Heavy Petting

Heavy Petting: Time for the Big Cool Down

Summer months mean extra precautions and strategies needed to make sure pets are happy and healthy

Beso knows a ton of commands, loves to give kisses and enjoys sleeping in bed with her family. She’s pictured cooling off in the pool at the shelter, where’s she’s available for adoption. (Courtesy Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society)

Summer is in full swing, y’all. We’ve had some really hot days lately, and while the monsoons have temporarily cooled things down, we’re still experiencing record-high temperatures—which could be a recipe for disaster for our four-legged friends.

Dogs aren’t as adept at regulating themselves during hot weather as humans, so they will chase balls, sprint around the park and play, play, play until they pass out from heat stroke. So it’s up to us as companions to keep them safe and cool during the hottest time of the year. Below are some things to keep top of mind during this heat:

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. I like to add ice cubes to the bowl because my dogs enjoy playing around with them. 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 bottle, consider adding a crock as well so they can increase their water intake when it’s hot. It’s 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.

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, use fans to cool your indoors. Circulating fans offer a cool breeze for your pet without blowing directly on them constantly.

NEVER leave your pet in the car

Many pets love going in the car for a ride. Leaving your pet in a parked car even for a few short minutes can be fatal. 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. Seriously guys, it’s 2022. Get it together.

Be mindful of your pet’s haircut

A pet’s coat is designed to keep it cool in summer and warm in 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.

Walk your dogs during the cooler hours

There are no better reasons to get up early than to watch the sunrise 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 midday 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!

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 to be 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.

Jack Hagerman is the CEO of Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society.

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