Dogs | August 1, 2014

Common sense and a little care for the dog days of summer

Val Culpin
By: Val Culpin
Two dogs playing ball on the beach

July and August are known as the “Dog Days of Summer”. Ancient Romans associated the hottest days of summer with the star Sirius, which they called the “Dog Star” as it was the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major. They believed the star to be the cause of the hot sultry weather.

Regardless of the cause, the summer months require pet parents to be extra vigilant and keep their pets from overheating! Heat stroke is life threatening, and can take your pet’s life in a matter of minutes.

It’s vitally important in the hot weather that your pets have constant access to plenty of fresh cool drinking water. Just like us, pets can become dehydrated very quickly in the heat and need plenty of water to help cool them.

Dogs sweat mainly through sweatpads on their feet, but heat regulation is done through panting. Because of this it is not often evident when dogs are overheated or require water. Staying cool is especially important if your pet is brachycephalic (flat faced such as a Pug, Pekinese, Boston Terrier or Persian cat). It is crucial to keep them in a cool environment because they cannot pant as effectively and are more susceptible to heat stroke. So the best place for these types of pets is in your home in the coolest spot available to them.

So, what are the best ways to keep Fido and Fluffy cool?

1. When walking with your dog, always carry a water bottle.

2. Purchase a kiddie pool for your dog. Even if your dog isn’t a swimmer, often they will paddle or even lay down in a shallow few inches of water, which is a great way to keep them cool.

3. If a pool isn’t available or is inconvenient, a soaking wet towel placed over your dog’s body will help cool him down. The air movement over the wet towel will have a cooling effect. Cats often don’t care for the water, but a body rub with a damp towel several times a day is usually tolerable and will provide welcome relief from the heat.

4. There are also a number of cooling jackets on the market that cool through the use of a gel, which is situated inside the lining of the jacket. The jacket is soaked in cold water and the gel swells up to provide a cooling effect.

5. If your pet is outside during the heat of the day, it’s important that you provide him or her with a cool and shady place to rest. Better yet, if your pet can enjoy the comfort of your cooler home in the heat of the day, then so much the better.

6. When the weather is hot, save your pet’s daily walks or exercise for early mornings or evenings when it is cooler out and things like hot asphalt are not a hazard to your pet’s feet.

7. A lesser known tip is to adjust your pet’s diet in the hot summer months. Feeding a high protein diet (for example, GO! FIT + FREE) may increase body temperature and the need for hydration, so sometimes a lower protein option is best for the hot summer months (for example, a NOW FRESH Recipe).

8.  Leave your pets at home if you are going out, unless you are on your way to a pet friendly destination where you can take them out of the car. Every year, hundreds of pets expire in vehicles where they have been left in hot temperatures. It only takes minutes for the temperature in a car parked in heat or sun to skyrocket to dangerous levels, and only takes minutes for your pet to succumb to heat stroke.

Enjoy your summer days with your pets, but remember a seed of caution and common sense is necessary to keep everybody comfortable and healthy!