by dr. laurie dohmen, vmd, ms, rh (ahg)
Summer is a time to have fun in the sun! We go outside, run around, soak in the sun, and splash in the pool. When we get hot or thirsty, we enjoy a cool drink, jump in the pool, or go inside. However, our pets can’t always do that without our help, and sometimes they don’t ask us until it is too late!
Keep It Cool For The Summer
There are simple things we can do to support our companion animals throughout the summer heat. We can make sure they have cool water when outside, whether this means adding ice cubes, changing the water often, or keeping it in the shade. A pet door is a wonderful thing so they can get inside to air conditioning. If this is not possible, make sure they can always get into some shade. When it comes to playing in the water, some dogs like to swim or play in the sprinkler, while others absolutely hate water. Also, it’s important to be mindful that some dogs have almost drowned in pools just like humans, so dogs should never be left unattended in any water deeper than their height. Of course, most cats hate getting wet, but some will still jump into the pool so they also require monitoring. Another consideration is double-coated dogs, like huskies. Often, their humans want to shave them because the coat is so thick. However, their coat is made to insulate them. So leave it on because it keeps them cool as well as warm. Just make sure to brush double-coated dogs really well!
Pet Perspiration and Electrolyte Balance
Dogs pant to cool off, while cats sweat through their foot pads. Horses and humans of course sweat everywhere. Dogs and cats lose electrolytes when they are hot just like humans. Sometimes, when thirsty, drinking water isn’t enough if the particles to absorb it and hold it in the bloodstream are missing, so minerals are vital to help keep fluids in the body. Fortunately, there are natural ways to get both water, electrolytes, and minerals into the body. For instance, adding cucumbers to the water helps provide missing nutrients that aid in water absorption. Another option is to drink coconut water, which is safe for animals.
Cucumber (Curcumis sativas) is known as kheera or trapusha in Ayurveda. It is recommended as a summer food and usually eaten raw. On its own, cucumber is considered a “watery fruit”, it has a lot of natural moisture in its flesh (it is 90-95% water). Additionally, it contains fiber, calcium, phosphorus, iron and vitamins B and C.1 In Ayurveda, it is recommended for excessive thirst that water alone does not quench.2 In addition to being a cooling and hydrating food, cucumbers are used as a beauty product, for skin conditions, for supporting healthy weight, for urinary comfort, and as a digestive aid.1,2 Cucumbers are safe for our pets, unless they have a preexisting condition that contraindicates cucumbers. An easy way to get cucumbers into our companion animals is just to put slices in the water bowl.
Coconut water is isotonic to the fluid in our blood vessels. This means it has the same dissolved nutrients as the fluid in our blood vessels including things like sodium, potassium, calcium, and even vitamin C.3,4 Sodium and potassium in particular are lost in our sweat and that of our pets, therefore resources to replenish these electrolytes is essential. Coconut water is so hydrating and nutritious and in the USA, it is often used as a sports drink, not unlike Gatorade, but without any unnecessary additives! According to Ayurveda, it also aids in healthy weight maintenance as well as supporting the heart and blood vessels, benefits the eyes, and its moisture even reaches the skin.4 So coconut water is another wonderful and safe option for our companion animals, unless they have kidney disease or some other contraindication. Like us, our pets can and do just drink it.
Caution on Land and Sea
We all know that animals can overheat in a car very quickly in the summer, so do not leave your pets in the car, even with the windows cracked. However, another concern that people often don’t realize is that pavement, especially blacktop, but even sidewalks, can get very hot and burn bare paws (or feet). One option is of course booties, available in most pet stores. Feeling the pavement with our hands or our bare feet before asking our companion animals to walk on it is always a great idea. If the worst happens, and our pets’ feet do get burned, aloe (Aloe vera/barbadensis) topically is always a great idea. The fresher the plant, the better it works, and always rub it in well so that your pet doesn’t ingest much, as it is a laxative! If the burns are bad enough, of course, please go to your veterinarian for treatment.
One last caution with our pets is them drinking pool or sea water. Pool water contains chlorine, which is simply toxic to all mammals. Sea water, however, is salty. It alters our companion animals’ electrolyte balance. Years ago, I knew a dog that loved to drink sea water (her owner lived at the beach). She would drink so much that she would end up with vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration. We would often have to give her intravenous fluids. The easiest thing to do is to simply prevent your pet from drinking too much ocean water. However, if they do, coconut water is a great start. This can be alternated with plain water or cucumber water to rehydrate your pet. Again, if the symptoms don’t resolve quickly or get worse, please go to your veterinarian for treatment.
So enjoy the beach, the pool, long walks, and all the fun things to do outside in the summer. Just please remember to protect your companion animals from heat, burns and dehydration so they can have fun with you!
dr. laurie dohmen, vmd, ms, rh (ahg)
purple moon herbs and studies
- Jaiswal, S. 10 Health Benefits of Cucumber. The Ayurveda. [Online] 2 15, 2023. https://www.theayurveda.org/ayurveda/herbs/health-benefits-of-cucumber.
- Akhil. Benefits of Cucumber. Ayurveda Gurukulam. [Online] 2015. https://ayurvedagurukulam.com/blog/cucumber-benefits.
- Ayurveda Sahi Hai. Love Coconut Water? Here are More Reasons to Drink it Regularly. Ayurveda Sahi Hai. [Online] April 26, 2023. https://ayurvedasahihai.com/love-coconut-water/.
- Sharma, B. Benefits of Coconut Water. Maharishi Ayurveda. [Online] April 12, 2019. https://maharishiayurvedaindia.com/blogs/ayurveda-knowledge-center/benefits-of-coconut-water.