Hi, folks! It’s the middle of May and it is finally (FINALLY) starting to feel like spring! Here in New England, we’ve been experiencing a cool, rainy season up until about yesterday. Today, we’re hitting record high temperatures and people are already complaining about the heat! Personally, I’m enjoying the break in the 50° weather we’ve been having. The pellet stove is off, the windows are open, and the smell from last of the lilacs is on the air. If you don’t feel quite as enthusiastic as I do about this 90°+ day, I have some bad news for you: Summer hasn’t even started yet! We’ve still got four solid months of high temperatures ahead of us. But don’t worry! I’m going to help you guys out with a few tips to help you (and your pets) stay cool all summer long. You’ve probably heard many of these before, but they’re worth repeating, and hopefully you’ll learn something new, too! So, without any further adieu…
This is not tip #1 by chance. Hydration is one of the most important ways to stay cool and healthy in the heat! Water is, of course, always the best choice, but there’s something to be said for those power drinks and their electrolytes, especially for folks like landscapers and kids on sports teams who are out working hard in the hot summer sun. If you don’t like water, try adding cut fruit, cucumbers, or even sprigs of herbs (strawberry mint is my personal favorite) to your glass to improve the flavor. Just be sure to limit caffeine! You’ve probably heard this before, but your coffee and sodas are diuretics, which means they make you need to urinate more. If you enjoy them, make sure to drink a glass of water to counter-balance the fluids you’ll lose in the bathroom.
Hydration is also important for your pets! Keep their bowls and water bottles clean and filled with fresh, cool water. Don’t forget to empty, rinse, and refill a few times a day. You don’t want to drink room-temperature water, and neither do your furry friends. Freshening it up may also encourage some pets to investigate and take a taste, increasing their water intake a little more (just keep in mind that they’ll also need to take more potty breaks).
#2: Sun Protection
I’m going to let you in on a little known secret: Sunburn can cause skin cancer! Oh, you knew that already? Then why aren’t you wearing sunblock?! I understand that a lot of people want to get that “healthy” summer tan, but even if you don’t like the pale look, you want to tan gradually to avoid a burn. Go for SPF 15 if you want to tan, or 30-45 if you’d rather just protect your skin. Follow the directions on the bottle, and don’t forget to reapply! Your smart phone has a built in timer. If you tend to forget, set an alarm to remind yourself. Oh, and don’t forget to protect your lips, the tops of your ears, and the part in your hair! A fashionable hat will help with that, and, as a bonus, it provides you with your own personal shade to help you keep cool. Now, if you’re not worried about skin cancer (you’re crazy), think about the other side effects of a sunburn: The pain, the gross peeling skin, and the added heat it causes. I don’t know about you, but when I get a sunburn, I find that my skin is too hot for me to get comfortable when I go to bed at night.
You also want to protect your pets from the sun! They can get sunburn, too, especially if they have short hair. If you have dogs that like to hang out in your yard, make sure to provide them with shade (to go with their cool, fresh water). Believe it or not, there are sunscreens available for dog fur and noses, but an easier option is bringing them inside if there’s little or no shade to be had.
I know (though I do not understand why) skinny jeans are hot right now, but they’re even hotter in the summer! Let your skin breathe a little with loose fitting clothing. I’m not a skirt girl, but I love my knee length circle skirts when the weather gets hot! Flowing tops are also a comfortable option, or you can go with either cotton or athletic shirts with “sweat wicking technology.” As for those flip flops, I’m not a fan. I prefer a more solid sandal, but I know that there are flip flop lovers out there who won’t be convinced. I won’t try to talk you out of wearing them, but I will encourage you to wear them only in appropriate settings. Don’t go jogging or hiking in flip flops (that just isn’t safe), and kick them off and put them on the passenger side floor when you’re driving so they won’t get caught up in the pedals (driving barefoot is illegal in exactly 0 states in the USA. Better to drive without shoes at all than to drive with flip flops).
Now, as far as your pet’s “attire” is concerned, I will say this: Do not (I repeat for emphasis) Do Not shave your dog. Mother nature knew what she was doing when she made your dog’s coat. Many dogs have what are known as guard hairs. These protect them from things like sunburn in the summer, snow in the winter, and the layers all work together as an insulator all year round. Shaving those guard hairs throws off that balance, and can actually make your dog much more uncomfortable. Shave them too many times, and those guard hairs may not grow back, leaving your dog without the protection it needs in the winter. You can help Fido out by getting into a habit of brushing out the undercoat (or paying the groomer for a bathe and brush, which is less expensive than the ill-advised shave and fare more effective). Removing the shedding hair will help cool down your dog and ensure that its insulating coat is able to do its job correctly. Now, if your dog has fuzzy feet, trimming the long hair around the toe pads will help them stay a little cooler, but don’t do it yourself unless your dog is very calm when you trim their nails. You don’t want to cut their feet! If you’re at all uncertain, have the groomer do it, instead.
Obviously, your veterinarian’s recommendations about coat maintenance outweighs the advise of every blogger on the internet. If you don’t want to take my word for it, call your vet and ask his or her opinion on shaving dogs in the summer. They (or their technicians, or even your professionally trained and certified groomer) will probably be very happy to give you a more informed and detailed answer than I have written here.
This one might go without saying, but when it’s hot out, try to limit your most strenuous outdoor activities to the morning and evening when the sun isn’t quite so strong.
This also goes for walking your dog!
Before you take your dog for a walk, check the temperature of the pavement. If it’s too hot for your bare foot, it’s too hot for your puppy’s toes. Dogs regulate temperature through their feet, and burned toe pads can be very painful. Your dog still needs exercise, but stick to an early morning or late evening walk, or try some fun water activities in the evening.
This one is more for your pets than it is for you. You already know that you can drink ice water, or eat ice cream to cool off, but your pets can enjoy ice, too. If you have small pets (rabbits, guinea pigs, etc.) or poultry, frozen water bottles are a great way to keep them cool. Dogs can enjoy frozen chicken stock (check the ingredients. Avoid stocks that contain other additives. Your dog doesn’t need them, and some of those ingredients can make them sick), or frozen Kong toys stuffed with peanut butter (again, read the ingredients. All natural is safest, and it’s really easy to find thanks to an increased interest in healthy food choices).
Now, I know I mentioned ice cream for you, but you may want to avoid giving it to your pets. All that dairy can upset their stomachs. Soft serve ice cream=soft serve dog poop (actually, any dairy can do it). Small doses can be okay for some dogs, but share at your own risk! Or just give them dairy-free ice cream that is made for pets!
I hope you’ve found this informative and maybe a little entertaining. I’m sure there are a lot of other great ways to keep you and your pets cool in the heat, but this is a blog, not a book (I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments)! Check back with me for more on summer survival skills for you and your pet, as well as other tips for a healthy life, and a healthy pet.