Do you have an outdoor dog or cat? As you know there are benefits to keeping a pet outside. Hair will not be all over your house, do not need to worry about furniture being chewed or clawed at and for those who have allergies it is a way for you to still have a dog or cat without breathing in their hair all the time. Having an outdoor pet is not an easy task either as you must provide shelter, protection from harsh weather and grooming frequently. If this was your first winter with an outdoor pet I am sure you learned how to keep them warm, if you haven’t experienced a winter yet then keep an eye out for our blog on how to this coming fall.
Now, what are your plans for keeping your pet happy and safe this summer? Summers in Charleston are much harsher than the winter months, putting your pet at higher risks. Let us help you with some safe pet friendly suggestions.
We have all heard about stories of people leaving their dogs in the car and the dangers of how fast a car can heat up. Now take this knowledge and place it into theory for your backyard. Sit in your backyard with no shade for 10 minutes and ask yourself- are you comfortable or not? If the answer is no, then that means it is a 10x bigger no for your dog to be outside without protection.
Your first step to changing this is to provide a shaded area for your dog. Dog houses are great options here as they will provide a continuous shade with proper ventilation. Raised cooling beds go a long way in these shelters. They will allow the dog to lay down without trapping heat underneath them.
Step two is providing cool water throughout the entire day. This may mean that you need to go outside every 2 hours and replace their bowl. Many animals will not drink warm water no matter how thirsty they are. If you are not available to do this through the day, ask a neighbor or hire a pet sitter to help you out. A way to help extend the time between fill ups is by placing ice cubes in the water or freezing water in a bottle (but not to the top or it can burst) and placing it in the bowl. Never leave a bowl where a dog may tip it over to use as a puddle to lay in. Invest in non-tipping bowls if this is a concern.
Step three is to make sure your dog stays well groomed and for short hair dogs a vet approved sunscreen is used. You may think shaving your dog down in the summer will help them stay cool, but this often can lead to sun burning as the dog’s skin is not custom to the sun. Never shave them fully down, try to leave at least an inch of hair to help aid protection. Black and light fur and skin dogs are at highest risk in the sun for burns.
Step four consists of providing ways for your dog to cool off. Dogs do not have sweat glands, so they cool themselves primary through panting. The best option for your dog would be to invest in a dog house air conditioner. Yes, you read that right. These small units can either be placed
inside the dog house or on the ground next to them. They provide a continuous safe temperature for your dog to escape the heat. If you do invest in one, put a doggie door on the entry to the dog house to help keep the air from coming in or leaving. If you choose to not go this route a box fan is another option. Warning though, box fans are not waterproof so need to be covered, and wires should be set up where they can not be chewed. For outside the dog house a kiddie pool can be a fun clean puddle for your dog to lay in. As a reminder water heats up so this may need to be refilled throughout the day. It also should only be placed in the shade. Lastly who doesn’t love a popsicle? Make at home dog friendly versions by freezing low sodium vegetable broth in ice cube trays with a dog biscuit as the stick.
Cats tend to be easier to care for outside than dogs as they typically are free-roaming and more independent. This doesn’t mean that us cat owners do not have to provide shelter, water and food. The same weather test applies for cats as it does for dogs. Cats can find shade in many places such as under cars, in storage barns and in bushes but are these safe places for them to turn to when shade is needed? The answer is no. Not knowing a cat is under your car puts them at risk of being injured, they can easily be locked in barns where temperatures will rise, and bushes put them in danger of venomous snakes also seeking shade. Therefore, it is our job as owners to give them a safe, cool and comfortable place to retreat to. The steps to proving these follow the same as dogs.
Step one, providing a shaded area, is the easiest of steps. Cats love boxes so either buying or building your own wooden box home is the best route to go. If you are building your own house it is essential that plenty of ventilation is provided. In my opinion dog houses are the best option for cats as you can place their food, water and bed all inside protecting them from predators.
Step two is essential of providing cool water throughout the day. One of the biggest complaints cat owners have is that the cat does not drink enough. Cats are attracted to flowing water, so a pet fountain can help encourage hydration. Adding ice cubes or frozen jugs will help keep the water cool. Always make sure a non-tipping bowl is provided or secured to a foundation to prevent spills. Water should still be changed multiple times a day.
Step three is the most important for cats. Cats groom daily to prevent knots. Although untangled hair will help with keeping them cool it is still recommended to either take your cat to the groomer to be trimmed for long fur cats and at home to brush out your cat’s fur for both short and long hair. Vet approved sunscreen may be recommended to help protect them. Cats tend to lay in the sun till they get too warm before finding shade, exposing their bodies to the harsh sunlight.
Step four follows the same guidelines as a dog except for the kiddie pool. My cats love to run in the shower as soon as I walk out to play in the water but if one comes in before I turn to shower head off it’s a whole different story. So, as you can imagine a kiddie pool wouldn’t be a fun investment for your cat. For those hot Charleston days, we still recommend an a/c unit or at least a box fan. For both it is more important to make sure wires are not available to your cat. If they will be anywhere around them then wrap them in pet protective cord cover, such as PetCords found on Amazon. Frozen water bottles wrapped in a towel will provide a cool place to lean up against. Cats also love low sodium vegetable broth- this will provide them with the water we want them to drink while providing them with a yummy treat.
Keeping your pet’s food outside can be quite the nuisance. Bugs, ants and flies can be easily attracted to the bowls. It is recommended to never leave wet food outside in the heat. This food can heat up fast putting it at a temperature that is unhealthy to consume. To help keep those pesky insects out of your pet’s hard food and water try these methods. Put the bowls on top of sandpaper that sticks out a few inches in every direction. This will keep out any slugs or insects that slide on the ground to move. For insects that crawl around place each bowl inside larger bowls that have water in the bottom of them. Insects will drown before getting to the food or pet water. Flies are the hardest to deal with, so a pet friendly fly bag will help keep them tamed and only putting out as much hard food as your pet will eat in one sitting will help too.
You now have the knowledge to help protect your outdoor dog or cat this summer. It may seem like a lot with the constant water bowl changes but that is why there are many pet friendly resources such as Love and A Leash Pet Services to help take the pressure off you and to provide you with confidence your pet is safe while you are at work. In addition, cooling mats can be used to help provide immediate help if a pet is too hot.
Both dogs and cats should be microchipped in case they are found by someone else. People are more willing to help a lost animal that is tagged with a collar than not. Sometimes it can be hard to tell a stray cat from a domestic cat.
Remember, if you are ever unsure if a shelter or any other place is too hot take the weather test. If it is too hot for you then it is much hotter for your pet. A general guideline to follow as well is if the humidity index or outside temperature is 90 degrees or above it is hazardous for your pet to be outside. If you are unable to bring them inside on these days never leave them in a garage, it is just as dangerous as a hot car. Consider a bigger outdoor enclosed shelter for them that will hold them with room to walk as most of their time will be inside it, water, food and this is when we can’t stress enough that an a/c unit should be provided in this shelter, a fan will not be suitable. We hope you and your pets have a nice cool summer.