By Patricia L. Garcia
The dog days of summer are upon us and for homeowners with pets, it’s difficult to keep cooling costs down and pets comfy.
While your new home comes with a great HVAC system and energy-efficient features, there’ still more you can do. Small, yet practical, steps like keeping a bowl of water out for pets can go a long way in helping pets stay comfortable on toasty days. Here are some of the most practical and low-cost ways to keep your pets cool:
1. Understand Your Pets
Pets like dogs and cats don’t have sweat glands, so they expel heat by panting and through their paws. While an effective cooling technique in most cases, it may be difficult for pets to cool down in extreme heat. So it’s important to understand when your pet is in distress. Learn the signs of heat stroke in pets and how to manage it if your pet is overheated.
While you may be tempted to shave a pet such as a chow chow, don’t! Shaving a pet messes with their heat regulation and puts pets at risk for sunburns. Always talk to your vet or groomer before taking the clippers to Fido. And, if you have a pet with a short snout (brachycephalic breeds) like a pug or Boston terrier, know that they don’t tolerate the heat as good as other breeds.
2. Keep Them Hydrated
This is the most practical advice we can offer: make sure pets have water. A bowl of cool water will help them in the process of cooling down. You can even put some ice cubes in the bowl to keep water from getting warm throughout the day. Kim Pezza, a dog owner in Punta Gorda, Fla., says she uses crocks to keep water cool. Crocks don’t only keep water cool; because they are heavy, spilling is prevented.
If you’re with your pets during the day but want to give your AC a rest, you can try frozen treats or popsicles specially formulated for your pet.
3. Give Them Shade
This doesn’t just apply to outdoor pets; make sure you’re home isn’t inundated with sunlight all day long. Using blackout curtains in areas of the home that are particularly bright can go a long way in keeping rooms — and pets — cool. This is especially important if your pet is crated or lives in a cage or tank (birds, fish, guinea pigs, etc.).
4. Cooling Mats
There are plenty of gel mats online and in pet stores that you can use to help pets stay cool. These mats are filled with a self-cooling gel that absorbs body heat. These mats are easy to use, use little space and don’t use electricity.
5. Ceiling Fans, Dehumidifier and Air Conditioners
Most folks have ceiling fans in just about every room of their home. While a ceiling fan doesn’t actually cool down a room, it does cool down the room’s occupants, including pets. As a rule of thumb, ceiling fans should run counterclockwise during the summer. If it’s running the opposite way, reverse it by switching the small button located on the base.
In some parts of the country, humidity can make an already hot day unbearable. To help you AC work better, use a dehumidifier in your home to keep humidity levels down, suggests Tobi Kosanke, president of Crazy K Farm, an animal rescue organization. A dehumidifier will keep air drier and just a bit more tolerable for your pet (and you too!).
Most pet owners deal with pet hair, so it’s important to change out AC filters on a regular basis. Doing so will help you AC work more efficiently, so don’t forget this important maintenance task.