Our air conditioner broke recently and we’ve been using fans to try to keep cool. It’s very hot and we’re struggling in this heat, and so are the dogs. We have fans running 24/7 but I’ve been wondering if these fans can actually cool down dogs, so I did a little digging for answers…
Fans can help dogs cool down when the weather and room aren’t too hot. Fans can bring down the temperature of a dog’s coat, help a dog release heat through their skin, and speed up the cooling process when a dog pants. But once the room’s temperature rises past 80 degrees, fans won’t be much use to cool down a dog.
Dogs have a few ways to naturally regulate their body temperature, so they don’t overheat. Understanding how dogs regulate their body temperature and how fans work will go a long way in keeping a dog cool and comfortable when temperatures rise.
There’s even one simple ingredient you can add to cool your dog down quickly with a fan when they are getting too hot.
How Fans Work
Fans are simply designed to move air around and create airflow. Fans do not cool the air in a room. When a fan is switched on, the blades inside start spinning around. These blades are designed to pull in air and push out air as the blades spin.
The air that is pushed out is the airflow that you feel when you stand in front of a fan.
Fans do not change the temperature in the room or even lower the air temperature. But fans do help people cool down in a few ways:
- When a person gets too hot they usually sweat through the millions of sweat glands found around the human body. Fans create airflow or a type of ‘wind’ that blows over the skin and helps this sweat to evaporate and release heat from the body. This is one of the ways humans are able to control their body temperature.
- Another way is vasodilation: The blood vessels in a person’s body are designed to expand when the body gets hot. These expanded blood vessels carry more of the body’s warm blood than usual up close to the surface of the skin. The skin then releases a lot of this heat from the blood being carried through it.
The moving air created by a fan blows over a person’s body and pushes away the heat being released from the person’s skin. This can cool down the area directly around the body to room temperature because it removes the hotter body heat.
- Ceiling fans set to turn counterclockwise push down cool air coming from a nearby air conditioner. This airflow can help to quickly bring down a room’s temperature.
How dogs control their body temperature
Dogs control their body temperature through something called thermoregulation:
- When a dog gets too hot, their blood vessels expand, much like humans. More warm blood flows through these expanded blood vessels close to the skin and much of the heat is released through the skin. This mainly happens in a dog’s face and ears, which aren’t covered in fur.
- Dogs let out a little body heat through sweat glands in the pads of their paws, but this does not have any major impact on their core body temperature.
- Dogs mainly control their body temperature through panting.
When a dog pants, they breathe in air that picks up moisture. This wetness catches heat from the body as it moves through the dog’s breathing system. The dog then exhales the moist air through the mouth, where the tongue is hanging out. Hot moisture is evaporated from the tongue and heat is released from the dog.
Panting is a dog’s natural way to control their body temperature and isn’t necessarily a sign of overheating. If a dog pants slowly, they are probably a little warm and trying to cool down. The hotter a dog is, the faster and shallower they will pant.
Dogs with flat faces, like yorkies and pugs, may struggle to control their body temperature with panting because of their short nasal passages. Flat-faced dogs need to be kept cooler and watched more closely in warmer weather than other dogs.
How fans help to cool down dogs
Fans can help a dog to cool down when the weather isn’t too hot, but not in the same way fans cool down people.
A fan creates moving air that is the same temperature as the room the fan is in (remember a fan doesn’t actually cool air, it just moves it around).
Dogs may feel the moving air and cooling effect from a fan’s air in their coat. This is because the moving air pushes through the hairs in the dog’s coat and replaces hot air with cold air between these hairs. It’s important to brush your dog and keep their coat knot-free for this to work well.
The coat is cooled to room temperature, which is probably cooler than the dog’s internal temperature. This can help the dog to cool down a bit.
We said that a dog’s blood vessels expand when a dog gets hot, which enables heat carried by the blood to leave through the dog’s skin. Dogs with short hair may enjoy the cooling effect from a fan’s moving air over their skin as the air removes the heat from the dog’s skin as it is released.
If a dog pants and there is air moving over the dog’s mouth from a fan, the airflow can speed up evaporation of saliva on the tongue. Panting is the most effective way for a dog to control its body temperature through the evaporation of saliva, so speeding up this evaporation can cool the dog down faster.
Once the temperature in a room reaches 80 degrees or higher, a fan won’t be very effective in cooling down a dog and other cooling methods must be used.
How to help a dog cool down with a fan
If the temperature is rising and you only have a fan to keep your dog cool, then there is a way to help your dog cool down quickly and stay cool with a fan: Just add water.
The combination of moisture and moving air is a very effective cooling method.
To do this, wet your dog with cool water, not cold water. Your dog’s coat and skin need to get wet. You can spray your dog with the water or wrap your dog in a wet towel. Be sure to wet the dog’s paws too, where there are sweat glands.
Now put your dog in front of the fan to cool down.
This method works in two ways: The water itself cools down the dog’s skin and the fan’s air helps the water evaporate, which speeds up the cooling effect much like panting.
Can a fan be pointed directly at a dog?
Some dogs love a fan’s breeze blowing on them and others don’t like it at all.
If your dog likes the feeling of a fan blowing on them, then there’s nothing wrong with pointing a fan directly at your dog while they sleep or sit there to cool down. Keep the fan a few feet away from your dog and have it on a low or medium setting.
Don’t force your dog to stay in the fan’s airflow or they’ll end up hating the fan altogether. If your dog gets up and lies somewhere else, then that’s fine too.
Give your dog the option.