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Family Matters: Keeping Pets Cool


I’ve always thought the “dog days” of summer were misnamed. What dog, or cat, really enjoys the broiling heat of a typical summer?

In the hot months, you need to take extra steps to keep your four-legged family members cool, healthy and happy. Even dogs and cats used to living outdoors need some special care during our long hot summers. Some ideas:

Water, water, water. If your pet’s water bowl is outside, place it in a shady spot so it stays cooler, and empty it daily to keep it clean. To cool it down, you could place a block of ice in the water bowl each morning before leaving for work. Metal bowls absorb heat and make water hotter, and some animals won’t like the taste. Ceramic or heavy plastic are better. Finally, if your animals spends time both inside and outside, make sure they have a clean water supply in both locations.

Lighten up on exercise: Even if you can handle a noontime run, your dog might not be able to. Switch daily walks to early morning or cooler evenings if possible; take along a doggie water supply if you’re out more than 30 minutes. And don’t let your dog drink from puddles in the street. Even if the water appears clean, it can contain traces of antifreeze,  pesticide or fertilizer runoff, or other chemicals that can sicken your dog.

A summer haircut:  Many breeds need more frequent grooming in summer. Keeping hair about an inch or two long will keep most breeds cooler, but never shave a dog down to the skin. They can get sunburn too.  For cats, especially long-haired ones, brush them more frequently, to remove excess hair that may make them feel hotter. Most dogs also shed more in the summer, so you may need to brush them more frequently in between haircuts, to keep hair from matting.

Sunscreen for dogs? Yes, we repeat: Dogs can sunburn too. If possible, keep your dog inside or in a shady area during the brightest sunlight of the day, about 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you’re going to be out during that time – like at the park or the lake – you can rub a bit of sunscreen on the tip of your dog’s nose and ears, and around the lips, where fur can’t protect them.

High-protein diets: Like us, animals may eat less when it’s scalding hot. To make the most of each bite, consider switching to a higher-protein dog food, so they’re still getting the nutrients they need even if they’re consuming less.

Frozen treats: Dogs like cold treats just like we do, but those made for humans are usually filled with things like chocolate and sugar that animals shouldn’t eat. You can make your own. Simply freeze beef or chicken stock in ice cube trays, disposable plastic containers, or plastic cups.


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