won't go into too many sad details, but the severe heat
has taken a literal toll on the lives of some pets. Most of the people I
meet understand that leaving a dog in a car AT ALL will be
fatal. For those that don't, many people
rightly remove the dog or call the police
who do have the authority to remove the dog and press charges. There is a
lot more to reducing heat stress in pets than offering
water. Here are some myths and
misconceptions about heat relief in dogs and cats.
Myth - If they have plenty of fresh water in a big bowl,
that will keep them cool.
- Drinking water replenishes thirst but does not cool them off. Dogs and
cats cool off by laying on a cool
surface to conduct heat away from the body. So they need constant cool
earth that is in constant shade, not a dog house in the hot sun.
Myth - An outside dog is better off outside than to adjust
to the indoors.
- If the indoors is giving the dog or cat what they need - cooling - the
confinement will calm them not agitate them.
So basements, garages with a concrete floor will be less stressful than
the work they have to do to find cooler areas in hot weather.
Myth - The little dogs and dogs with long hair have the
hardest time in the heat.
- The more dense the body - muscular large breed dogs such as boxers, bulldogs,
pit bulls, Labradors, etc have
the hardest time. Older dogs, especially
if they have collapsing trachea or heart problems also have a hard time and
need have limited time outside in the day.
Myth - Riding in the back of a pickup truck is fine when it
is hot - there is enough breeze to keep them cool.
- Air does not flow into the bed of the truck, and the amount of heat reflected
back up on the body can double the heat
load on a dog. Sadly, we had a fatality
that was due to riding in the back of a pickup. Sit in the back of a pickup on a hot day
with a coat on and see how warm it gets.
Myth - panting cools dogs down fine. As long as they can pant they should be fine.
- Panting does cool a dog down to a point, then it heats them up. It
takes work to pant and that generates heat. It also dehydrates the dog. A
dog cannot pant and drink enough to keep up
with the heat so soon they are panting
excessively and overheat.
Myth - Shaving a long haired dog or cat will make them heat
- The long hair insulates against the heat only for a short while. Both
dogs and cats need to get in contact with cool surfaces to cool
off. The long hair prevents the
conduction to the cool floor so get long haired pets a hair cut - most
certainly the underside and sides of the body. No matter how silly they
look, the hair will grow back by fall.
Myth - The shade of a building will be a good place to keep
an outside dog cool.
- The shadow of a building is cooler, but there is still the reflection of heat
off the building coming onto the dog that limits the cooling. I have had cases where a dog overheated in
the shade of a metal out building due to this heat reflection. Allowing this dog inside an insulated
building is far better than the struggle to find shade and cooling earth
These are some of the most common myths
that my staff and I
have encountered over the years of hot summers. Share this with your
friends and neighbors. There are still too many pets hurting in the
summer has had hotter and very humid days than what we typically see in
Central Illinois. Even with air conditioning, pets are stressed by the
heat. Luckily people are better educated about limiting walks for their
dogs to the mornings and evenings, and to provide shaded area for them
outdoors or taking them inside where there is air conditioning for
them. For outside cats, be sure there is a porch they can get under, or a
shaded area with a dog house they can get shelter in. Beware that cats
go under cars during the heat so watch out for them there. What makes
things stressful is the decrease in activity that dogs and cats get
because they can't get as much exercise. It is about as difficult as
when the cold winter winds blow in January.
So, a usually active dog is now bored
with less time outside and the time that is outside is a bit hard on
them. Often these dogs will start getting naughty due to boredom. You
may find a usually calm, well mannered pet is now pulling pillows off
the couch, barking more at people or cars going by outside, or extra
exuberant when you come home. What to do? Life has to be more
interesting and challenging on the inside now (even in a garage or
basement if that is where your pet is) to keep them from getting bored.
of all you can buy a food puzzle/toy. This is kind of a big word for a
toy that will have the food fall out of it as the dog or cat bats the
object around to release the food. It is not mean, or punishing to do
this. Actually this is exactly what an animal wants is to have to
investigate or figure out how to get something good (food) out of some
object. This is part of the reason pets chew to get the squeaker out of
toys, or the stuffing out of pillows. You can find these food puzzles at
some of the pet stores. We do have a few at our office as well. One by Premier is shaped like a flying saucer made of durable rubber. Other food puzzles made by Kong
look like a buoy that keeps wobbling around. There puzzles are a great
way to get kitty fit. They are also good for keeping an old dog's brain
A second thing to do is have your dog
earn its food by doing sits, downs and come when called for kibble. This
may take a little time with you, but that is exactly what is going to
save you time on getting your shoes back from your dog, or straightening
out the couch 4 times a day. This "will work for food" program has your
dog thinking and working which is what they want to do. When your dog
is beginning to bark at things outside, call them to you and reward for
that recall. This is how you interrupt that barking out of boredom. It
also helps them to be a better canine citizen. Cats can also be taught
tricks and use kibble or praise as a reward.
Whatever play games are acceptable in
your home set up at least 2 -10 minute play sessions with your cat or
dog a day. Get them tired in the home. So throw the toys up and down the
stairs in a 2 story home to use the stairs for exercise. Teach them to
jump through a hula hoop or over a swim noodle.
Have play time, then some training time, and then play time. If your
pet is not a big one on play, or is not co operative then ignore any
uncooperative behavior (like not releasing a ball during fetch). When
play stops because they are not following the rules they will drop the
ball. When that happens, give them praise and start again. It may be
frustrating at first, but remind yourself that you can wait for them to
do right. Be patient.
When the days do get better, get back into walking and other play
outside. Even if it may be one day here or there it is really refreshing
for dogs especially to get on those walks to check their "pee mail" and
see all the sights and smells about town. You may have to work them
back up a bit to high activity as the weather is more consistent, but do
take advantage of any weather breaks we do get.
For more boredom breaking ideas, check out our other behavior articles or our facebook page. Premier company and Kong company have great websites also with good uses for food puzzles.
Ingredients: 2 cups vanilla yogurt (not fat free or
sugar free), 1/2 cup peanut butter. Mix yogurt and peanut butter. Put
into ice cube tray and freeze.
Doggie Fruity Frozen Yogurt
Ingredients: 1 cup vanilla yogurt (not fat free or sugar
free), 1/2 cup applesauce, 1/2 cup chopped fruit (apples,
strawberries, peaches, blueberries) (NO grapes or raisins). Mix
yogurt, applesauce and fruit. Put into ice cube tray and freeze.
Kitty Fishy Frozen Yogurt
Ingredients: 1 cup vanilla yogurt (not fat free or sugar
free), 1/2 can tuna. Mix yogurt and tuna. Put into ice cube tray, don't
fill cubes full. Freeze tray.
Kitty Fish Cicle
Ingredients: 1 can tuna (or clams or sardines), 3/4 cup
water. Mix water and tuna. Put into ice cube tray, don't fill cubes
full. Freeze tray.
Flavored Ice Cubes
Ingredients: 1 can low sodium broth. Mix broth with water if instructions say to. Pour broth into ice cube trays and freeze.