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Author: Julija Abram/ loomaarst ja Eesti Väikeloomaarstide Seltsi president


Before the real summer heat hits Estonia, it’s wise to be proactive and talk about how responsible owners can help their pets cope with the heat! Adequate hydration is crucial because it regulates several important bodily functions – for example, breathing helps regulate body temperature, fluids remove waste materials from the body, nutrients and oxygen are transported through cell walls via circulation, fluid aids in digestion, maintains proper electrolyte balance, and more.

 Just like humans, pets tend to lose body moisture in the heat, but whereas humans cool their bodies by sweating, dogs, for example, can only sweat through their paw pads. Luckily, nature has found a compensatory mechanism – dogs primarily cool themselves by panting. Cats, on the other hand, generally don’t pant; if they do, it could indicate severe overheating or other serious health issues requiring emergency medical attention. Cats tend to cool themselves by choosing shadier spots to rest.

What is hydration?

Hydration level, or the amount of fluid in the body, is determined by how much fluid is taken in through drinking and eating and how much fluid is excreted through waste, sweating, panting, and exhaling. Dehydration reflects extensive fluid loss due to inadequate fluid intake and/or fluid loss, leading to a general decrease in the body’s hydration level.

Dehydration is a serious problem, the neglect of which can manifest in issues such as impaired circulation, decreased organ function, regulation problems in body temperature, irregular heartbeat, and neurological problems.


 How to determine hydration level in the body?

During hot weather, dehydration can come unexpectedly, so it’s advisable to periodically perform a skin test on your pet – simply pull up the skin fold between your pet’s shoulder blades and release it. If your pet’s hydration level is normal, the skin will immediately return to its place. If the pet is dehydrated, the skin will return to its place very slowly, or in worse cases, it may stay raised – this is an emergency situation requiring immediate veterinary assistance.

 You can also check your pet’s gum moisture. Normally, gums should feel moist and shiny to the touch. Dehydrated animals will have dry and sticky gums.

 Also, monitor your pet’s overall condition. If there’s fatigue, weakness, decreased appetite, panting, sunken eyes, depression, it’s worth consulting a veterinarian.

How to hydrate your pet?

If your pet is dehydrated, it’s important to avoid giving them a lot of water at once – this can induce vomiting. Instead, give your dehydrated pet water in small amounts, about one teaspoon at a time, every 10 minutes for several hours. And even then, consult a veterinarian.

But it’s best to prevent potentially dangerous situations and ensure that pets always have access to water! It’s better to have multiple bowls in different locations, as water can evaporate in the heat, leaving the bowl unnoticed dry. Water should be changed daily, and attention should be paid to the cleanliness of the water bowl, as hot weather can encourage bacterial growth, especially in moist areas.




For cats, offering flowing water or using specialized cat fountains is advisable. Cats also appreciate a wide variety of drinking bowl materials – much like a person who prefers to drink wine from a beautiful glass rather than a plastic cup.

Additional cooling can be provided by adding ice cubes to the water. If your pet still needs additional motivation to drink water, these ice cubes can be made from broth (but in that case, fresh water should also be available).

You can also offer ice cube treats to your pet, and you can freeze a couple of treats inside the “ice cream” to entice your pet to lick the cube. However, if using FoodStudio broths, you don’t even need treats because the broth itself is so delicious! It’s worth trying to make frozen treats for cats as well, but since they always do things their way, they might consider the ice cube a fun toy and chase it around the house – it slides so well! But every cat is different, and it’s worth experimenting because cats are generally not very good at consuming liquids – especially those with diseases like kidney failure.

More ideas:

The thermoregulation of dogs and cats can also be aided by their fur! One might think that shaving a dog/cat for the summer heat would be beneficial, but it all depends on the type of fur and the breed of the pet. There are breeds, such as Spitz, Malamute, Samoyed, etc., whose fur should definitely not be cut short (especially for the purpose of cooling them down). Instead, it’s important to ensure that their fur is properly maintained – brushed, clean, and free of mats.



Air pockets between the different layers of fur help keep pets warm in winter and cool in summer. Additionally, excessively short fur can make a dog/cat susceptible to sunburn.

 Ensure that your dog has a shady spot to retreat to in hot weather. Many dogs love playing in pools or with sprinklers. If that’s not an option, you can simply cover your dog with a cold, wet towel. Cooling mats are also available in pet stores, which come in different types and provide pleasant cooling for pets.

It’s advisable to walk your dog either early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid the hottest time of the day. For longer walks during the day, you can use a cooling vest (and definitely bring a water bottle for your dog).

In conclusion, it’s important to keep an eye on your pets during hot weather and take care of their well-being. Some animals tolerate heat better than others. Unluckier ones are certainly overweight and sick animals. However, by following the recommendations mentioned above, every pet can enjoy the summer period happily!