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During the hot summer months, keeping a watchful eye on dogs and cats is of the utmost importance. Proper coat length and hydration plays dividends in terms of keeping animals happy and healthy. 

As the mild days of spring dissipate and the heat of summer comes crashing down on Nebraskans, the consistent battle of staying cool begins.

From cranking up the air conditioning to wearing lighter, thinner layers, people benefit from numerous cooling tactics readily available at their fingertips.

Unfortunately, household animals don’t have this same luxury.

They can’t simply change clothes or adjust the thermostat a degree or two. They are fully dependent on the good judgment of their owners to stay cool and safe.

“When it comes to the heat, it doesn’t matter if they are at home or in the car, cats and dogs can die from being overheated,” said Jan Berry, who has served as the manager for Paws & Claws Adoption Center in Columbus for the past eight years.

Berry on Wednesday spoke about the importance of pet owners keeping an especially watchful eye on their furry friends during the next few months.

While feline care is paramount, Berry spoke predominately about dog care because this is where many owners run into heat-related problems. She said animals left outside need to have several safety measures in place to ensure that they are safe and comfortable. These animals need to have plenty of shade and a constant supply of fresh, cool water on standby.

To keep water fresh and cool, Berry said owners can implement an unorthodox technique.

“To keep water cool you can fill up a water balloon with water, freeze it, and then put it back into their bowl,” she said. You peel off the balloon and then it takes a while for it to melt. In the house, they (owners) can also put ice cubes in their water bowl.”

Another smart tactic is for owners to purchase a soaker hose or a kiddie pool for dogs to lounge in when feeling overheated.

Proper coat length is also vital during the summer months, she said. Owners need to be wary of over-trimming because undercoats actually serve as temperature regulators – they keep the animal warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

On the other end of the spectrum, it’s important to avoid letting animals' hair get long and matted.

“It’s really important to keep mats out,” she said,” Because when the hair gets matted down it’s an excellent breeding ground for flies and maggots can get in there. It’s pretty gruesome.”

Inside animals, especially dogs, need to be monitored as well. Proper grooming and access to water are a must, and air conditioning or a fan in the animals’ vicinity should be readily available. If owners kennel their animal or animals, they should make sure the kennel has plenty of ventilation and isn’t in direct sunlight.

“If the sun is beating down through a south window or something, it can get a lot hotter than the room temperature in a hurry,” she said.

Berry, who oversees anywhere between 37 dogs and 70 cats at a given time, said her operation picks up steam during the summer months.

“We are starting at this time to see more animals coming in,” she said. “With people just being outside and gates being left open we see more dogs, and then you also have all the baby kittens."

So as it turns out, keeping an eye on those swinging gates is pretty important, too.

And keeping animals in cars during the summer? Avoid it.

“If you think it’s too hot or you just aren’t sure, sit in the car for 10-15 minutes in the same conditions they will be in and see if you can stand it,” she said. “That sounds terrible, but it’s so true.”

Sam Pimper is news editor for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at


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