15 Ways to Cool Down a French Bulldog & Stop Overheating in Summer


how to keep a french bulldog cool

If you’re looking for ways to keep a French Bulldog cool in the summer and preventative methods to stop overheating, then this guide contains everything that you need to know.

My wife and I own a French Bulldog and have gone through a few very hot summers now with our Frenchie. We’ve made mistakes but learned from them, so wanted to share with you the methods we use to keep our Frenchie cool, and how you can stop your beloved dog overheating in the first place.

Why French Bulldogs are prone to overheating

Overheating is a massive issue for French Bulldogs. Most Frenchies suffer with a condition called brachycephalic airway obstruction syndrome (BOAS). This relates to their short snouts and squashed faces.

This genetic trait means that Frenchies find it hard to cool down in the warmer months and are at risk of overheating in the summer. This is due to their smaller than average airways becoming swollen leading to problematic breathing.

How do you cool down a French Bulldog?

In an ideal world you won’t have to cool down your French Bulldog. But their breed makes overheating a more common problem than you might think. Even the slightest sun, heat, and over exertion can cause problems for them.

If you scroll further down this page, I’ve put together a list of things you can do to stop overheating in the first place (or at least reduce the chances of it happening). However, at some point during the summer months you will need to cool your French Bulldog down.

Before you read that though, I assume you might need to take action now.

With that in mind, here are my 15 ways on how to keep a French Bulldog cool in the summer when the heat and play has got too much.

The basics to keeping a Frenchie cool

Here are the easiest and quickest ways to cool down your French Bulldog if he or she is showing signs of overheating. Continue past this if you want to see some products we recommend to help battle the heat.

1. Place damp towels for your Frenchie to lie on

When you get back from a walk in the heat (which I don’t recommend by the way) or your Frenchie is starting to get too hot, then get them to lie down on something cool.

In truth, your French Bulldog will seek this out himself anyway, and will try to get their bellies flat down on the coolest surface they can find. It’s their way of cooling themselves off and bringing the temperature back down.

You can help them cool off by placing damp towels on the floor for them to lie down on or place them on the dog bed.

We’re lucky enough to have tiles on our kitchen floor at home. This is the first place that Claude looks for after he’s had a lot of running around with his dog friends.

2. Pour water on your Frenchie’s head and belly

With severe overheating you can turn to water. But it shouldn’t be freezing cold as this can shock them, so always use a tepid temperature straight from the tap.

The best places to pour water on a Frenchie will be their head and bellies. If your French Bulldog is like Claude, he won’t like being cooled down with water on the head, so go for the belly area first.

Bellies don’t have as much fur on them, so means the water can start cooling the French Bulldog a lot quicker due to the skin contact.

3. Spray your Frenchie with water

With a cheap spray bottle you can help to reduce your Frenchie’s temperature. It’s a great game for them as well… but a word of caution.

When we’ve used this method with Claude it has had the opposite effect as he will run away and end up getting even hotter.

how to prevent a French Bulldog from overheating
Keep your French Bulldog cool in the summer months using the tips in this guide.

This cooling method is definitely one to try though, but how successful it is will depend on the personality of your dog more than anything else.

4. Spread their fur to improve air flow

After you have given your Frenchie a cool down with some water, open up their fur. You do this by spreading the fur apart with your fingers. You can combine this with pouring the tepid water onto the exposed skin.

The reason this can work well for cooling them down is that it lets the air flow better and reduces the heat insulation that the fur keeps in.

5. Groom away any excess hair

Frenchies will naturally start to shed their hair in the warmer months, but it’s still worth helping the process with some supportive grooming. By doing so you can help keep their temperature down.

I’ve already published a guide to how much Frenchies shed and the best de-shedding tool you can use to keep their hair to a minimum.

With regular grooming you can help to keep your French Bulldog cooler in the summer.

6. Take your Frenchie for a swim

French Bulldogs can’t swim (read about the truth behind this) but they do love to plonk themselves into water to cool themselves down in summer.

We see this all the time when we walk Claude in the forest on summer mornings before it gets too hot. After a few minutes of running around he will find the nearest watering hole and stick himself in it.

frenchie by the sea
Be careful near water as Frenchies can drown if they get out of their depth.

If you do decide to let your Frenchie take a dip before he overheats, then be very careful on depths. Anything over shoulder height can lead to drowning.

This is why French Bulldog swimming vests are so popular. You can see the French Bulldog life jackets I recommend elsewhere on the blog.

Handy Hint: If your Frenchie is too hot, make sure that they enter the water slowly to avoid shock. This also gives you the opportunity to take fewer risks with depth.

It’s also worth mentioning that this point that drowning isn’t the only danger for Frenchies when swimming. In the countryside some streams and lakes can have nutrients from fertilizers in them as well as naturally occurring algae, both of which can be toxic to dogs.

7. Use a kid’s paddling pool

To be completely on the safe side, use a kid’s paddling pool for French Bulldog cooling. Our own Frenchie loves our son’s pool, and it’s a regular feature of our back garden play every summer.

As with any form of swimming, make sure that the depth doesn’t go over your dog’s shoulders. You can see the paddling pool that we use in these photos on this gear page. It’s a cheap solution and is one of the best ways to keep a French Bulldog cool in the summer.

8. Use a sprinkler, hose, or water pistol play

French Bulldogs love to play no matter how hot they get. Do this one conservatively though, as it could lead your Frenchie to overheat even more in sun… but it’s definitely very fun as you can see in the video below.

A word of warning though; don’t let your Frenchie drink lots of water from a hose. It can lead to water intoxication which I will explain in tip number 12.

9. Give them a shady spot out of the sun

Last summer we bought a special dog bed that has a sun umbrella on it. It was really cheap and worked a treat when we were having BBQs outside. If you have a garden or yard with trees, then this can work just as well.

If you don’t have anything like this, you can erect something similar with blankets to give your Frenchie a little place to cool off in.

The special dog summer shade bed we bought was like this one on Amazon. It took around 10 minutes to assemble and can be pulled apart in seconds too if you want to pack it back up afterwards.

10. Use air conditioning or a fan

In warmer climates, air conditioning is an absolute must for any French Bulldog owner.

During one really hot summer we kept our Frenchie cooler and prevented overheating by setting up a cheap fan on a table top. It was pointed down towards his bed area and worked really well during the middle of the day.

11. Feed ice cubes or frozen watermelon

To cool your French Bulldog down internally, try them out with a frozen snack. It can be as simple as ice cubes in their water bowl, or as tasty as frozen watermelon snacks.

We have given Claude frozen watermelon chunks in the past. They are low in calories and are a great choice as a summertime snack for a hot Frenchie. You can read how to prepare the watermelon in this guide.

12. Have plenty of water available (but be aware of water intoxication)

This is so obvious I almost didn’t include it. But to re-iterate, always have a full bowl of water available on hot days, and possibly even strategically place them around your home.

However, that does come with a caveat.

If your French Bulldog drinks too much water to cool down, it can lead to something called water intoxication. This is where a dog’s body take on too much body fluids that it can actually process.

The time a dog will be most at risk from water intoxication is when they are playing the game of catch the water from the sprinkler or hose.

Whilst it’s unlikely they will suffer by drinking from a bowl, please don’t let them ingest large amounts of H2O from a hose, paddling pool, or large body of water. It could prove to be fatal.

french bulldog top speed
We tested how fast a Frenchie can run with GPS (see the results) – it made him very hot so we had to cool him down so he didn’t get to hot.

Products that can cool down a French Bulldog

Now you’ve seen the free and easy ways on how to cool down an overheating French Bulldog, here are some products you can also buy – we’ve used all of these and they have been the best ones on the market we’ve found so far.

13. French Bulldog cool coat

One of the best products we have ever used to keep our French Bulldog cool in summer is this cooling coat. It doesn’t look like much, and in truth, it isn’t. And it doesn’t have to be, as it works off basics.

All you do is soak it in water and then fit it to your Frenchie. The fibres absorb the heat from your dog’s body, helping to cool them down.

It’s also UV resistant with a UPF factor of 50+ so can stop your French Bulldog from suffering with sunburn too.

They don’t cost the earth either and work as a very affordable cooling solution. You can see how well regarded they are for yourself when you read the Amazon reviews and see the pricing.

14. French Bulldog cooling collars

You can also use a cooling collar in tandem with the coat. It works in the exact same way and looks like a neckerchief thing. It makes your Frenchie look cool and feel cool at the same time.

I can’t remember the brand we bought 2 summers ago as we’ve somehow lost ours, but here’s what looks like a similar one on Amazon again.

15. French Bulldog cooling gel mat

A cooling mat is made from a really clever material with gel inside. It’s an excellent addition in your fight to keep your Frenchie cool in the summer and is ideal for people who don’t have cold tile floors in their home.

The one we bought is still available on Amazon (view prices), and is said to soothe and cool a dog for up to 3 hours at a time.

You don’t need to plug it in or fill it with water. It just works and I was dumbstruck by how cool it feels to the touch.

It really doesn’t make sense and is like witchcraft if I’m honest, but it’s a great cooling product for a Frenchie who is at risk of overheating.

How to prevent French Bulldog overheating

All of the methods I’ve listed above for cooling down your French Bulldog in the summer could be completely avoided with a degree of common sense and pre-planning. Over the last couple of years, we’ve identified the times when Claude overheats most.

To stop your French Bulldog overheating in the first place, and to keep them cool at all times, follow these tips.

1. Avoid car journeys in hot weather

Whilst it might seem like a short car journey in the summer months is harmless, the reality can be very different.

Claude the Frenchie always sits in the boot of our car when we take him out. That’s absolutely fine most of the time, but on hot days it is too much for him. After 10 minutes we can hear him panting, so only ever made this mistake once.

The glass windows of a car produce an effect similar to that of a greenhouse. If you’ve ever been in a greenhouse you will know how hot they can be. The windows will raise the temperature inside the car much higher than the outside temperature.

Even with all of the car windows open, our French Bulldog will pant and breathe heavily if we’re driving on a hot summer’s day. It’s because we can’t open the boot window, so he’s getting warmed up far too much than is safe for him.

2. Don’t leave your dog in the car

It goes without saying, as there has been so much media attention on this one. If you don’t already know it, you must have been living under a rock.

The bottom line is this; never, ever, leave your French Bulldog in a car on a warm day. Even with temperatures that you think are acceptable, it can be extremely dangerous.

As I’ve already established, the windows heat the temperature up inside the car, creating an oven effect.

french bulldog in car
Never leave your French Bulldog in a car as the windows will increase the heat substantially.

The animal charity PETA (view source) released some research that found that 15 minutes is enough in a warm car to kill a dog. They can die from heatstroke in just a quarter of an hour.

Here’s what PETA said about car temperatures:

“Parked cars are death traps for dogs: On a 78-degree day, the temperature inside a parked car can soar to 100 degrees in just minutes, and on a 90-degree day, the interior temperature can reach as high as 109 degrees in less than 10 minutes.”

It goes without saying that if you do leave your Frenchie in your car in the heat, then there’s every chance he will die. It’s a massive cause of French Bulldog overheating issues and should be taken very seriously. 

3. Walk in morning and evenings

 We find that Claude cannot handle being taken for walks in the summer heat. Even at what we would consider warm temperatures, he can quickly overheat if he starts to run around and play with other dogs.

He’s a typical Frenchie and need cooling down after any heavy physical exertion. Yours is probably the same!

To prevent our French Bulldog overheating in the summer we get strategic with our walking routines. That means I walk him in the early morning between 6 and 8am, and then give him his later walk once the cooler evening has started – in the UK that can be around 7pm. 

4. Be careful of hot pavements

There’s a quick way you can figure out whether it’s too hot to take your French Bulldog for a walk. Simply go outside yourself and place your open palm onto the pavement or sidewalk.

Vets call this the 7 second rule. Place your hand on the road surface for 7 seconds and if you struggle to leave your hand there, then it’s too hot for you to touch. Ergo, it’s going to be way too hot for your dog’s paws. 

Hot weather can make roads and pavements melt, and surfaces such as asphalt, tarmac and even artificial grass can cause severe burns.

Even in temperatures that we would consider acceptable such as 25C (77F) with not much wind and low humidity can be too hot. In this temperature range, pavement tarmac can heat up to temperatures of 52C (125F).

To place that into context, it’s possible to fry an egg in just 5 minutes at 55C (131F). Dog’s paws can be severely burned and fried to a crisp in just 1 minute at 52C (125F). I learned this from the excellent VetsNow.com website.

If you are still determined to take your Frenchie for a walk at this temperature where the pavements are too hot, then avoid roads completely and stick to shaded areas on natural grass.

5. Separate them from other dogs due to over exertion

If there’s one thing we’ve learned with our own French Bulldog, it’s that he never knows when to stop. He would run and run until he collapsed unless we actively intervened.

We will often see this at our local park when he plays with other dogs. After 30 minutes we will need to take him home to let him cool down.

frenchie play
You should limit their play if they start to over-excite each other in the summer.

In fact, when his Frenchie friend comes to visit, we will often have to separate them after half an hour. They will play and play, and then both start to overheat and not have the common sense to stop.

If your Frenchie loves to play with other dogs, he will overheat, and you will need to help him cool down. Keep a careful eye on your dog and take him home before he gets too hot.

6. Keep them away from fires and radiators

Frenchies can be stubborn. They also don’t always know what’s best for them. A prime example of this is wintertime in our house. We have an open fireplace.

Once the fire gets going Claude will saunter into the lounge and plonk himself down in front of the fire. It’s way too hot a temperature for him, but he just doesn’t get it.

We will watch him for 10 minutes until he starts panting, and then have to physically remove him from the room.

The same advice needs to be applied to heaters and radiators in your home. Even in winter months it could lead to your Frenchie overheating so keep their beds away from heat sources if you find it gets too much for them.

7. Use a dog friendly sunscreen

Did you know you can get sunscreen for your dog? I didn’t until I started researching this guide. You can get it but that does come with some warnings.

The American Kennel Club has this to say about dog sunscreen:

“It’s highly important that you only use types of sunscreen that are specifically intended for use on dogs. They should not contain zinc oxide or para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), as these ingredients are toxic to dogs if ingested, and dogs will often lick their skin and accidentally ingest the sunscreen. It’s also a good idea to use a non-scented sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 that is also waterproof.”

I don’t have any recommendation for a sunscreen as we’ve never used one with our Frenchie, but it sounds like it could be a great way to protect against skin cancers and illness.

8. Be summer safe at all times

I’ve covered off what I believe to be most of the best ways you can prevent your French Bulldog from overheating in the summer, but there are also some other things to look out for.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty for Animals (visit website) created their own guide to summer dangers, including overheating issues. The graphic below contains some other pointers of what to be aware of in summertime.

Summer dangers for dogs
change caption

French Bulldog overheating FAQs

Do French Bulldogs overheat easily? 

In our experience of owning a French Bulldog, they do overheat very easily. Just 5 minutes of running in hot weather can have a huge effect on them, which is why you need to keep them out of the sun and keep exercise in heat to a minimum.

We once made the error of taking Claude for a 30-minute summertime walk when there was a lot of cloud cover. After 10 minutes the cloud’s lifted, and the sun started beating down.

Walking back home was scary. I had to pick Claude up as he was not coping at all well with the heat. After just 10 minutes in the heat he overheated and started panting heavily.

Even when we got home, it took him an hour to recover properly using the methods I listed earlier in this guide on how to keep your French Bulldog cool in the summer.

We vowed to never make that mistake again, and I hope you can learn something from our error. It was when we first owned our Frenchie and were very ignorant about how easy it was for them to overheat. 

How do you tell is a French Bulldog is overheating? 

It should be obvious if your French Bulldog is overheating as you will see a dramatic change in their behaviour.

With Claude we will notice that his tongue starts to stick out, he breathes more heavily, and he will also try and find the nearest puddle to lie down in.

how to keep a french bulldog cool
In warmer weather your Frenchie will find the nearest water source to cool himself down.

This can be frustrating when we’re on forest walks, as he finds the nearest muddy stream and plonks himself down in it to cool off after 10 minutes of running about. And that means we will then need to bath him (see how we bathe our Frenchie).

However, this type of behaviour is quite typical of Frenchies as is their own way of keeping themselves cooler after they have exercised too much.

With more serious cases of French Bulldog overheating, there are some signs that vets say to watch out for:

  • Heaving panting
  • Dry or pale gums
  • Increased drooling
  • Glazed eyes
  • Deep and rapid breathing
  • Exhaustion
  • Strange throat noises
  • Loose and floppy tongue
  • Possible foaming from the mouth
  • Increased heart rate

I recently read an anonymous interview with a Frenchie owner whose dog died from overheating. She said that one of the signs she saw that he needed cooling down quickly due to the heat was his tongue.

The owner said that the tongue lolled out of the Frenchie’s mouth and was curled up on either side in a very unnatural looking position. There is also anecdotal evidence to suggest that French Bulldogs overheating can also show a very wide and flat tongue before they die.

Do French Bulldogs need air conditioning?

If you like in a hot climate with year-round sun and heat, then it’s imperative that you live in a home that has air conditioning. Frenchies cannot stand excess heat and have trouble regulating their temperature, so air conditioning is a must for French Bulldogs. 

There are some parts of the world where I wouldn’t recommend you own a French Bulldog due to the weather and heat. For example, it would be madness to own a Frenchie in somewhere like Doha. 

What temperature is too hot for a French Bulldog?

French Bulldogs should not be walked in temperatures that exceed 27C (80F), and even that temperature can be too hot for a Frenchie.

As I’ve explained in this guide to keeping your French Bulldog cool and stopping overheating, we had an occasion where we got it wrong. The temperature when we had that incident (which luckily didn’t end badly) was around 25C (77F).

He reality is that the temperature doesn’t have to be too high to be too hot for a French Bulldog. Exercise caution and common sense at all times.

When I asked my vet, this is what he said about the temperatures that will be too hot for a Frenchie breed:

“I recommend that you don’t take your dog outside in hot weather if the temperature gets to 20C (85F). Anything hotter than that can be problematic and is the prime time we see dogs coming in with overheating issues.”

Whilst I completely respect my vet’s professional opinion, our own experience has told us that even that can be too hot for a French Bulldog.

Can French Bulldog die from heat? 

Hot air and hot weather can kill French Bulldogs. The reason is due to the brachycephalic breed with the shortened snouts and squashed faces; they have smaller airways then standard dog breeds.

The reason that French Bulldogs can die from overheating when not cooled down is because the panting makes the airways swell up larger. When this happens, the Frenchie will start to panic and will begin breathing even harder.

As you can imagine this then exacerbates the problem leading to even more swelling of the airways. The medical term for this is brachycephalic airway obstruction syndrome (see the definition of BOAS) which can lead to death. All French Bulldogs suffer with BOAS.

Conclusion

I hope you’ve enjoyed our guide on how to keep a French Bulldog cool in the summer (or in any warm country). I can’t reiterate this enough, but Frenchies are a special breed who should not be overly exercised in warm weather.

The struggle to deal with heat and are not designed for hot climates so please be a responsible pet owner.

Did You Know? Hot and dry climates can make your French Bulldog snore more than usual. Here are 19 ways you can reduce the snoring problem.

Marc Aaron

I am one of Claude the French Bulldog's human parents. I write about all the things I've learned about owning a Frenchie, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips I've picked up along the way. Read more about Marc Aaron.

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