Though temperatures have frequently been well above 100 degrees for the last few weeks, the dog days of summer have only just begun. The time period from early June through August is supposed to be the hottest time of the year and has earned the term "dog days" because of the correlation to the rising of the "dog star," Sirius. As you enjoy your summer activities, indoors or outdoors, take a bit of time to think about your canine companions and make sure they are enjoying the dog days as much as you are.
We all know we need to increase our water intake to deal with the heat, but it is important to make sure our animals are doing the same. At the zoo, our animals always have plenty of clean water, but in the summer we provide extra opportunities for them to get a drink and cool down. As you walk through the zoo you may see several animals licking or chewing away at frozen treats. A tasty popsicle is a great way for animals and people alike to get some additional fluids and lower body temperature at the same time. Next time you enjoy a popsicle to escape the heat, try giving your dog an ice cube, or better yet a frozen bone or piece of meat to chew on. Not only will they enjoy the treat, you will have fun watching them experience the novel sensations and slippery textures.
The crowds at the Big Pool and the children running through sprinklers in their front yards are evidence that getting wet can make a huge difference when trying to stay cool on a hot day. Once again, animals feel the same and many of the zoo's animals have pools or misters in their exhibits to help them cool off. You can provide this same opportunity for your own pets by filling a small kiddie pool for them to splash in when they need to be outside. If you can trust your dog not to treat the hose as a chew toy, a sprinkler can also provide hours of entertainment as they run through and try to capture the water as it comes out of the hose.
For many people, a summer haircut is a tradition that gives a new image and gets that hot hair off our ears and neck. You may have noticed that our alpacas and sheep have also gotten a new summer look. Their sporty short dos are much more practical for a Kansas summer than the wooly locks that help them survive cold alpine winters in the wild. If you have a dog who would benefit from a summer trim, you may even want to get creative. Instead of shaving their entire bodies, give them a poodle puff or a fun lightning bolt. They will not only stay cooler, they will be the coolest pet on the block.
No matter how you choose to do it, take time to take care of your pet and yourself as we weather these dog days. There is still plenty of summer left and lots of fun still to come.