Summer Hydration & Water Bowl Wisdom: Helping Your Dog Take the Heat

Indoor/Outdoor Water Bowl
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I can’t count the number of times I’ve observed any one of the big, silly dogs in my life abandon a game of fetch for a pass at the water bowl, dropping a slimy toy directly into the bowl itself, and then fishing it out to continue play. The day our “pack” grew to include a second dog, the first one—our house matron—made her displeasure known at the water bowl, jealously guarding it from the cheeky young interloper, and comically growling with her snout fully immersed. Who knew a dog could blow water bubbles? They may not be able to explain the finer points of hydration, but make no mistake: dogs completely get it.

Summer brings with it opportunities for joyous time outdoors with your beloved family members, including the hairy one. Hydration is important to him every day of the year, but especially during the intense heat of high summer, and for the same reasons it matters to us. Life-giving water is what carries nutrients into and out of your dog’s cells; it aids in digestion and nutrient absorption; it cools his body, working to maintain a normal temperature; it lubricates his joints and cushions his spinal cord and other internal tissues. In short, every single important function in your dog’s body requires water, and without it he is at risk of dehydration. Left untreated, dehydration prompts his internal organs to shut down; death can follow, and quickly.

Your Dog’s Water Bowl: Keep It Full, Keep It Clean
Whether she lives inside or out, it’s your job to monitor her bowl and make sure clean, clear water is always available to her. She needs to consume an ounce of water for every pound she weighs, every single day. If she is an active dog, she will lose liquid through panting and salivation, so she will likely need more than this simple formula suggests. The experts tell us we should also wash her water bowl every day to prevent the growth of bacteria that can make her sick. (And armed with this bit of wisdom, you can surmise that it’s never a good idea to allow her to drink from the toilet.) A continually circulating bowl with a charcoal filter is a nice alternative to a traditional water bowl for dogs who do not have house privileges, or for occasions when you can’t be there to monitor and reload over the course of a long summer day. (Learn the signs of dehydration in dogs and get your dog to the vet right away if she shows any of them.)

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Slow Down There, Little Doggie: Fun Facts About Dog Bloat and Raised Bowls
In recent years there has been a bit of controversy swirling around the raised feeder and its implications for the onset of bloat, a potentially deadly condition in dogs. First, a mini-primer. Bloat, or gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) occurs when a dog’s stomach swells. It is accompanied sometimes, but not always, by twisting between the esophagus and upper intestine. Obstructed veins in the abdomen lead to low blood pressure, shock, and organ damage; death may follow.

Experts believe there is a genetic predisposition to bloat in some dogs, but studies of GDV also indicate swallowing air during rapid food and water consumption is a culprit, along with specific mitigating factors (certain foods containing citric acid, fat when it occurs as one of the first four ingredients in your dog’s food, insufficient pancreatic enzymes, the consumption of too much water before or after eating, the consumption of gas-inducing foods, and stress.). The connection between bloat and elevated bowls remains a bit muddy, but may have to do with the relative ease of ingesting food and water too quickly when it is available at a dog’s shoulder height.

Should you use elevated food and water bowls for your dog? Current wisdom seems to indicate that elevated feeders are fine for most breeds, with a few notable exceptions: German Shepherds, Great Danes, Dobermans, and giant breeds are thought to be at higher risk for bloat and should probably eat and drink from bowls placed on the floor or ground. And if you choose elevated bowls, buy for size: make sure the bowl’s height still allows your dog to lower his head to eat and drink, which is how his body is designed to work. Vets have also suggested that elevated feeders are an excellent choice for older or arthritic dogs: they encourage better posture, place less stress on a dog’s back and joints, and are simply more comfortable for a compromised dog.

Monitor your dog’s habits; he may not be inclined to savor every bite of his salmon the way you do, but watch for signs he is gulping too much, too quickly. This is especially important in the heat, when he may overindulge at his water bowl.

Staying Cool as a Cucumber: The Dog Days of Summer
We ascribe that expression to summer’s hottest weeks, typically from early July until about mid-August, associated with the “Dog Star,” Sirius, and its rising and setting cycles. You can still enjoy dog days outdoors with your pal, but play it smart. A few pointers for you and your Pointer:

• Exercise is excellent for healthy dogs, but save it for early mornings or late evenings, when it’s not so dang hot out there.
• Hot pavement and concrete can burn! If your dog’s pads must be exposed to unforgiving surfaces, consider an act of compassion: dog boots.
• Your dog’s coat has an impact on his ability to stay cool: remember that darker coats absorb more heat, and plan accordingly.
• He wants his own doggie pool: you will enjoy watching him as much as he thrills at splashing around in it.
• Dogs cool down from the bottom up: spray cool water on his paws and his belly to help lower his body temperature.
• Pay attention to your dog: he’ll let you know when he’s had enough heat.

teddy-blue Teddy Blue in the Pool
Photo Courtesy of Deb German

Most dogs also enjoy swimming. If you have access to a dog-friendly swimming pool, consider allowing him a supervised dip; you can even leash him and walk around the pool deck while he swims its perimeter. Place a comfy, quick-drying bed in a shady spot where he can sprawl when he climbs out.

Above all make sure your hot dog’s water bowl runneth over; play it smart and keep him a cool dog in the heat of high summer.

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