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Keeping Your Pet Cool During the “Dog Days” of Summer     

Dr. Al Townshend

What has become known as the “Dog Days of Summer” are those hot July and August periods often associated with excessive heat, drought, and thunderstorms. The phrase is actually a reference to the fact that, during this time, the sun occupies the same region of the sky as Sirius, the brightest star visible from any part of Earth and part of the constellation Canis Major the Greater Dog.

It is a time Guardians should be particularly vigilant when their pets are outside and exposed to the potential dangers of excessive heat. While we protect ourselves with sunglasses, sunscreen, light clothing, and a large-brimmed hat, both dogs and cats have a hair coat they wear that makes them even more susceptible to overheating than humans.

Hyperthermia, the term that describes overheating, is a life-threatening condition that can come on swiftly and take a pet if not caught quickly and reversed.

Any sudden change in the pet, apprehension, distress, no longer interested in activities, excessive panting, vomiting or diarrhea, disorientation, collapse are all signs of overheating.

Stopping any activity and getting in a well-ventilated and shady area, going inside to air-conditioning, or cooling the body with water from a garden hose until symptoms subside can stop the process if caught early. Pets in distress or slow to recover should be taken to the emergency clinic immediately.

Prevention is the best medicine.

  • Going out during the coolest times of the day, early morning, and evening, can reduce the risk.
  • If you are fortunate enough to have access to a river or lake area, replacing land activities with a good swim can eliminate the risk of hyperthermia and provide good exercise. 
  • Frequent, short trips outside with less strenuous activity.
  • Never leave pets in the car or direct sun.
  • Avoiding the hottest paved areas that generate enough heat to damage the footpads.
  • Adding water features to the outdoors.
  • Making sure there is fresh cool water, reliable shade, a cool surface, and a fan to provide a cooling breeze.
  • Keep the pet adequately groomed. Dogs with thick heavy hair-coats often do better if clipped for the summer.
  • Pets that excite easily may benefit from natural herbal calming supplements well before going out.
  • Older dogs and some flat-nosed breeds like the bulldog can be susceptible to hot weather, even indoors. Cooling mats and dog kennels can provide relief. A fan (not directly on the pet) to keep air circulating can also bring relief.

Fun things that can reduce the risk outdoors.

  • Keeping the pet hydrated is essential, and there are some fun ways to accomplish that task.
  • Frozen Bone Broth ice cubes added to the water bowl or used in place of a throw toy.
  • There are frisbees and throw toys that are intended to be filled with water and frozen.
  • Pupsicle recipes are a great idea. They are a combination of freeze-dried foods or mixers and cooling fruits.
    Grandma Lucy’s Pupsicle Recipe

    The Dog People Dog Treat Recipes
    The Honest Kitchen Frozen Berry Treat Recipe
  • There are new ice cream treats specifically for dogs being made by Happy Tails Barkery* and other companies, made with healthy canine ingredients.
  • A kid’s pool filled with water.
  • A rotating sprinkler attached to the garden hose can be great fun and refreshing.
  • There are cooling vests intended to be wet with cold water and worn by the pet.
  • If you have a pool in the backyard, it’s an excellent place for the dog to cool down. So long as there is an easy way for the pet to exit. Pool chemicals can dry the skin, so be sure and rinse with fresh water after a swim.

Planning ahead and taking a few precautions can make the Dog Days of Summer fun and enjoyable for both the pet and the Guardian.

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