Summer—the perfect time to get out and enjoy the outdoors with your dog. Whether you hike, camp, jog, or swim, summer offers many ideal opportunities for outdoor exercise that can benefit both you and your pet.
With summer’s many pleasures come some important health risks that could affect your pet. Here are a few warm-weather risks to watch for, and a few tips on how to navigate them safely.
Dehydration & Heatstroke in Dogs
As temperatures rise, both you and your dog could be at increased risk for dehydration and heat stroke (or heat exhaustion). While we humans can cool our bodies by perspiring, dogs can’t. They rely on frequent rest, shade, abundant fresh water, and panting to help them stay cool.
Vigorous or prolonged outdoor activity in hot weather can lead to heat stroke—lethargy, loss of appetite, dry or tacky gums, decreased urination, sunken eyes, and decreased skin elasticity are all signs. Recognizing these signs early can help prevent more serious consequences of heat stroke, which can include loss of consciousness and death.
Tips for Keeping your Pup Cool
If your dog is going to be outdoors during hot weather, be sure he has a shady place to escape the direct sun and an abundant supply of fresh drinking water. If you’re out and about, keep a collapsible dog bowl with you to fill with water. If your pet seems to be showing signs of heat exhaustion, get them out of the direct sun and wipe down your pet’s body with a damp cloth. This will simulate perspiration and cool your pet’s body. A pet with severe symptoms of heat stroke should be brought to a vet immediately.
Dogs and Drowning Risks
Most dogs are adept swimmers, but if your animal is going to be around swift or deep water, there are still some dangers to keep in mind. Swift water can easily exhaust an animal that is trying to fight the current to reach shore. And deep pools can be dangerous for a dog that’s panicked or too weak to climb out.
Protecting Your Pup from Water Hazards
If you’re taking your dog on an outdoor adventure that involves swift water (like canoeing, rafting, or kayaking), be sure your pet has a life vest. Dog flotation devices are available in a range of sizes and styles, so shop around online or at your local pet store. If you need a brand recommendation, ask your vet. Also, don’t leave your pet unsupervised if you have an above ground pool. A dog that might be clever enough to get in for a cooling dip might not be able to escape.
Editor’s Note: Swimmer’s ear is a condition that can affect dogs too. Prevent this by cleaning your dog’s ears after playing in the water.
Hot Car Dangers for Dogs
A car that is parked in the sun can reach internal temperatures near or over 120ºF within minutes. No pet (or child!) should ever be left unattended in a hot car—even if the windows are open a crack. Auto glass is designed to reduce glare and protect drivers, but when a car is left in the hot sun, that same protective glass traps heat like a greenhouse, and that heat can quickly tax a dog’s system beyond its limits. As mentioned above, heat stroke can be extremely serious, and even fatal.
Securing your Dog Safely
Do not leave your pet unattended in a hot car. It is not only hazardous, it is illegal in most states. If you have to make an unplanned stop on a hot day and you have your pet with you, your animal will be safer leashed to a post outside the store where you can keep an eye on it.
Dog Paws and Hot Pavement
You may not know about the risks of hot pavement on your dog’s paws. Imagine if you had to walk across a sun-heated tarmac, you know it has the potential to burn the soles of your feet. And while your dog’s pads are meant to protect its feet from rough or hazardous surfaces, they are still vulnerable to excessive heat and can burn from prolonged exposure.
Tips for Walking with Your Dog in the Summer
If you’re out with your pet on a hot day, plan your route to include as many grassy spaces as possible. Or plan your walks for times closer to dawn or dusk, when the pavement is cooler. If you know your animal will be exposed to hot pavement, you can also invest in some protective booties. Most dogs dislike the feeling of wearing shoes but usually adapt to it in time.
Dogs and Fireworks
Fireworks are often a part of summer celebrations, especially around Independence Day in the US. While most sponsored fireworks displays are safe for human audiences, the loud explosions and bright flashes of a fireworks display can stress and already anxious animal into a panic. And each year, thousands of pets are lost because they run off after being frightened by fireworks. Don’t let your pet be one of them.
Dog Calming Tips
If your animal becomes anxious around crowds or loud noises, avoid brining your animal to public fireworks displays. If you plan to set off fireworks at home, keep your pet indoors and provide it with a quiet place to curl up and hide if it chooses. Anxious dogs can often be calmed either by swaddling in a familiar blanket or by a sound-damping garment like noise-reducing earmuffs for dogs.
Fleas, Ticks, and Other Parasites
Finally, summer is the time when parasites like fleas and ticks are most active. If your pet is outdoors for extended periods, it likely will be at an increased risk for parasite exposure. Deer ticks (the tiny parasites that carry Lyme Disease) are active in warm weather ad pose a risk to both humans and dogs hiking in tall grasses, deep woods, or marshland.
Preventative Care for Dogs
Be sure your pet is wearing a flea collar or has been treated with a flea and tick preventive. After a day outdoors, check your pet’s fur (especially around the paws, legs, and ears) for signs of ticks or fleas. Remove any ticks using tweezers, being careful to extract the entire parasite. And always be sure your pet’s parasite protection is both current and dose-appropriate for your pet’s size and weight.
We hope these tips will help you and your dogs to have a fun and trouble-free summer!
Editor's Note: If you have a dog with storm phobia, a thunderstorm in the forecast is your worst nightmare. Here's 8 tips to calm your dog during a thunderstorm.
Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.