Cowering in the shade, tongue hanging out, sweating, panting with every breath…
And that’s just how you behave in a heatwave.
Now try and imagine what it’s like to sit in 30-degree heat when your body is covered in almost 15,000 hairs. And no, you don’t have the luxury of a nice cold shower waiting for you when you get home.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is the summer experience in a nutshell for our pets.
No swimsuits, no sunbathing, no ice cream… just a pure unadulterated heatwave where severe dehydration is always just a couple of hours out of the shade away.
Naturally, this means pet owners often get very worried about a little furball’s welfare in the hot summer months, especially if they own dogs or rabbits, who often struggle in the heat.
But before you start booking a week off work to shepherd your poor fluffy furnace, you’ll be pleased to hear there isn’t any real reason to panic after what should be a happy weather report.
If you know what you’re doing, keeping a puppy pal comfy and cool is easier said than done and there’s no reason why your pets can’t enjoy the sunshine as much as you!
So without further ado, here are some of our favourite ways to keep mutts and moggies chill:
How to cool down pets in summer
The obvious stuff
Look, we don’t want to insult your intelligence, but it’s likely you already know all about these most basic of cooling methods.
But… just in case your brain is starting to become frazzled by a certain celestial body, we’ll reiterate them.
While there is no set temperature you need to prepare for, if you’re worried your pet is beginning to struggle with the humidity of it all, make sure you do most of, if not all of these tricks.
- Give them constant access to water – and lots of it! (Although be careful dogs don’t lap up too much too quickly as they can get sick)
- If you own a dog, plan your walks around the weather. The peak temperature is between 11 am and 3 pm, so it’s best to walk early in the morning or late at night. A good indication not to go for walkies is if the ground feels hot when you touch it
- Encourage them to go in the shade – this is especially important for smaller animals who can suffer in direct sunlight
- Use pet-safe fans to provide some respite
- Freeze water in plastic bottles or use ice cubes to create a handy cooling rod
- Put down damp towels for them to lie on.
- Sprinkler systems or the garden hose are great for dogs. Many also love dog-friendly paddling pools – you may need one that is separate from the one for the kids so there are no bursts from sharp claws
- If your cat or dog is a particularly long-haired breed, consider giving them a trim around the tummy area
Generally, cats are much better adapted to dealing with heat as opposed to our other furry home creatures and so you won’t have to worry about them as much. For example, they probably aren’t going to appreciate a blast from the garden hose!
It’s also important to remember our pets are nothing like us, and so what might be a fantastic cooling method for us is not always necessarily as effective for them.
- Run them a bath of ice-cold water – the fast changes in body temperature can send a pet into shock and is an incredibly dangerous thing to try!
- Avoid placing a pet in any room it can’t get out of which might cause dehydration. This is especially true of greenhouses or cars which can become unbearably hot inside.
Other tricks for cooling down pets in summer
Okay, so you know the basics and now you’re ready to take it to the next level.
Keeping an animal in the shade and offering them plenty of water is the minimum you should be doing for pets in hot weather. But let’s be honest, you could be providing them with a whole lot more!
If you know your pet is still suffering from the relentless power of the sun, there are ways you can take it up a notch and if you’re willing to spend a pretty penny or two, your pet could well become the coolest creature in town.
And we mean that in both senses of the word.
Cooling mats & beds
Currently one of the most popular options out there, cooling mats and beds remove the need for homegrown tricks such as throwing soaking wet towels around your home.
Cooling mats are a far better solution, as they don’t cause a mess and can retain cooler temperatures for longer periods, making them a great spot for overheating animals to hang out.
Typically, these mats are filled with a gel that is activated by pressure, so when your pet sits on it, the mat begins to release cold energy.
To be used indoors or outdoors, they’re a no-prep step to a cooler pet!
Cooling coats & jackets
Similar to cooling mats, there are now plenty of coats, jackets and bandanas available which offer chilling respite to your furry friends and in particular our dogs.
For pups really suffering in the heat, these jackets can provide long, centralised cooling effects to keep their core temperature down, allowing them to relax and enjoy some fun in the garden like normal.
Although filled with cooling gel, most of these products require refrigeration or soaking in ice-cold water to work.
Not only is this one of the most effective ways to cool down water-loving pets like dogs but it’s also one of the most fun!
Easy to set up and great exercise for dogs, playing in a paddling pool is a great way for dogs to cool down and stave away boredom.
If you’ve got time, why not join them for a splash!?
Ice treats & toys
An upgrade on the frozen water bottle trick, plenty of pet toy manufacturers now offer fill-and-freeze-style toys, which can cool pets down and won’t be torn up as easily as a thin plastic bottle.
But the current favourite DIY ice idea of most pet owners is to create homemade ice lollies and ice pops for their pets.
These can be by freezing pet food and gravy into moulds, or using more summery and less smelly ingredients like pet-safe fruit blends and yoghurt!
Because why should it only be us humans who get to gorge on some icy treats?! We love this frozen watermelon treats idea too.
Guess what? It isn’t just us humans who are at risk of sunburn. Believe it or not, some of our pets could do with a little sunscreen too!
This is mostly an issue for cats, dogs and horses with white and light-coloured coats, and so you may need to purchase some specialised pet sun lotion for a fair-furred friend.
Cats and dogs usually benefit from sun cream on the ears, while horses often need protection on their nose.
Try and find a pet-safe product that is waterproof and fragrance-free and place it on areas that lack fur and expose the skin!
Spotting heatstroke in pets – when to call a vet
If you spot a pet panting particularly heavily, lying down more than usual and boasting bright pink or red gums – they’re likely very dehydrated.
If you see any signs of severe lethargy, dry mouth or worse symptoms such as vomiting or collapsing, you should call your vet to enquire whether your pet needs professional help.