normally, Mac eats kibble with tinned wet food as a treat, but I’ve been freezing chunks of meat to keep him cool.
- Frozen berries like raspberries, strawberries and blueberries are an awesome treat for dogs. The anti-oxidants are good for their joints and they’ll love the cool treat. Just keep it to a small handful a day and NOT every day. Be careful of wild berries from hedgerows- some wild berries are toxic to dogs.
- Another great treat is dog friendly peanut butter smeared onto one of these and frozen- he LOVES it.
Can dogs eat ice cream?
Short answer? Yes- but not a lot and not often. Adult dogs can’t tolerate lactose and the sugar isn’t good for your dog.
Be careful of the flavour of ice cream- chocolate, macadamia nuts and raisins are all toxic to dogs. We only let Mac have vanilla or fruit ones and then it’s literally less than a spoonful. Still, he loves licking out our ice cream cartons… and then ripping them to shreds…
Tools to keep a dog cool on summer road trips
Best dog travel water bottle
I mentioned it before, but it deserves another mention- this dog travel water bottle is fabulous. Easy to refill and so easy for Mac to drink from. AND it doesn't spill if you turn it upside down.
Foldable splashpool for dogs
Mac LOVES water. It's his favourite thing in the entire world. He has a paddling pool on the boat and we are seriously tempted to get a foldable dog pool for the motorhome. It wouldn't work for wild camping, but it would work great if you stay on campsites a lot and for a few days with a motorhome or camper, or even a tent!
Common Questions about how to keep a dog cool in a car or motorhome during a road trip
Leaving a dog in a car- is it safe in hot weather?
Do not underestimate how quickly the temperature inside a car can increase on a sunny day. If you travel in hot climates at all, you’ll know how it feels when you open the doors and it’s unbearable to sit inside.
This also applies to motorhomes and campers. We once parked our van in the sunshine (BEFORE we got a dog) and left it to visit somewhere…. When we returned the INTERNAL temperature of the motorhome was pushing 35 degrees. We’d been gone 2 hours, max.
So, honestly, it's NOT safe to leave a dog in a hot car, certainly for longer than a few minutes.
Of course, if you’re travelling and it’s not a baking hot day, then you can use your judgement about leaving your dog. Sometimes it's unavoidable. I’ve left Mac many times whilst I’ve popped into a garage to pay for fuel, and this is one of the challenges of travelling with your dog on a road trip. However, we only going into shops one at a time in this heat so he's not alone in the motorhome.
What if you're travelling on your own?
The reality is, if you’re travelling on your own, you’re probably going to leave your dog for a few minutes here and there. DO NOT underestimate how quickly the vehicle will heat up, especially if the A/C has turned off with the ignition.
If you can, pick a spot under cover and be as quick as you can. Leave windows open and make sure your pet has water. If you have cool jackets/ collars, this is a good time to use them.
And we’re talking minutes. 5 max. Seriously, that’s how short it can be before the car becomes unbearable.
Leaving a dog in car with windows down
Cracking the window an inch will NOT give enough air to stop your dog overheating. Leaving water won’t be enough to help either. They WILL overheat if you leave them too long.
Is it ok to leave a dog in a car with the AC on?
Some vehicles allow you to keep the A/C on, which allows you to leave dog in car with AC running. The same applies to fans which might still run without the engine- try and point one of these at your pet if you need to pop out.
This is better, but still don't leave them more than a few minutes- what if the A/C shuts off for some reason?
Rescuing dogs from hot cars
Please remember, it is a criminal offence to break into someone’s car to rescue a dog. Call the police if you are concerned.
Do fans keep dogs cool?
They sure do. We highly recommend these 12v fans– easy to install all over the motorhome (or car!) and can be positioned to point where you need them to.
How to keep your dog cool at night
This is a great question. We often let Mac sleep with his cool jacket on and we'll also try and position a fan towards him.
I'm sure there are lots of other tips for how to keep your dog cool in a car, motorhome or on a road trip. Tell us your favourite tip and we'll add it in.