As the country sweats through a humid, hot summer, cooling mats and pet ice blocks are hot tickets.

As New Zealand swelters through a record-breaking summer, Kiwi pet owners are coming up with innovative ways to keep their animals cool.

Ice blocks, cooling mats and plenty of time in the water are among the options keeping furry friends from getting overheated.

Many pet owners say their pets intuitively know how to avoid the worst of the heat, finding a shady spot or a cool surface to lie on. One trick is to run a fan pointing at the ground to create a cool spot without it being too "windy" for your pet to enjoy sitting near it – especially if you have a cat who doesn't like having its fur ruffled.

The hot ticket this summer are pet cooling mats, which contain a gel that draws the heat from the animal's body, then evaporates it into the atmosphere. These can be picked up for as little as $15 from stores such as Kmart and Bunnings.

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Keeping long-haired pets groomed and clipped so they are not carrying around so much fur is another option. Instead of fully clipping the coat of long-haired dogs, dog groomers can 'thin' the coat so it retains the same look without the same weight of hair.

However, avoid trimming your dog's or cat's fur so short the delicate skin underneath is at risk of sunburn, especially on light-coloured animals.

Dogs bred to have pushed-in faces, such as French bulldogs and pugs, may find it more difficult to cope with the heat, as they cannot pant as efficiently. However, Wayne Stables says keeping his eight-year-old pug Monty, as well as nine-year-old Shiba Inu Hoshi, comfortable in the heat is mostly common sense.

"We don't do anything different with Monty, who despite the claims of some vets, lives a very happy life and doesn't suffer issues with breathing. We really just make sure that they have shelter and plenty of water.

"People also need to remember they're closer to the ground then you and they don't have shoes to protect their pads from hot pavements," Stables adds. "Obviously, you need to keep them out of the car unless you want to cook them."

If going to the beach for a swim is not an option, giving dogs access to a paddling pool or other cold water to play in at home is a good idea, too. Plastic clam-shell pools are practical, as dog nails can puncture inflatable pools.

Diana Robson, who has a five-year-old Jack Russell called Indy, fills a large fish bin with cold water and stands her dog in it.

"She's not a great fan of being thrown in the swimming pool but that works too."

To keep the exotic animals at Auckland Zoo cool in the heat, keepers make ice blocks from such tasty ingredients as blood and milk. At home, you can freeze toys or treats inside large blocks of ice to keep your dog both entertained and hydrated.

Stephanie Kennard has a routine for keeping eight-year-old bitzer Benji cool in the blazing Hawke's Bay summer.

"I fill an ice cream container half full with watered-down beef or chicken stock and freeze. Then I put some small treats on top and then fill up again with more stock and freeze. The treats are in the middle and they have to lick it to get them out," says Kennard.

"This is great if you are going out for a longer period of time but if you are home, lemonade ice blocks go down a treat with our dog — though I have to hold the stick."

Samantha Boston, pet advisor for the Real Pet Food Company, manufacturer of the Jimbo's brand of raw food products, says feeding pets raw or wet food also helps to increase their moisture intake in hot weather.

"What we most strongly suggest is feeding them as normal but giving them access to plenty of clean, fresh water," she says. "Raw food helps to supply the hydration pets need, especially cats, which aren't naturally driven to drink a lot."

However, she stresses the need for being extra-careful with food safety in hot weather.
"You need to be vigilant about handling raw meat, washing surfaces and hands and in general being careful with it, so it is not left out in the heat to spoil or attract flies."