The dog days of summer are here, and the season brings special challenges for pets. Hot weather combined with a furry coat can be uncomfortable for your dog, and flea and tick season is in full swing. However, according to the ASPCA, you shouldn’t have your long-haired dog’s coat shaved or cut short in an effort to keep them cool. “A dog’s coat is like insulation for your house,” explains Louise Murray, DVM, vice president of the ASPCA Animal Hospital in New York. “Insulation stops your home from getting too cold in winter, but it also keeps it from overheating in summer—and your dog’s coat does the same thing.” Your pup’s coat also protects against the sun’s burning rays.
So what is a responsible pet owner to do? Shampooing and combing fur once a week keeps it from becoming matted and trapping heat. Regular grooming can also help remove allergens from the coat, which can mitigate symptoms if your four-legged friend suffers from allergies. And shampoos and sprays that contain naturally repellent essential oils can help to keep fleas and ticks at bay. Avoid products with perfumes and ingredients that can irritate your dog’s skin, and be sure to use a shampoo specially formulated for dogs—a dog’s pH levels are different from that of humans, so “people shampoo” is much too harsh.
Look for ingredients like these in grooming products for pets:
Orange oil: Orange and other citrus oils help to repel fleas and also calm and relieve the itching that comes from flea bites, and mosquito bites.
Oatmeal: Oatmeal can soothe hives, bites, inflammation from flea bites, allergies, and dry, itchy skin. An oatmeal paste or bath can provide relief from a variety of skin conditions. Oatmeal contains anti-inflammatory compounds called avenanthramides that ease itching and irritation, and oats take on a gelatinous quality that moisturizes and protects skin.
Aloe vera gel: Aloe is a soothing emollient that can relieve hot spots, insect bites, burns, dry skin, and dermatitis.
Neem oil: “Neem is effective for fungus (such as ringworm), mites, and fleas and ticks,” says Jean Hofve, DVM, a holistically oriented veterinarian and author of Paleo Dog. Look for this oil in pet shampoos and sprays. You can also try adding a few drops of neem oil to a regular pet shampoo or to a carrier oil and rub on problem areas. Never use undiluted neem oil on your dog.
Peppermint oil: Peppermint oil helps to repel insects when used externally.
Coconut oil: Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, which has antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. Applied topically, coconut oil promotes the healing of cuts, wounds, hot spots, dry skin, bites, and stings.
DIY Doggy Deodorants
Keep your dog smelling clean between shampoos with a mist of a natural deodorizer on its coat. Keep a spray bottle handy to mist when needed—it will help keep your pooch cool, too. Here are three easy-to-make-at-home spritzers to try—just spray all over and allow to air dry. Remember to avoid spraying around your dog’s eyes.
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar per ½ cup water.
- 15 drops eucalyptus oil and 4 drops lemongrass oil per 1 cup water. Eucalyptus essential oil is a powerful deodorizer, but never apply it full strength to your dog’s coat.
- 20 drops geranium oil and 12 drops lemon oil per 1/4 cup water. Geranium and lemon essential oils double as flea repellents.
ARK NATURALSNeem “Protect” Shampoo repels fleas and other insects, and works to heal skin and ease itching—without chemicals that can be harmful to both animals and humans.
VET’S BESTNatural Formula Flea + Tick Spray features peppermint oil and clove extract. This formula safely kills live fleas and flea eggs on contact, plus it soothes skin and leaves pets smelling fresh.
THE VITAMIN SHOPPEAnti-Itch Spray for Dogs includes aloe vera gel to soothe and relieve scratching from bites, hot spots, and other irritations.