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At long last, the dogs days of summer are here – and in many places in the U.S. the heat has come with it.
Summer is a great time to be outdoors and enjoy the company of your dog, but it’s also a time where you have to be more protective of him.
Beyond basic tick and flea prevention, many dog owners don’t think much about how the summer sun affects their canine. Sure, if you see him panting in the sun you know it might be time to take him back inside. But there are a lot of summertime dangers. From heat stroke to poisons introduced by landscaping, there are hazards everywhere.
Here are seven common summer dangers our veterinarians see. Understand how to spot these and make a plan to keep your dog from getting sick this summer.
1. Heat stroke and dehydration
We want our dogs to enjoy the summer with us, but the fact is, the sun and heat can be dangerous to them, just like it can be to humans. In fact, because of how they sweat, they are not as good at cooling themselves off as you are.
With that in mind, you need to be thoughtful of how to keep your dog cool all summer. This means taking common sense steps to watch out for heatstroke and dehydration. Never underestimate the heat and be especially aware of the humidity. If it feels warm to you, it’s likely quite hot for your dog.
If your dog is an outdoor dog, make sure he has plenty of shady, cool places to lay and that there is always water available to him. Many pet owners put out two water bowls on hot days — one with water for now and another with ice that will melt during the day to provide cool water.
One note for all pets in the summer: If you need to take them somewhere, do not leave them inside the car. A car’s temperature can reach 104 degrees in less than 15 minutes on a hot summer day. This is a formula for heat stroke.
2. Asphalt and Sidewalks (They get Hot!)
On hot days, it’s not uncommon to see the road steam. It’s likely you would never think to walk barefoot on such a hot surface, but your dog doesn’t really have a choice. Sure, he’s a little more accustomed to the rough surfaces than you are, but it can still be too hot for him. Remember he is much closer to the ground than you are, meaning that he really feels heat radiating off surfaces.
He likely knows how to avoid the hottest surfaces, but again, if possible, help your dog waiting to take him out for a walk until the sun goes down and taking him to places with lots of shade and strips of grass to walk on.
3. Cars and Dogs
This is obvious in all seasons, but in the summer there is more traffic and people tend to speed a bit more. Whenever possible, keep your dog away from busy roads and always have him on a leash. If your dog is an outdoor dog, make sure he is as far from the street as possible.
4. Fleas, Bees and Ticks Dangers to Dogs
Warm summer weather means pests galore — and they are on the lookout for dogs, who lack our ability to swat them away. Be prepared to manage summertime pet pests like fleas, ticks and even mosquitoes. In most cases, there are safe, effective ways to prevent or eradicate pest infestations that don’t involve dosing your pet with toxic chemicals. Always read the labels on any pest prevention tools you use to make sure they are pet safe.
Additionally, the buzzing of bees can seem quite attractive to your dog, which can get him stung. If there is a lot of swelling, call your veterinarian, who can suggest an office visit or prescribe an over-the-counter medicine. Watch how your dog responds to any swelling. He may scratch the stung area or pull at his fur. Bring your dog to the vet right away if you notice any abnormal behavior.
5. Cookouts and Parties
The warmer months are the time for block parties, picnics and family gatherings. Everyone likes a cookout, and your dog may love it most of all. After all, he can find all kinds of table scraps and, if he’s social, make lots of new friends.
But parties are filled with dog dangers. It’s well known that dogs are often scared of the fireworks that come with 4th of July parties, and that they can be quite dangerous. It’s also well known that dogs cannot eat the chocolate that can be found at so many bonfires and BBQs. But those issues are just the tip of the iceberg.
Some surprising foods, such as onions and garlic can be toxic to dogs if consumed in large quantities. Grapes and raisons can be toxic in any quantity. What’s more, animal bones, which are often left out during cookouts, can splinter in a dog’s stomach and cause serious intestinal issues. Other dangerous common foods include fruits with pits (which are a choking hazard), Corn on the cob (your dog will likely eat the cob, which is hard to digest) and even ice cream (which can cause stomach irritation).
Even worse, some guests think it’s OK to give scraps to animals. Talk to your guests about what your dog can have. Politely remind them if your dog has a special diet, is allergic to anything or if there are any foods on the table that could cause a health problem. You want to enjoy the party too, not worrying about a dog that’s vomiting.
It’s called the doggy paddle, but that doesn’t meant your dog has mastered it. So while parties by the pool or the lake seem great, certain dog breeds like pugs and terriers aren’t strong swimmers and other dogs are not comfortable around water. If your dog seems uncomfortable, never try to force your him into the water.
Even if your dog is a confident swimmer, he can become mesmerized chasing something near the water, and may end up taking an unexpected dip. This can shock and disorient him. Additionally, even strong swimmers can struggle in the current of a lake, river or the ocean. Many dogs have difficulty getting out of a swimming pool and can get exhausted and drown. Never allow your dog around the pool unsupervised.
If your dog does enjoy a swim, always rinse him off afterward. Pool chemicals and bacteria in water can be harmful. Always offer them fresh drinking water when they’re done, because they will often gulp down the pool or lake water.