Written by: Cally Worden
If a spot of summer sun has you clamouring for the shade, then spare a thought for your furry friends. Thick hairy coats that offer warmth and protection at other times of the year can easily lead to heat-exhaustion, and sensitive footpads can become blistered and sore from walking on hot ground. Here’s some tips on how to keep your dog and cat cool in summer.
Good Diet and Fitness
Carrying too much weight is never a good thing for your pet. But when the heat turns up this excess fat can place additional and sometimes dangerous burden on their bodies. Every motion takes a greater effort when it’s hot, and the internal body temperature of your pet can quickly rise and make them uncomfortable. Provide a healthy diet throughout the year, and regularly check the weight of your pet.
If your cat or dog has a thick coat, then use summer as the time for a trim. Removing the extra hair will have a double benefit – it reduces your pet’s weight, and allows essential cooling air to flow closer to their bodies, assisting their internal temperature regulation.
Limit Sun Exposure
Dogs and cats are usually pretty good at looking after themselves. They know when to seek out shade, and when to stop playing in order to cool down. But needing and finding shade are two different things. As a responsible owner it’s your job to ensure your pet has access to a cool, shady spot where they can escape from the sun. Short-haired pets are especially vulnerable to sun exposure, as their skin can burn just like ours in areas that are less well-covered, such as the tips of the ears, or the nose.
Remember too, that dogs in particular are also keen to please. Many will continue to run or play long after it’s safe for them to do so, if they think it’s what you want. Take a cue from your pet and watch their body language. If they start to flop it’s time to stop.
Manage Water Intake
If your pet becomes too hot they may be compelled to drink excessive amounts of water too quickly, causing them to throw-up and raising the risk of dehydration. Making sure that your pet has access to a clean, fresh water supply at all times can help to prevent this. Some experts also suggest providing ice cubes for your dog or cat, offering cold hydration in controlled quantities. Many dogs love ice cubes, and if you’ve ever watched a cat bat one about the floor you’ll know the entertainment value can be high for pet and owner alike.
Have a Paddle
Dogs and cats sweat a lot through their paws. These sensitive little pads are the main heat regulators on your pet’s body, along with the mouth. The blood flow passing through the paws carries the ambient temperature around the body very effectively. One great way to help them cool down is to provide cool water for them to paddle in, or splash on their paws. A paddling pool, or local stream are ideal sources.
Just as humans love a trip to the ice-cream van, your pet will appreciate a nibble on a frozen treat. Avoid dairy products, as these can lead to diarrhoea in cats and dogs, but preparing a few of your pet’s favourite snacks in frozen form can go down a treat on hot days. Try peanut butter lollies for your dog, and catnip ice-cubes for your cat.
Beware the Heat
It goes without saying that you should never leave your pet in the car on a hot day. But every year pets dies needlessly as a result of irresponsible owners ignoring this most basic piece of advice. DON’T DO IT. Heat kills. Watch out too for hot surfaces – your feet may be protected by a pair of posh sandals, but sand, tarmac and pavements can become blisteringly hot (literally) on sunny days for your pet. Check the ground before taking your dog for a walk, and make sure you cat can get around on ground that is cooler, such as grass.