Summer is still going strong, and while the hottest days may be behind us, don’t forget that your pets are still wearing fur coats. Dogs and cats (and even smaller friends) can get dehydrated just like people, so it’s important to make sure all animals under your care are drinking enough water and staying cool on hot, humid days.
To help you help your pets, we talked to veterinarian Elizabeth Alexander, DVM, for a few easy tips on how to keep pets happy and hydrated during the summer. Here’s how to ensure your fur babies are living their best lives, no matter the temperature.
As you may have guessed, drinking enough water is key for all the pups and kitties out there. How much water do they actually need, though? According to PetMD, the general rule of thumb for dogs is one cup of water per 10 pounds of body weight. So a dog that weighs 50 pounds should be drinking about five cups of water per day.
Cats, on the other hand, are better at retaining water, and they only need around four ounces for every five pounds of body weight, according to Preventive Vet.
If you’re concerned that your pets aren’t getting enough H2O, there are a few ways you can encourage them to drink up. For one, pets greatly prefer fresh, clean water (don’t we all?), so make sure to refill their dish often. You may also have better luck getting them to drink from a water fountain.
Still not working? Then it’s time to get crafty. “Try adding canned food to a pet's dry food for added moisture or soaking kibble in water for a few minutes,” says Alexander. “If your pet is battling weight problems, however, check with your veterinarian before changing their diet to make sure your pet is getting an appropriate number of calories.”
Many dogs love crunching on ice cubes in the summer heat, and this is a great way to encourage them to ingest more water. You can even make special ice cubes by adding a little chicken broth to the water before freezing.
Keep playful pets entertained by turning it into a game, says Alexander: “Freeze treats inside of ice blocks. This keeps your pet entertained and hydrated at the same time! Just be sure to supervise smaller dogs and puppies to prevent choking hazards.” You can use a similar trick with cats, too—just mix a little bit of tuna juice into their water to make it more appealing. Again, consult with your vet before doing this if your kitty needs to watch his or her weight.
The sun is fun—but not so much when you’re wearing a fur coat. On hot days, it’s best to avoid taking your pet out during the sun’s peak hours, typically between noon and 3 p.m.
“Try to exercise in the early morning or late evening when it is coolest, and always offer plenty of fresh water after exercising,” says Alexander. “If it's too hot outside, keep your pets in cool shaded areas with fans or air conditioning. This is especially important for any pets with respiratory or cardiac conditions, older pets, those that have dark colored fur, and those that are overweight.”
Don’t forget about the pavement test, either. Before you take your dog for a walk on the road, hold the back of your hand to the asphalt for five seconds. If you hand feels like it’s burning, the pavement is too hot for your pooch’s delicate paws.
Instead of your usual walk, why not play with your dog in a cooler way? Think swimming in a kiddie pool or running through the hose! “Take dogs swimming, or run through the hose or sprinkler with them,” says Alexander. “A word of caution though—heat stroke can still affect dogs even if they seem to be ‘staying cool’ in the water. They are still exercising very hard while swimming, and their temperatures can reach dangerously high levels.”
Small critters need water, too. Your hamster or bunny should have a constant source of fresh water to help keep them hydrated. Plus, giving them treats like fruits and vegetables with a high moisture content can help boost hydration as well.
When it comes to small animals, many have specific temperature needs. For instance, hamsters should be kept in a room between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, Dr. Linda Siperstein, DVM, told Chewy. You should keep your lil' buddy away from direct sunlight or other heat sources to ensure they stay cool during the summer. The same holds true for bunnies, birds, and even fish tanks! Keep them out of the direct sunlight to avoid overheating.
Finally, familiarize yourself with the signs of dehydration in animals so you know when to seek medical help. For both cats and dogs, one quick way to test for dehydration is the skin test. Gently grab a little bit of their skin between their collar bones and lift it up.
“If the skin quickly drops back down flat, the pet is not likely dehydrated. If the skin stays ‘tented,’ he likely is. This occurs because the space under the skin becomes tackier when there is decreased hydration present in the body,” Dr. Liz Stelow, board-certified veterinary behaviorist, explains to PetMD.
Other signs include:
If you’ve ever unsure of whether your pet is feeling unwell, it’s best to call the vet, just to be safe. “If your pet has a medical condition that makes it difficult to keep them hydrated, consult your veterinarian about other methods of fluid administration,” recommends Alexander. “If your pet appears to be severely dehydrated or suffering from hyperthermia or heat stroke during hot weather, seek veterinary care immediately.”
Follow these tips, and you and your furry friends can enjoy the summer weather, all while staying safe and healthy.
How do you keep your pet friends cool during these hot months? Share your tips with us below!