With temperatures into the 110s in our forecast in the coming days, you are likely thinking about the condition of your a.c. unit, making sure you’ve got plans to go swimming, or making a meal plan filled with cold sandwiches and salads – but have you remembered Fido?
As a pet-lover and owner of three rescue pups (and former foster of 25+ others), learning about pet safety and care is something that’s important to me. Knowing how many fellow animal lovers there are in the Valley, I thought this was a very pertinent topic to address, given the current climate.
Our furry family members have their own particular set of challenges to face when Valley temperatures soar. For those who are able to bring their dogs indoors, the potential risks of heat-related health problems are almost entirely negated, however for those who are unable to bring their canine companions indoors for one reason or another, planning ahead for their comfort and safety when a heat wave hits is a critical part of pet ownership.
To help you prepare for the hot weather ahead:
5 Ways to Keep Dogs Safe & Cool During a Heat Wave
(with useful and affordable product suggestions linked for your convenience)
Provide cooler places to relax outdoors
Prior to leaving your dogs outside on a hot day, go out into the yard during the hottest part of the day that you are able to, to look for the coolest spots in the yard. Look for where the shade is, where the grass is cooler (typically grass will be cooler than concrete areas, as concrete becomes warmed and then reflects the heat) and where a good location would be to set up your pet’s “cooling quarters”.
The cooling quarter is where you want to put a bed, a large container of fresh water and their food. Some pet owners do not leave food out throughout the day, and feed only in the morning and evenings, in which case – no need to change the pattern your pet is accustomed to.
When thinking of bedding, you want to focus on air flow. Your pet doesn’t want to curl up with thick blankets or a deep, padded bed in the summer any more than you do, so skip the indoor type of dog beds for this use. Look for an elevated platform bed that will allow your dog to lay just above the ground, so that airflow can continue to occur below his/her body. Combine an elevated bed with a cooling pad, and your pooches will really thank you.
Give cooled water
Make sure the fresh water supply is plentiful, and be sure to keep the bowl in the shade – drinking hot water isn’t refreshing for anyone, including your pup. For less than $20, you can purchase a water bowl with gel core than can be frozen, to keep your dog’s water cool outside for hours, unlike ice cubes that just melt away. As a treat, you can also freeze* low-sodium chicken broth with chewy treats or toys inside of it, and place it in a bowl for your dogs to enjoy licking during the earlier part of the day. The treats and toys can provide some entertainment during the afternoon.
Think carefully about grooming
Many people think that cutting their dogs fur very short will help them to stay cool during the summer, however, most dogs actually benefit from at least medium length fur in the summer, as it provides some protection from the heat by insulating the body. Additionally, short cuts can also lead to sunburn, a very uncomfortable condition we humans likely know well, yet rarely think of as a risk for pets. Pets can definitely suffer a sunburn as well, so be sure trims are not exposing your dogs’ skin to harmful UV rays.
Offer water play
If at all possible, offer a filled wading pool with toys inside for dogs to splash around in on hot days. It may not come naturally for your dog to get into the water on their own, so you may need to have some fun, backyard play with your pet over a weekend so he/she can associate the pool with fun. This inexpensive solution can really make a difference in your pet’s comfort and enjoyment during periods of extreme heat.
Watch for danger signs
Dogs can suffer from heat stroke with temperatures as low as 80 degrees, so watch for signs that tell you something is not right. Fatigue is the most common sign, however a dry nose, excessive panting and heavy breathing can also be signs. If you believe your dog may be overheated, wet the dog with room-temperature water and sit with the dog in front of a fan as soon as possible. Offer lots of fresh water to drink, and don’t hesitate to call your vet if symptoms don’t improve quickly.
Above all, never ever leave your dog in the car alone on warm days. Car temperatures rise very quickly, and it doesn’t have to be very hot for your dog to suffer from a potentially lethal case of heat stroke when left in a car. You never know when a “short trip” into a store will be foiled by an unexpectedly long line or the need to have someone check for the item you need in the back – so please, don’t risk your pet’s life in this way.
With a little preparation and a small investment in appropriate tools, your pet will be better prepared to withstand the heat if required. Keep in mind, dogs are domestic animals and they are no more comfortable in extreme temperatures than you are. If you’re hot, they’re hot, so whenever possible, keep your dogs indoors with you during times of extreme heat.
*Note: There are rumors about the dangers of giving ice/frozen liquids to dogs online. Ice itself isn’t actually dangerous to dogs, however it does constrict blood vessels. Some people have fed ice to dogs suffering symptoms of heat stroke, but due to the constricting effect, this is not very helpful.
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