by Melanie Powers of Sweet Energy
It’s that time of year when our animals cannot wait to get to the trails, the beach, the water! Lots of reminders of how hot it gets in a car, how much damage hot pavement can do (get some foot gear to prevent abrading! Pawz!) and how drinking and eating can be impacted by the warmer weather. We worry about ticks and fleas and allergies. We start carrying water with us and for some, it is one long thunder and fireworks season. In my Sweet Energy animal massage practice I start to remind my clients and their humans to be careful of dehydration, to take advantage of that wonderful non-weight bearing exercise – swimming- and not to worry if our senior animals are eating less and drinking more. There are wonderful treats, supplements and products for the safety and comfort of our companion animals for the warm, long-day season.
First, get your companion animal a massage or Reiki session to help keep them healthy for the active season! Massage and acupressure can boost the immune system, help soothe situational and chronic anxieties and relieve the pain of over exercise helping to retain maximum mobility.
Then, here are a few other ideas:
Food and Water!
It is time to be sure that we have collapsible bowls in our cars and carry water bottles that can serve both the humans and the animals. There are many options to choose from. In this photo there are three types of water bottles that include built in bowls (silicone or plastic) and dual dispensers. Most of these can be attached to a backpack or belt. Separate silicone bowls in different sizes are available as are folding lined cloth bowls that will fit anywhere. Don’t be caught without water for your animals.
Frozen treats made of yogurt, fruit and/or bone broths are available wherever pet food is sold. These small cups are definitely a treat of choice on a hot day and infinitely better for your companion than half of the sweet confections we get for ourselves. These are also extremely easy to make (bone broth iced-cubes) for instance. Nearly anything we put in a Kong or other treat holder can be frozen to give another level of comfort and stimulation (and endurance) to the treats we pack. Happy Lapper makes this wonderful, heavy holder for the frozen treats so that they don’t have to be chased all around the floor or back seat but sometimes that is just the right thing to let your companion do on a hot day.
Swimming is the best possible exercise especially for our seniors and those prone to stifle (knee) or other joint aches. Keeping weight down is helped by the fruits and vegetables that can be treats, snacks and frozen alternatives. Some will simply want to wade in and cool off. Playing in the hose or getting rinsed off is a pleasure for some and avoided by others. Most will find a way to enjoy water if it is available to get in on a hot day. The AquaPaw is both sprayer and brush for summer after the salt water or pool. Any hose can become a fountain!
Be aware of your animal’s swimming ability level and watch for signs of tiring. If boating, and in some swimming conditions, a life preserver ensures buoyancy, protects when exertion limits are reached and makes it easier to help an animal back into the boat or to shore. Get toys that float! These RuffDawg fish are great for our super chewers and fetchers.
Other ways to keep cool:
There are wonderful cooling beds in all sizes. Some, like these by K&H Pet Products, use water, others use ice and some use insulating materials, for instance a gel advertising no water, electricity or freezing required. There are options for every breed and size. Sometimes a cooling mat turns a crate or bed into a soothing recovery spot for our animals. Lots of companies have bandanas with similar material options. There are cooling collars that simply focus on bringing the overall body temp down. Good to remember as well that a cooling breeze, fan or vent can be as helpful to our animals as it is to us.
Many of our companions are shedding at this time of year and keeping them cool may involve helping with that process. Losing the undercoat that has insulated through winter is necessary for good cooling. An undercoat brush, or rake depending on hair/fur type is a good tool to have around. If your dog gets regular grooming, now’s the time to prepare for summer. Remember though that for some, the heavy coat insulates against heat as well so pay attention to breed and advice.
Fleas and Ticks:
This is also the time of year that insects enjoy the most and the tick “season” is especially virulent after a mild winter. For those not wanting to use chemicals the CDC is now saying that Rose Geranium and Peppermint oils are as effective as Deet. There is a wide market of natural flea and tick solutions. Experience tells me that a combined approach (something topical, something deterrent and technological) works best. Wondercide, Tropiclean, Bug Zone and Earth Animal all have offerings and there are recipes all over for making home remedies and sprays. Earth Animal has both spot treatments and collars, all non-toxic. Ultrasonic tags can be worn by humans and animals alike. After time outside the lint roller is everyone’s friend.
Seasonal allergies can also impact animals and if we are treating with anti-tick topicals skin can be primed for itching and flaking which can lead to hot spots and discomfort. Watch for what makes your companions itch and make sure you have soothing products. (Aloe Vera, Tea Tree Oil, Rosemary and Lavender all have skin quieting properties and CBD (cannabidiol sometimes seen as Phyto) is often mixed with these other substances for soothing and healing.
The season of celebration and outside living is intoxicating for us and terrifying for some of our companions. Both natural (rain, thunder, hail, bon fires) and human (fireworks, music, grills, crowds, travel,boats) can be anxiety producing. There are so many ways to anticipate and reduce the negative impacts of the season. Supplements that encourage calming from Omega 3’s, pheromones, colostrum, hormones, amino acids, herbs, oils and anti-inflammatory agents (CBD/cannabidiol) are widely available and there is so much known now about what types of stress each eases best. Ask your Animal Massage and Reiki practitioner (Sweet Energy) or your groomer, walker, Veterinarian. Everyone will be able to help you navigate the products and address specific needs.
Reducing the impact of the excitement is a matter of planning. I have seen good results using taped sounds to desensitize throughout the season (rain, thunder). Leaving music and white noise or fans on when your animals are alone and leaving them with something of yours that you have already worn so that your scent stays with them longer for soothing. There are toys with purring and heart beat sounds that particularly cats like. Making sure that your animals can enjoy the outside with catios, fenced in safe areas, shade and digging spots. (Digging cool spots to sink into the earth is another way some animals seek comfort.) Often simple swaddling is what is needed. This is the technique behind ThunderShirt apparel and the same may be accomplished with a small child’s t-shirt for some animals. If swaddling is out of the question a comfortable place to hide may be worth creating. And, always in gatherings of people keep your dogs with you and under your control and command until you are certain that they are comfortable with whatever comes next. Make sure this is your process in both public and private spaces. Gatherings will be very stressful for most animals even when they enjoy it fully so make sure they have time to recover. Don’t forget proper ID and always have tags with phone numbers on your companions.
So much to look forward to! Enjoy it all with your two and four-legged family!
Melanie is the proprietor and therapist at Sweet Energy Animal Massage and Reiki and works part-time with Uptown Dog in West Falmouth where she is fortunate to get all her supplies. Always Soy, Corn and Wheat free!