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The Dog Days of Summer: keeping cool during hot weather.

*Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian and have no experience in veterinary medicine. My advice here should not be taken as medical advice for your pet but as a starting point to helping your pets stay cool during the hot months. All of my experience comes from taking care of pets and most of what I’ve written about here comes from doing some online research. If you are worried that your pet is suffering from heat stroke, you should call your veterinarian immediately.

The dog days of summer are almost over but we still have some hot days ahead of us! Keeping dogs and other animals cool and hydrated is important during the warm and sunny days of summer. Heat stroke can be a big problem for dogs, which is why it’s important to not leave them in cars and to make sure they have clean, fresh water. One city in the United Kingdom even has a competition called “how cool is your dog?” to bring awareness to how the hot weather of summer impacts dogs. Not only is it a great way to talk about this issue but there have been many amazing (and cute!) submissions.

Some things to do to keep things cool during hot days include:

  • Don’t leave your dog in a car, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

During the summer, a car can quickly warm up to dangerous levels for dogs and can cause several health issues or even death. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, your car’s temperature can rise nearly 20º F in just ten minutes! And the longer you wait, the hotter the car will get. There have been a couple different studies that have looked at the temperature of cars sitting outside and one found that cracking the windows had almost no effect on the temperature inside.

If you do see a dog in a hot car – there are several ways to help the dog! Some states have laws that allow for bystanders to break into the car, if that’s something you feel comfortable doing. If the car is in a store parking lot, see if you can talk to the store manager to find the owner. There’s also the option to call local animal control but even then, that might not help the dog because even just a few minutes in a car make a huge difference.

  • Make sure that your animals keep cool and have access to clean, fresh water and shade.

This applies to all animals during the hot months. Having places to escape the sun for a bit can help any animal cool down for a bit. And while how much differs, animals need water just like we do to survive. Some folks have even purchased kiddie pools for their dogs to play in!

Bellingham is always great when it comes to having water bowls out for dogs around the city. And there are plenty of parks and trails that have nearby creeks or lakes to help dogs cool down during walks!

There are a few other ways to keep a dog cool during the hottest times of the year. Put cool (but not icy), damp cloths on their feet and around their heads. Make sure they have water nearby and if they like ice, offer them some to lick on but never force any animal to drink water. It’s important to find a balance though because some dogs can get too cold.

  • Go on walks during the cooler moments of the day

Milo and I have started to walk early on in the day to avoid the heat and it’s been the perfect change! Walking during the early morning or late evening allows for a cooler walk and allows for any potential sidewalks to not be scalding hot for a dog’s paws. Sidewalks and roads that are too hot for your own bare feet are too hot for dogs!

Also consider going on light, shorter walks while it’s hot outside. This will allow for you and your pup to get some exercise during the hot days of summer without your dog overdoing it.

  • Know the signs of heatstroke and act fast if you think your pet is suffering from it

For dogs, the signs of heat stroke include: a body temp of more than 104F, excessive panting, gums and tongues that are dark, bright red, sticky, or dry, staggering, stupor, seizures, bloody diarrhea, and vomiting. Heat stroke can lead to a coma or even death. If you suspect heat stroke in your dog, you should immediately talk to a vet!

In cats, the signs for heat stroke include rapid pulse and breathing, vomiting, lethargy, the cat’s temperature is over 105F, their tongue and mouth is red, and a stumbling, staggering gait. Again, it’s important to talk to a veterinarian about this if you’re concerned or your cat has started to exhibit these symptoms.

  • Other tips

This list is pretty specific to dogs but many also apply to the other animals in our lives. For the other animals in our lives this summer, there are a few other tips to know. If you have a cat, brush them regularly to both help prevent the fur from matting and help air flow to the cat’s skin. Unless there are issues of matted fur, it’s important to not shave your cat during the hot weather. Shaving can cause a few different issues in cats, including the possibility of skin cancer and sunburns, and there are some that believe that a cat’s coat actually helps cool it down during the summer. Other things to do with cats is creating cool spots for them, like a box with an ice pack at the bottom or leaving a fan on in part of the house.

For chickens, making sure that they have shade and water is especially important but you can also feed them small bits of frozen veggies and fruits! Chickens already love foods like cucumber, berries (mine especially love cherries), apples, and watermelon; freezing little chunks of these foods would help chickens retain energy and cool down at the same time. Similarly, you can also add electrolytes to their water. I’ve found powered electrolytes specifically made for chickens in the same store where I get their feed and have been putting some electrolytes + water in a smaller container next to their larger water container. That allows for the chickens to have some electrolytes and a different source for clean water.

With this summer as hot as it is here in the Pacific Northwest, it’s always important to take care of yourself and of your animals.

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