Friday, September 4, 2009

Keeping Pets Hydrated, Healthy and Cool


By, Sindi Somers

Published in San Diego Pets Magazine July 2009 issue

For those of us that live in sunny San Diego County, it can be helpful to remember hot weather safety tips year round. With the onset of summer, it is especially important to consider our pets’ potential to become overheated and dehydrated.

Fresh cool drinking water needs to be available at all times for pets. On hot days you might want to put bowls in different areas, making it easier for pets to get to water and stay hydrated. Water bowls for outdoor pets should be placed in shaded areas so they stay cool. It is recommended to empty outdoor bowls when pets are not outside to deter mosquitoes.
Cats instinctively get their moisture from food. If they are on a dry kibble diet, consider integrating moist food. High quality canned, thawed frozen raw or home cooked lean unseasoned meats will increase fluid consumption, as well as nutrition and flavor. You can even manually add a little extra water to whatever they are eating. If your cat does drink from the water bowl, giving some form of moistened food is still highly beneficial and encouraged, not only on hot days, but year round.

In addition to proper hydration, providing adequate shade is essential if your pets are outside for any length of time. A dog house can trap heat and should not be considered shade. Nor is a shady tree always sufficient. Consider installing an awning or other tented structure that will remain shaded regardless of which direction the sun is shining. Air flow through the structure is also important so that the area underneath remains cool.

If pets are indoors during the day and you don’t have air conditioning or want to minimize its usage, keep it cooler inside by closing the blinds. You might want to leave at least one window accessible for pets to see out. Some pets choose to rest on a tiled floor to stay cool. My dog opts for the bathtub so I always leave the curtain pulled to one side.

When it comes time for exercise, extreme caution should be used on hot days. Schedule your dog’s walks, playtime, beach visits and other outings in the evenings and early mornings to avoid the sun when it is at its hottest. This can help lessen the risk of your dog overheating or getting heatstroke, which can be fatal. Sidewalks, pavement and sand can also get very hot on your pet’s paw pads. Paw boots are available for those dogs willing to wear them.

When venturing out, it can be beneficial for some pets to wear sunscreen. If they are a hairless breed or have been shaved, the shaved or exposed skin is at risk for sunburn. In addition, the nose, especially pale nosed cats and dogs need protection. Any area where the skin is thin or there is no hair could benefit from sunscreen on a sunny day. There are sunscreens designed specifically for pets, but human grade sensitive skin or baby sunscreens can be okay. Some ingredients however, such as common Zinc Oxide are toxic and should always be avoided. Protective eye wear and sunglasses, including Doggles brand are also available.

Bringing along water on walks and excursions is also a good idea. Portable water bowls are available for pets in a variety of styles. My favorite is the Water Rover. It clips to my belt and allows unused water to be saved for later in the walk.

You may find that your pets naturally slow down when the temperature rises. However, if they are in need of some activity, indoor play is another option. Playing tug with a rope or other dog friendly toy is a great way to work your dog’s muscles and mind. If you have the room, you can modify fetch by rolling the ball vs. throwing it or use a lightweight stuffed toy to throw. Training sessions with praise and food rewards can also help break up the day. Providing edible chew treats, such as bully sticks and raw marrow bones or a Kong or other treat dispensing toy filled with snacks can further help exert energy.

One last, but crucial reminder is to never leave your dog in the car on a hot day. Even in the shade with the windows down, the interior of a car can reach over 100 degrees in mere minutes. Leaving a dog in an open bed truck while driving or stopped is also dangerous. In addition to the hazards of the sun’s rays, flying debris can get into animals’ eyes. Of course if you have to stop suddenly or are in any type of accident your pets are also completely unprotected. Seat belt harnesses can be purchased to ensure safety when riding in cars, but tying your dog in to the back of a truck doesn’t lessen its chance of severe injury.

Keeping these precautions in mind can help ensure you enjoy a safe, healthy and happy summer with your pets. I welcome your questions and comments. You can email me at or visit me online at

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