The summer season is a great time of year to get out of the house and enjoy the great outdoors. The warm air and plenty of sunshine means that you and your dog can once again go for walks, enjoy the dog park and sit out on the patio of your favorite dog-friendly restaurant.
Before you head out, make sure you familiarize yourself with these safety tips for summer to help keep your dog safe and healthy.
Reduce the Risk of Heat Stroke
Like people, dogs can experience heat stroke if their body temperature gets too high and they cannot cool down. Remember that dogs do not sweat like people and rely on panting and heat exchange through their paw pads and the ground to cool their bodies. Some simple changes to your routine can help mitigate the risk of over-heating:
- Walk with your dog early in the morning or late in the evening when the temperatures are lower.
- Be cognizant of humidity levels – the more humid it is, the harder it will be for your dog to stay cool.
- Offer your dog small amounts of water frequently if you will be taking long walks, especially in the afternoon. There are many companies that make special water bottles for dogs.
- If your dog is brachycephalic (short-nosed) such as a bulldog, pug or boxer, be aware that he or she is at increased risk of over-heating due to anatomical differences of the skull and respiratory system.
Protect the Feet and Skin
The skin of your dog’s paw pads is pretty tough and can protect him from a lot of the things that he will encounter on a day-to-day basis. But just like how ice, snow, and deicing chemicals in the winter can hurt your dogs feet, so can hot asphalt in the summer. And if your dog is light-colored and pink-skinned, be prepared for the possibility of sunburn.
- Asphalt can quickly reach unsafe temperatures once the sun starts shining, especially if it is darker in color. Prolonged exposure can result in burns to the skin which is painful and difficult to treat. Avoid walking your dog in the middle of the day or on surfaces that get very hot – try walking in the grass or on dirt paths if you must go out in the afternoon.
- Since it is warmer outside, you may be taking walks in more scenic locations – watch out for plants with thorns, stickers or other plant defense mechanisms that could injure the skin.
- Ask your veterinarian about safe sunscreens for your dog that can be applied to vulnerable areas like the nose, ears and belly. Just like fair-skinned humans, white- or light-colored, thinly furred dogs can develop sunburns in sensitive areas.
Use Regular Parasite Prevention
Veterinarians recommend year-round parasite prevention, but no time is more important to remember to use it than the summer. Put a sticker on your calendar or a reminder in your phone for the same day each month so you don’t forget to protect your dog against common parasitic infections.
- Hookworms, roundworms and whipworms eggs are found in soil and are spread through fecal material that isn’t properly removed. Make sure you are cleaning up after your dog and that you are using a regular broad-spectrumdeworming product if you are visiting areas with many other canines like dog parks or doggie daycare.
- Fleas love it when the temperature is between 70 – 85 degrees fahrenheit. They can cause serious problems with your dogs skin such as infection and intense itching. If your dog ingests fleas while biting at them, they can also get tapeworms. Fleas that get into the home can be difficult to remove, and put indoor-only pets at risk for infestation, too.
- If you will be taking your dog into wooded areas, make sure your dog is adequately protected against ticks. A topical or oral tick preventive is only one step to take in keeping your pet from contracting tick-borne infections like Lyme or Ehrlichiosis. Make sure you check your dog’s coat thoroughly, especially the paw pads, ears and armpits after spending time in tick-prone areas.
- Most importantly, remember to give your dog her heartworm preventive. Mosquitoes are extremely active during the summer and easily transmit this blood parasite to your dog. Don’t let her be unprotected against this potentially fatal infection.
As always, use common sense when venturing out during the summer with your dog. Although these are some common risks of summertime activity, this is not an exhaustive list. If you have additional questions or concerns, your veterinarian is the best person to ask for advice.
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