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Summer Safety for Dogs

Updated: Jul 22, 2020

an adorable young brown and white dog looks back at the camera on the beach

Hazel, adopted in May, now living her best life in Portsmouth NH

This summer definitely feels a little...different. Some of our plans have been turned on their heads, but luckily, the great outdoors is never truly shut down. Summer fun is possible—and with pups in tow, every day can be an adventure. Unfortunately, many aspects of summer can pose a danger to our canine companions. Keep reading to find out common causes of injury or illness for dogs in the summertime.

Heatstroke or heat exhaustion

Once their body temperature rises, dogs can’t sweat through their skin like we do to cool off. Dogs do sweat through their paw pads, but primarily, dogs cool their bodies by panting. It works by evaporating moisture from the mouth and tongue and by exchanging the hot air of their lungs with cooler external air. So, how can you help your pup beat the heat?

  • If you’re near a body of water, your dog can cool down by going for a swim. Kiddie pools or sprinklers are also a great option at home!

  • Keep your dog out of the sun by offering shady spots under an umbrella or tent.

  • Make sure your dog stays hydrated by offering plenty of fresh water for them to drink.

  • NEVER leave your dog unattended in your vehicle. Cracking the windows is not enough; even on a warm (~72° F) day, the temperature in a car can exceed 120° F in a matter of minutes.

It’s important to note that brachycephalic breeds are at the highest risk of overheating. These breeds include:

  • Pugs

  • Bulldogs

  • Shih Tzus

  • Boston Terriers

  • Mastiffs

Brachycephalic dogs suffer from what’s known as brachycephalic airway syndrome (BAS), which makes their breathing inefficient. Since dogs with BAS are unable to cool themselves down adequately, these breeds are at a higher risk for heatstroke or heat exhaustion. With that in mind, take extra precautions to prevent overheating if your furry friend is a brachycephalic breed, especially in the summer months.

Salt water poisoning

Hold the salt! Many dogs tend to take a few laps of saltwater while they’re at the beach, but if they drink too much, their cells will release water to balance out the sodium disparity. Saltwater poisoning can cause diarrhea, vomiting, seizures, loss of brain cells, injury to the kidneys, and severe dehydration.

When a beach day is on the agenda, make sure your pup stays hydrated before, during, and after romping around in the sea. Bring a collapsible bowl or small container to pour fresh water in for them throughout the day.

What about swimming pools? According to the CDC, chlorinated water is safe for dogs to drink in concentrations up to 4 milligrams per liter, which means that dogs can tolerate the low levels of chlorine in swimming pools—just make a habit of having fresh water around for them to drink, and consider rinsing them off after they take a dip.

Water injuries or drowning

Buoyancy is key. If you’re taking your canine companion out on your boat (kayak, sailboat, or otherwise,) it’s imperative that they wear a life vest. Though many dogs are good swimmers, they may tire out or fall victim to the currents. Dogs are also at a higher risk of injury or drowning when they’re stressed or panicked; dogs may panic if the water gets rough, if they’re startled, or if they fall overboard.

There are many sizes and styles of canine life vests available, but our favorite style has a handle or strap along the back so you can quickly grab or hold onto your pup if need be.

Sunburn protection

Dogs get sunburned, too! Surprised? It seems strange, but dogs need SPF, too—especially in areas where their fur or hair is sparse or thin, like their bellies, ears, and joints. Dogs with white or light-colored coats are particularly susceptible. Also, breeds like Collies and Shetland Sheepdogs are genetically predisposed to a sun hypersensitivity called nasal solar dermatitis, or "collie nose”, which can lead to skin cancer without prevention and treatment.

Paw pads are also vulnerable to burns from hot pavement or sand, so be mindful on hot, sunny days before you leash your dog up for a walk.

Some tips for sunburn protection:

  • Try out sunscreen specially formulated for dogs that contain titanium oxide.

  • Pop a sun-blocking tee on your pup. They’ll look adorable and be safe from harmful UV rays!

  • Help your dog seek out shady spots, especially when the sun is strongest (10 AM–2 PM).

  • Check the pavement for heat before taking your dog on a walk. Place your hand or a bare foot on the surface for ~10 seconds. If it's too hot for you to keep your hand or foot on it, it's too hot for your pup's paws!

Sand impaction

Sand impaction occurs when dogs accidentally (or intentionally, since some dogs are weirdos!) swallow sand while digging or repeatedly picking up sandy toys, sticks, balls, etc. Signs of intestinal sand impaction can include vomiting, abdominal pain, and lethargy.

Prevention measures include leaving toys at home, only playing fetch in the water, or frequently rinsing them while at the beach. If your dog starts displaying symptoms of sand impaction, get them to a veterinarian immediately.

Parasite prevention

Buggies, be gone! Over the past two decades, ticks and the diseases they transmit have increased in number and intensity in North America. Even if you don’t live in an area where ticks come out in droves, it’s important to use a preventative either way.

Fleas and ticks aren’t the only bugs to watch out for. Internal parasites include worms, like roundworms, and single-celled parasites, like Giardia. Internal parasites love the summertime, as more dogs are out and about, drinking out of puddles and other stagnant water, eating fecal matter (we know, gross!), etc. Your best bet is a year-round, broad-spectrum parasite preventative with efficacy against heartworm, intestinal parasites, fleas, and ticks. Seasonal prevention is better than nothing, but consider keeping your dog(s) on preventatives all year long to keep them healthy and happy as can be.

Questions? Concerns?

Need more advice on keeping your furry friends safe this summer? Feel free to reach out to us with any questions or concerns!

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