As the days get warmer and summer creeps nearer it’s time to start thinking about ways to help our pets make it safely and comfortably through the hotter months. Our dogs and cats are often left outside to deal with the heat while we head off to our airconditioned workplaces. There are many things we can do to make their lives more bearable. Here are just a few ideas:

Long haired dogs and dogs with very thick coats find it much harder to keep cool than short haired pets. Consider having their coat clipped soon and maintain it at a short length throughout summer. Regular grooming of thick coats will also help to remove excess hair and thin the coat – and this will let the dog underneath the hair cool down much more effectively!

If you exercise with your dog, adjust the timing of your activities so that all the hard work happens during the coolest parts of the day. Common sense will tell you that early mornings and evenings are far better times to exercise without the risk of boiling over. And it’s not a bad idea to reduce the duration of exercise and perhaps increase the frequency instead – it’s not unheard of for a dog to run beside an owner for miles and miles using every last drop they’ve got, then suddenly fall into a heat stress induced collapse. Shorter nosed dogs like Staffies, Boxers and Cavaliers can get into a dangerous state of respiratory distress if exercised excessively in hot weather – their already narrowed airways can swell and obstruct and this quickly leads into respiratory failure.

NEVER leave your pets in your car for ANY length of time – the temperature in a parked car can rise to a lethal level in a very short period.

Always ensure your pet has access to cool shady areas around your home – under high set homes and under verandahs tend to be fairly cool places where your pet can be comfortable throughout most of the day. Be aware of where kennels are placed in your yard and use the shadows thrown by your house during the day to give the kennel relief from direct sunlight.

Dogs and cats MUST have access to clean fresh water at all times – if you’re worried about pets tipping water bowls over, provide multiple deep drinking containers and place a brick or heavy rock in the bottom to keep them secure. There are products available that can be fitted to taps or large water reservoirs that provide a constant self-filling water supply for your pet – check out your local pet shop.

Plastic “clam shell” sand pits are great for dogs during summer. One half can be filled with water and the other filled with sand. In the mornings the sand can be dampened down with the hose, so your dog can choose between wallowing in the shallow water or resting in the cool damp sand.

Use old butter or margarine containers to make large ice blocks for your pets to cool down drinking water. You can also make fun ice blocks for dogs to play with – add some chopped veges and chunks of meat to beef or chicken stock and then freeze it. Kongs can also be stuffed with food and frozen to provide a cool treat throughout the day.

These are just a few tips for beating the heat – but they’re simple and cheap ideas and you can be sure that your best hairy friend will appreciate the effort!