Summer brings with it sunny weather, longer days and fun outdoor activities. But the season also can pose some dangers if you’re a dog parent. So is your dog ready for summer? Here are 10 tips to keep your dog safe this summer.
1. Make sure fun in the sun stays fun
Most dogs love to play outside. And it’s great to take advantage of the nice summer weather to exercise your dog. Just be mindful of the dark side of all that sunshine. “Make sure your dog has access to shade when outside,” the American Veterinary Medical Association says. Look out for hot pavement, especially asphalt, which can burn your dog’s paws and overheat their body. And ask your vet whether your dog should be wearing sunscreen. Plus, always provide fresh water for your dog. And keep an eye on the temperature and humidity, as both affect a dog’s ability to cool down. You might want to limit the time they spend outside during the peak sun hours of the day to reduce their risk of overheating.
2. Know the signs of overheating
“If you think it’s hot outside, it’s even hotter for your pet,” according to the AVMA. Ideally you’ll take the proper steps to prevent heat stroke before it ever becomes an issue. But it’s also important to recognize the signs of overheating. “[Symptoms] include excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling, mild weakness, stupor or even collapse,” according to the ASPCA. “Symptoms can also include seizures, bloody diarrhea and vomit along with an elevated body temperature of over 104 degrees.” Keep an extra close watch on older and overweight dogs — as well as flat-faced animals, such as pugs and bulldogs — as they’re more susceptible to heat stroke.
3. Consider switching up your walk schedule
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Even if your dog desperately wants to take a walk on a hot afternoon, it doesn’t mean you should allow it. “Adjust intensity and duration of exercise in accordance with the temperature,” the Humane Society of the United States says. “On very hot days, limit exercise to early morning or evening hours, and be especially careful with pets with white-colored ears, who are more susceptible to skin cancer, and short-nosed pets, who typically have difficulty breathing.” Walk in the grass to avoid hot pavement if possible. And carry water for your dog if you plan on anything more than a quick walk.
4. Practice vehicle safety
Don’t leave pets in parked cars. Just don’t do it. Rolling down the windows won’t help. And even an outdoor temperature around 70 degrees Fahrenheit can have deadly consequences in a car. “On a warm day, temperatures inside a vehicle can rise rapidly to dangerous levels,” according to HSUS. “On an 85-degree day, for example, the temperature inside a car with the windows opened slightly can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, the temperature will reach 120 degrees.” The heat can rapidly cause organ damage and death in a formerly healthy animal. So love your pet enough not to subject them to dangerous heat in a vehicle. And know how you can help if you see another animal left in a hot car.
5. Be aware of household hazards
Summer often brings with it several household hazards for your pet that weren’t there in the colder months. Dogs might be able to escape through unsecured open windows or screen doors. Or guests might inadvertently allow them to slip out. Bonfires and barbecues — and the foods toxic to dogs often served at summer gatherings — pose risks. And if you have a swimming pool, it’s never ideal to leave your dog unsupervised around it. “Not all dogs are good swimmers,” the ASPCA says. “Introduce your pets to water gradually and make sure they wear flotation devices when on boats.”
6. Be mindful of toxins
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Along with household hazards and potentially risky activities, your dog also might come across certain toxins commonly used throughout the warmer months. People often use pesticides and rodenticides around their yards to keep summer pests at bay, but those chemicals can prove fatal to pets. Plus, be aware of any plants growing in your garden (or along your walking route) that are poisonous to dogs. The ASPCA also recommends keeping citronella candles and torch products out of the reach of pets. Closely read the label of anything you put on your lawn that your dog will inevitably come in contact with, and don’t hesitate to call an emergency vet if you think your dog has ingested something toxic.
7. Ban fireworks around pets
Fireworks and pets just don’t mix. “Please leave pets at home when you head out to Fourth of July celebrations, and never use fireworks around pets,” the ASPCA says. “Exposure to lit fireworks can potentially result in severe burns or trauma, and even unused fireworks can contain hazardous materials.” Not to mention many animals are afraid of the pops and booms of fireworks and can end up running away in fear. Just ask your local animal shelter how many lost pets it takes in over the Fourth of July holiday. So it’s best to ban fireworks around pets. And if there will be fireworks in your community, keep your pet inside in a quiet, escape-proof area.
8. Stay up to date on vet care
Summer is a time for parasites, such as fleas and ticks, to thrive. So pay extra attention to keeping them off your dog. If you haven’t gotten your dog’s annual vet checkup yet, summer is a great time to do it. Ask the vet whether you’re doing everything you can for parasite prevention, as well as how to spot parasites. Regularly check your dog for any unwelcome stowaways on their bodies — especially if you have a dog with long or dark fur that can make parasites easy to miss. Parasites can transmit some serious diseases, so prevention and early detection is key.
9. Go over your disaster plan
Depending on where you live, summer is usually a time for severe storms. Hopefully you already have a disaster plan in place for yourself, along with emergency supplies. But do you have one for your pet? HSUS offers a few pointers to get you started. First, make sure your dog’s collar is secure and their ID tags are up to date. A microchip is even better to ensure they’re identifiable. Have a pet first-aid kit and emergency supplies in an easily accessible spot. And if you have to evacuate your home, always take your animals with you (and have a plan in place for where you’ll go). “If it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for your pets,” HSUS says.
10. Enjoy some canine-friendly summer treats
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Of course, summer isn’t all hazards. It can be tons of fun for you and your dog. Besides enjoying the weather, allow your dog to indulge in a few canine-friendly summer treats. (Remember it’s good to get vet approval before adding something new to your dog’s diet.) For instance, offer your dog some bites of watermelon, which can help cool and hydrate them. Or try making some frozen “pupsicles” with dog-friendly fruits and veggies for them to lick (but stop them from chewing anything frozen and harming their teeth). Don’t forget these foods are extra calories and shouldn’t be fed in large quantities. But just as you appreciate a cool summer treat, your dog surely will, too.
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