Written by Disha Ramanan
As temperatures shoot all over the country, keeping our dogs cool, healthy and happy during summer becomes a priority for all of us pet parents. We spoke to Manssi SK Saha, canine nutritionist and founder of Bangalore-based Doggiliciouus, to clear up some misconceptions and give you some diet-related tips for keeping your fur baby cool as the summer heat rages on.
The best foods to give your pooch when the mercury is on the rise
In general, there are some foods that are cooling, and some that have a heating effect on the body. It’s important to keep this in mind while giving your dog her food.
“A lot of people think eggs are hot for summers, but they’re not. They’re ideal for the hot weather,” begins Manssi. “They don’t cause any heat in the body. They’re a complete protein (which means they have all 9 amino acids that are required to form a protein) and they’re also a complete food, which means they have protein, carbohydrate and fats in the exact proportion that’s required to make it complete on its own, without having to add anything.”
Another misconception she bats right off the field is chicken. “Chicken is a white meat so many people feel it’s a cooling food. But it’s a heat-producing meat. Dogs on a chicken diet often stop eating, and people feel that something is wrong, but it’s not. The dog actually wants to eat, but what’s in the bowl isn’t correct. Dietary changes are required.”
So, what are the foods we should steer clear of during summer? “Fatty meats like turkey we should stay away from. Lamb is a heating food too. And oily fish such as salmon and tuna are a no-no. In terms of grains, wheat, oats, ragi – these are all hot.”
She suggests giving eggs, beef, veal, freshwater fish such as anchovies, novel meats like rabbit, duck and quail, green leafy veg, watery fruit eg, watermelon, musk melon etc and finally, cold-pressed flaxseed oil, coconut oil and organic, pure (preferably home-made) ghee (all three of which are healthy sources of fat for summer).
Ghee, she explains, also has therapeutic properties so it’s a wonderful idea to drizzle it over or mix it into your dog’s food. “Larger dogs like Golden Retrievers can do with a teaspoon of ghee per meal, but for anything smaller, anywhere from a quarter to three-quarters of a teaspoon per meal works.”
Buttermilk and yoghurt are not to be missed for summer. “Not only are they cooling, they also help with some of the problems related to heat.”
Changing food habits and practices when the temperature soars
If your dog isn’t eating as much as he used to, it need not be a cause for concern. Manssi’s approach is two-fold.
“First, it’s a good idea to change the timings. If you give your dog her first meal at 9, try a little earlier instead, say around 7 or 7,30am. The same goes for the evening meal. You can always push it back a little later in the day.”
Another aspect that could be important is the temperature of the food. “Many people think their dog’s food should be heated up to make things more hygienic. But dogs are different from humans, they have different needs. A dog’s stomach is far more acidic than a human stomach. Most pathogens are destroyed in that kind of an environment. They don’t need piping hot food. Giving your dog cool food is perfectly fine. Even food right from the fridge is great. They might prefer that over hot food, in fact.”
But what if you do everything right and your pooch just doesn’t want to eat as much?
“Dogs prefer to sleep more during summer,” Manssi points out. “When a dog is less active, their energy requirements aren’t as much either. Things are fine as long as your dog is eating something every day.”
She also suggests a simple, yet effective tip to keep your dog cool during the day. “Actually, dogs tend to find the coolest spot in the house to sleep in the day time. Most times, if they have access to it, they will choose the bathroom. A quick tip to make a small room cooler is to leave 3-4 buckets full of water there. It works in small rooms very well, dropping the temperature in that corner by 2-4 degrees.”
Additionally, she believes in giving a wide range of choices to your dog so that she can pick out what she needs. “There’s a lot of foods to try with your dog. It’s unrealistic if we expect our dogs to like the same foods and eat the same thing for their entire lives. What they need and like to eat today, maybe they wouldn’t in a few months. It’s always a good idea to experiment with different things. It could be that if your dog isn’t eating something, then what’s in the bowl isn’t what she needs at that time.”
“Supplements can be dangerous if overdone,” Manssi says. “Ideally, the diet should cover all the nutritional needs of the dog. Also, it’s important to remember that a supplement that one dog needs, another may not. It’s necessary to really do your research keeping in mind each individual dog’s requirements or consult with somebody who can give you a helping hand in figuring it out.”
During hot periods, however, giving your dog some tender coconut water is great. “You can even freeze it into ice cubes to give your dog,” she suggests. “Water from one tender coconut per day is good, spread out through the day, Also, adding half a teaspoon of raw, unprocessed honey to water can tempt dogs to drink more water.”
Some heat-related ailments you should look out for
“One of the most common issues that comes up during the heat is loss of appetite. Second is something that looks like lethargy but it’s more about wanting to sleep rather than being lethargic or sick.”
She points out that it’s crucial to know your dog and be able to read him well to figure out if it’s just his natural tendency to sleep through a hot day or if it’s a lack of energy, which could be a sign of illness. “It’s a fine line between what’s normal and what’s not right. You need to really know your dog well and see those small signs of distress.”
A balanced and well-rounded diet is critical for a dog’s health. Additionally, it’s important to ensure your dog stays hydrated throughout the day. To make sure your dog stays cool, avoid the hottest times of the day to take her out for her walks. Also, your dog would do well with a cool, dark corner in your house to rest in, since they sleep for long periods of time during the day. Keeping in mind a few of these tips can go a long way in making sure your best friend is ready to beat the heat.
You can reach Manssi at