The warm, sunny summer months may seem like the ideal time for you to be out and about with your dog. But hot weather can be uncomfortable for dogs and even dangerous for their health.
Take these steps to keep your dog safe in the summertime:
Exercise safely. If it’s hot out for you, it’s even hotter for your dogs. On hot or humid days, opt for shorter, less-intense walks, runs, or games of fetch. Try to take them out in early morning or late evening to avoid direct sun.
Dogs with white ears are at higher risk of sunburn and even skin cancer from too much sun exposure. Apply pet-safe sunscreen to your dog’s ears, nose, and coat before heading out.
Short-nosed or flat-faced dogs like boxers and pugs are more likely to have trouble breathing and get overheated in the summer. Avoid taking them outside when it’s hot. When you do, take frequent breaks, and always carry water.
Avoid asphalt. Walking on hot asphalt can overheat dogs since they’re close to the ground. Asphalt can also burn their paw pads. To check whether asphalt is too hot for them to walk on, lay the back of your hand on it for 10 seconds. If it feels too hot for you, it’s too hot for your pet. Walk on the grass instead.
Provide shade and water. When your dogs spend time outside, they need access to shade. Trees or tarps work well, as they allow for free air flow. But avoid outdoor doghouses, which can trap heat. Make sure they have plenty of fresh water whenever they’re outside. You can add ice cubes to keep it cool.
Visit the vet. Because they’re more likely to come into contact with other animals when they’re outside, vaccinations are especially important in the warm months. Summer also brings out bugs of all kinds. So make sure your pet is current on their shots. And ask your vet about the best ways to keep your dog safe from fleas and ticks, as well as mosquitoes that can carry heartworm.
Don’t leave your dog in a car. Cars can quickly get hot inside, even when the weather isn’t very sunny. Never leave a dog in the car, even if the windows are rolled down or you’re parked in the shade. Your pet may get overheated, which could lead to heatstroke. It’s illegal to leave a dog in a parked car in some states. Leaving the air conditioner on with your pet inside is risky, too. Your pet could knock the car out of gear, or the engine could cut off.
Practice water safety. Not all dogs are good swimmers. Don’t leave them unsupervised at the pool or lake. If you’re on a boat, put a floatation device on your dog in case they fall into deep water. Don’t let them drink chlorinated pool water or salt water, which can make them sick. Rinse your dog off at the end of the day to remove chlorine or salt from their fur.
Keep unscreened windows closed. Open windows let in welcome fresh air. But a fall from a window can be fatal for your dog. Keep unscreened windows and doors shut. If you have screens, make sure they’re tightly secured.
Don’t shave your dog. You can trim your dog’s long fur or give them a haircut, but don’t shave them completely. Dogs’ coats help insulate them from heat and protect them from sunburns.
Avoid fireworks. If you’re heading to celebrations that include fireworks, leave your pets at home. Lit fireworks can burn dogs. And loud noises can frighten and disorient them, making them more likely to run away. If your dog fears fireworks, keep them home and inside. Put them in a safe area, away from windows. Turn on the TV, radio, or a white noise machine to drown out the noise. Be careful the next day, too. The chemicals in unused fireworks can harm dogs, so make sure they can’t get to them.
Store garden chemicals safely. Rat poison, insecticides, and other garden chemicals can harm dogs who eat them. Keep such chemicals tightly closed and out of reach of your curious pet. When you walk your dog, avoid grass that’s been recently sprayed with chemicals. Call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 if you think your dog has been in contact with something poisonous. The Poison Control Center is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Keep certain foods and drinks away from your dog. When you host summer parties, keep a close eye on your dog. Alcoholic drinks and some human foods, like chocolate, onions, raisins, and grapes, can harm dogs. They can lead to intoxication, diarrhea and other stomach issues, or even a coma. Secure your trash can and keep unsafe foods and drinks out of reach.
Warning Signs of Dehydration and Heatstroke in Dogs
Dogs are more likely to get dehydrated in the summer months. This means they lose more water, through panting, peeing, and evaporation through their paws, than they take in. While a bowl of cool water can help your dog rehydrate, they may need medical attention in some cases.
Stay alert for warning signs of dehydration such as:
- Dry gums and nose
- Thick saliva
- Sunken eyes
- Loss of elasticity in the skin
You can give your dog an electrolyte-infused water solution to help them hydrate. If they still seem dehydrated, they may need to get fluids from a vet.
If your dog is exposed to heat for too long, they’re risk for a heatstroke. They need immediate cooling down and may also need medical attention.
Symptoms of the early stages of heatstroke include:
- Heavy panting
- Fast breathing
- Lots of drooling
- Bright red gums and tongue
- Trouble with balance
Symptoms of more advanced heatstroke are:
- White or blue gums
- Sluggishness or can’t move
- Uncontrollable peeing or pooping
- Labored, noisy breathing
If you notice early signs of heatstroke, take your dog inside with air conditioning or to a cool, shaded area. Your dog’s temperature should never go above 104 degrees F. Spray water on your dog and fan them until their body temperature comes below 102 degrees F. Give them small amounts of water or ice cubes.
If you can’t cool them down or you notice signs of advanced heatstroke, get to a vet right away. Your dog may need fluids, oxygen, and medication.