Swimming, boating, camping, taking long walks in the woods – summer invites us to do a variety of activities with our companion animals until the weather turns broiling hot. Whatever fun we have planned with our pets, here are safety tips for summer fun to make sure your dog is not endangered by the risks these activities pose.
Almost all dog owners know some basic dangers. We all know that pets should never be left unattended in a car regardless of whether the air conditioner is on or not. We also know to check for ticks after a stroll through tall grass, to keep canines away from encounters with wild animals that could be rabid or do damage with teeth and claws. But when we’re having fun in what seems like a safe, peaceful environment, we still have to keep hazards in mind.
Outdoor Walks and Runs in Summer Heat
Here in the Southeast, temperatures can rise quickly, even during morning hours. Dogs can’t expel excessive heat as easily as humans. They have to pant and sweat through paw pads to cool down. That’s especially problematic for brachycephalic breeds, who have a short, flattened face that contributes to breathing problems. These include boxers, pugs, Cavalier King Charles spaniels and especially French bulldogs, who recently surpassed Labrador retrievers as America’s most popular dogs.
These breeds can overheat quickly and suffer from heat stroke, a common and life-threatening condition. (Of course, any dog locked in a hot car may succumb to heat stroke.) Submerging pets in ice-cold water can be dangerous, because they need to cool down in a controlled manner.
Vets often see paw pad injuries when pets walk on hot pavement. If you can’t stand comfortably on pavement without your shoes, it’s too hot for a dog. If your pet enjoys a daily outdoor run or walk as part of a normal routine, try to limit exposure to early morning or dusk, when heat won’t be so intense. When considering safety tips for summer, sometimes what’s best for you is also best for your dog.
Summer Camping and Hiking with Dogs
Both you and your canine companion can enjoy a trip to the cool woods. Even there, though, temperatures in the shade may be deceptively high and induce heat stroke. Pets who traverse rough terrain may end up with broken toenails or painful lacerations to paw pads.
Curious canines encounter snakes, skunks, coyotes or even bears and want to investigate these creatures. Such meetings may result in trauma, injury, infection from poison or just an unbearable stench. (Skunks don’t take to dogs.) These conditions usually arise when access to veterinary care is limited, or you have to carry a pet back to the car for transport to the nearest veterinary facility.
The best way to keep a pet safe is to keep him on a leash, especially in wilderness areas. Travel with an action plan: Know where to find the closest veterinary emergency room, carry a basic pet first aid kit useful for wrapping wounds and keeping them clean, and take your dog out of danger as soon as possible. (If you have a cat who likes to hike with you, do the same things but be sure to film her for YouTube, where she’ll get a million hits.)
Summertime Water Activities
Most dogs enjoy swimming in the ocean, a lake or even a pool. We expect dogs to be capable swimmers, but that’s not always the case. The physiques of brachycephalic breeds make them relatively poor swimmers, and owners must be vigilant in case a pet falls into a pool while running near the edge.
The same thing can happen on a boat, where the dog will have a hard time pulling itself back aboard once it tumbles into the water. Consider investing in a good PFD (personal flotation device) specifically designed for your dog’s size and breed.
Taking in salt water, large volumes of fresh water or sand can endanger your pet’s digestive system and electrolyte balances. Always provide fresh water for your pet to drink and try to discourage him from ingesting water from pools, lakes and oceans. There’s no reason you can’t have fun with your dog outdoors this summer, if you’re careful – because he won’t be!
We hope these safety tips for summer activities with your dog were helpful.
CARE is the animal version of a medical center for humans. It offers every type of treatment for pets: Emergency care 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, plus board-certified specialty care, once you get a referral from your primary veterinarian. You can take a visual tour of the practice at carecharlotte.com/tour.