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Smart Summer Fun in the Sun

Posted by Jennifer Wicklund, DVM on

Longer days, warmer temperatures and vacation mean summer is the time to get outside! With your best friends, of course! Dogs love many summer activities and mostly just want to be out with you! But it may take a little planning to keep them safe in the heat.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you and your dog enjoy the summer.

Tip #1: Never leave dogs in parked, unattended cars in the summer

The temperature can rise to fatal levels within minutes even if windows are left open. Young and old dogs, brachycephalic breeds (those with short muzzles), overweight pets and dark-coated dogs are most at risk for overheating. Every year, dozens of pets die due to being left in vehicles. HeatKills has eye-opening statistics - check them out. 

If you see a dog in a locked car that is in distress, you should try to locate the owner immediately. If the owner is nowhere to be found, contact police, the local rescue shelter or other authorities. Currently, thirty-one states have laws that either prohibit leaving an animal in a vehicle under dangerous conditions or protect a person from civil liability if they rescue a distressed animal from a car. Do a quick Google search to find out what the law is in your state. 


Tip #2: Exercise your pet in the morning or evening when temperatures are lower

Adjust your dog’s normal exercise routine to something lighter in high heat and/or humidity. Do not allow pets to linger on hot pavement. Remember, you have shoes on! Studies show that at 77 degrees outdoor air temperature, asphalt in the sun is as hot as 125 degrees! At this temperature, skin on your dog’s paws can be damaged in 60 seconds. Remember, too, that thinly-coated dogs or dogs with bare skin will be susceptible to sunburn. Although some pet sunscreens exist, it is safer to simply keep at-risk pets out of the sun.

Tip #3: Know the signs of heatstroke in dogs

Dog experiencing heatstroke may display several symptoms including heavy panting, drooling, difficulty breathing, seizures, bloody diarrhea, vomiting, general weakness and collapse. Seek immediate veterinary care if your dog experiences any of these symptoms. To be prepared, be sure you have identified an emergency veterinary clinic nearby while you are traveling in case of a pet emergency. 

Remember that because dogs are covered in fur, they do not sweat like humans. Though they do have sweat glands in their paw pads that help them cool down, the majority of their body temperature regulation is done through panting. Evaporation of moisture from dogs’ tongues, nasal passages and lung tissue occurs when dogs pant. As air passes over these moist tissues, cooling occurs. However, this means that the more dogs pant, the more dehydrated they become. Dehydration also increases with increased humidity, so always have fresh, clean water available for pets. 

Tip #4: Never leave your pet unattended near pools or other bodies of water

Not all dogs can swim. Bark Busters Home Dog Training has an excellent pool safety handout at Bark Busters Pool Training. Wash your dog after swimming in pools to rid their coat of chlorine and other chemicals. Consider a dog life vest if your pet is to spend a lot of time around or in water or on boats. Be aware of warnings for potential toxic algae blooms in lakes and rivers. 

Tip #5: Watch what your dog eats

Dogs will spend more time in the backyard during the summer months. Take care that your dog not ingest yard insecticides or rodenticides. Also, watch what your dog eats at barbecues and parties. Tell friends not to feed your dog table scraps. Many human foods are dangerous to pets, including corn cobs, raisins, grapes, onions, chocolate, nuts and gum. And keep alcohol out of reach of pets. 

Tip #6: Ensure your pet has a legible ID tag with up-to-date contact information in case they go missing.

Consider microchipping your dog if they are not already. This provides safe, secure, lifetime identification for your pet. Make sure your dog’s vaccines are current and be sure to have your pet on heartworm preventative year-round to protect against potentially fatal heartworm disease. Discuss appropriate parasite control with your veterinarian based on where you live or travel. Fleas, ticks and gastrointestinal worms can cause your pet serious disease.

With a little preparation, summer can be enjoyable for the whole family, furry members included! Enjoy!