The Dog Days of Summer

An article by Jacqui Dziak

We all know what “the dog days of summer” mean- devastatingly hot days in the summer where we are lethargic from the heat or are desperately trying to make friends with someone who has a pool. Although the dog days of summer actually refers to the dog star Sirius which appears in late July, it is often the hottest time of the year, which is how the phrase got its meaning. The phrase is also a good reminder that dogs- and cats and critters- also experience the same brutal summer heat that we do. Higher temperatures mean higher risk for our pets.

Below are some things to keep top of mind during this heat:

1. Provide plenty of water
Make sure your pet has access to fresh, clean water. It is a good practice, especially in the heat, to change your pet’s water a few times a day. Consider adding a couple ice cubes to the bowl. Dogs and cats don’t sweat like we do. They drink water and pant to bring their body temperature down. If you have a smaller critter like a rabbit or guinea pig, you can give them an extra helping of green veggies to help them stay hydrated. If your critter gets its water from a water bottle, consider adding a crock as well so they can increase their water intake when it is hot. It is also a good idea to place a frozen water bottle in the area where your smaller critter lives so they can lie next to it if they need to cool down.

2. Provide shade
Dogs and cats like to sunbathe, but direct sunlight can overheat them and lead to heat stroke. Make sure your pet has plenty of shade, or better yet, keep them indoors if you have air conditioning. If you don’t have air conditioning, use fans to cool your indoors. Circulating fans offers a cool breeze for your pet without blowing directly on them constantly.

3. NEVER leave your pet in the car
Many pets love going in the car for a ride. While you think you are doing Fido a favor letting him hang his head out the window to get a good breeze, cars are a dangerous place for pets in the summer. Leaving your pet in the car EVEN FOR A FEW SHORT MINUTES can be fatal to your pet. On an 85 degree day, temperatures in a car can reach 100 degrees in the shade and top 160 degrees in the sun in just a few minutes. It is best to leave your pet at home on extremely warm days. If you have to take your pet with you, remember to bring water and a water dish. And never leave your pet unattended in the car, even for a minute.

4. Be mindful of your pet’s haircut
A pet’s coat is designed to keep it cool in summer and warm in the winter. While a trim of fur in the summer may be a good thing for your dog depending on breed, never shave your pet. Shaving leaves your pet’s skin exposed and vulnerable to sunburn. Summer is also a good time to brush your pet regularly. No dog, cat, or rabbit wants an extra coat of hair in the summer heat.

5. Walk your dogs during the cooler hours
There are no better reasons to get up early than to watch the sun rise or to walk your dog before the sun heats up the day. Early in the morning and later in the evening are better choices to walk your pet than during the mid-day heat. Also remember to take breaks in the shade and have water available for your pet on walks. Remember to check the pavement before you walk your pet. Temperatures on these surfaces can exceed 145 degrees. Place your hand on the surface for 10 seconds. If it’s too hot for your hand, then it’s too hot for your pet. Some pets will tolerate booties to protect their paws, not to mention they make quite the fashion statement!

6. Consider frozen treats
We love to eat ice cream in the summer, why wouldn’t our pets love a frozen treat too? If you are the culinary type, there are many recipes for frozen dog treats found on the internet. My dog thinks it’s a treat to simply lick an ice cube when the temperature soars. If you have chickens, they love to peck at frozen cantaloupe or watermelon during the summer heat.

Overall rule of thumb: if you are hot, your pet is likely hotter. Stay cool and keep your pets cool. Happy dog days of summer!