Best friends. Dr. Jennifer Paugh, Associate Veterinarian of American Veterinary Clinic Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Dog owners in the capital are going the extra mile to protect their pets from the heat as mercury levels rise. From adopting a summer fitness programme and special diet to using a cooling vest, dog owners are pulling out all the stops to ensure the summer heat doesn’t take a toll on their best friend.

Instagram fitness

Shahnaz Bazliel Monsignori, an Italian homemaker, has a large mixed breed called Blu. The dog has a special fitness regime during summer which includes getting her runs earlier in the mornings and later in the evenings.

“We walk her on the grass as much as possible to avoid overheating her sensitive paws. She still suns herself, to compensate for the air conditioning. A large bowl of fresh water is always at her disposal,” says Monsignori.

Since Blu has a sensitive stomach (especially during summer), Monsignori keeps her on a strict diet of dry food, boiled rice, chicken and pumpkin. Blu has her own instagram page ‘Blu_monsi’ where Monsignori shares grooming tips. These include how an occasional large raw bone can get the dog’s teeth in shape or how daily grooming with brushes and wet wipes are vital to keep off parasites, especially in the hotter months.

Vegetarian options

Furby the German Shepherd is breaking the myth that dogs are hard core carnivores. His summer special menu is a mash-up of yogurt, rice, lentils and vegetables all boiled together. His owner Aparna Malhotra has trained him to be a strict vegetarian like her family. This is the first summer in Abu Dhabi for Malhotra and Furby, as they have just moved here from Singapore.

She says a vegetable diet needs less water for digestion. “You can mix any two vegetables from the following: pumpkin, beans, carrot, spinach, bok choy (Chinese cabbage), zucchini, sweet potatoes, broccoli, bottle guard etc. Not all veggies can be given to a dog, so please google before you want to try something new,” she says

Cooling vests

Pranjal Kulkarni has a saluki named Ben whom she rescued from the streets. Ben’s summer diet includes raw meat, plenty of water and an ice lolly once in a while.

“His big off-leash run is at 4.45am and leash-walk is at about 7.30pm.” says Kulkarni. “He has access to plenty of cool water through the day, wears his cooling vest for runs, and has limited time sunning himself in the middle of the day,”

Five tips to keep your dog healthy this summer

1. Beat the heat 
Limit time outside during the day to short walks for bathroom breaks. Longer walks should only be taken when the weather is cooler. Signs of heat stroke can include excessive heavy panting, weakness/stumbling/lethargy, bright red gums, vomiting and diarrhoea. If you suspect heat stroke get your pet to an air-conditioned place and offer fresh cool but not cold water.

2. Protect the paws 
Roads and walkways can get dangerously hot during the day, causing burns to your pet’s paws. Test the surface by placing your hand on the ground. If you cannot keep your hand in place for 10 seconds then it’s too hot for your dog. Commercially made dog booties can help protect your pet’s paws. Just make sure to get your pet used to wearing them inside before venturing out.

3. Travelling with dogs
If you are travelling with your pet, never leave them in the car alone. Even with the windows down, the temperature will rise to dangerous levels in as little as 10 minutes.

4. Just keep swimming
Invest in a life jacket. If you are taking your pet to the beach, a bright coloured life jacket will not only help your pet stay afloat but make them more visible to boaters and swimmers.

5. Beware of BBQs
For pets, BBQ party foods tend to be much higher in fats then commercially made pet food, which may lead to vomiting, diarrhoea, loss of appetite and abdominal pain. It is also important to keep the trash locked away. Common BBQ food such as corn cobs can get lodged in a dog’s intestine that can lead to a surgical emergency.

(By Dr. Jennifer Paugh Associate Veterinarian of American Veterinary Clinic)

The writer is an Abu Dhabi-based freelancer