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Summer Safety Tips for Dogs

Dogs and hot weather may seem like a match made in heaven in pet commercials, but the scary truth is there are many dangers lurking for dogs in summer.

All day hikes with your steadfast companion can lead to overheating and heatstroke. A quick run to the bathroom while your dog is at the pool can result in a drowning. Too many days at the beach without shade can end up as skin cancer in a few years.

Taking care of your dog during the summer months requires knowing the dangers. And how to avoid them. To help you through the hot summer months without incident, we've compiled a list of summer safety tips for dogs that will keep your pup protected against heatstroke, sunburn, drowning, and more.


Summer Safety for Dogs: Keeping Cool

Overheating is the top summer danger for pets. It doesn't take a lot to bring a dog to the point of heat exhaustion and heatstroke. And if that happens, your pup has a 50/50 chance of survival.

Depending on where you live, outside temperatures can soar to well over 90 degrees between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. during the summer months.

If you follow only one summer safety tip for dogs, let it be this: Keep your dog indoors during the day.

That means no mid-morning walk, no lunchtime game of fetch. Save all of that for the cooler times of day.

If you have to be out during the day, let's say for a day at the beach or a hike in the woods, you'll need to bring plenty of water, provide shade whenever possible, and, if you're being active, plenty of breaks so your dog has time to cool down.


Summer Safety for Dogs: Paw Protection

Blacktop surfaces get HOT during the daylight hours in the summer. That's why we bring flip flops to the beach, right? So, we can get back and forth to the car without burning our feet.

Our dog's paws are just as sensitive and can burn just as easily as our feet when exposed to hot surfaces.

And it's not just asphalt that heats up. Even concrete sidewalks can burn our dogs' paws.

Studies have shown that on an 80-degree day, concrete sidewalks will reach 95 degrees during the day, and asphalt driveways and roads can reach 115 degrees. Your dog's paws will burn at those temperatures if exposed for too long.

Here's a quick method for determining if the sidewalk or street is too hot for your dog: Place your hand, palm down on the surface you're testing and try to hold it there for seven minutes. If you can't do it without burning your hand, it's too hot for your dog!

That means all walks and runs should be done during the cooler hours of the day. Keep in mind, the asphalt may remain hot even after the sun goes down. If possible, try keeping to grass surfaces for as much of your walk as you can.

Alternatively, look for dog paw protectors to add to your pup's summer wardrobe. These can protect the sensitive skin on the bottom of your dog's paws from the sun's burning heat.

But remember, you're not only protecting your dog's paws by avoiding walks during the height of a summer day.  Especially, for owners of small dogs, your dog's body temperature can rise pretty quickly just by absorbing the heat coming off of hot asphalt. Always keep cool water with you on your walks and don't let your small dog spend too much time on hot pavement on hot days even with booties on.


Summer Safety for Dogs: Avoiding Sunburn

No list of summer safety tips for dogs would be complete without a warning about sunburn.

Though some dog breeds are more prone to sunburn, like the Mexican hairless dog, Dalmatians, and Pit Bulls, all dogs can get sunburned on areas that have minimal fur – like the tips of the ears and nose, lips and belly.

As with humans, sunburns are painful for your dog. And they can also lead to skin cancer over time.

The best way to prevent doggy sunburn is keeping your dog indoors from about 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., when the sun is at its hottest.

If you do plan on being out with your dog in full sunlight, consider bringing along dog-safe sunscreen (not human sunscreen). For dogs with short, light fur you might also want to add a t-shirt to their summer wardrobe though this will not protect areas like their ears, nose, and lips.

And, after a day in the sun, check your pup for signs of sunburn. Look for skin that appears red, dry, and cracked. In more severe cases, your dog may have blisters on his skin.

Depending on how severe the sunburn is, you may need to take your dog to the vet for treatment, particularly if the skin is broken or blistered.


Summer Safety for Dogs: Car Safety

Never leave your dog in the car. It should go without saying, but every year hundreds of dogs die from heat exhaustion as a result of being left in a parked car.

It takes only 10 minutes for the inside of a car to reach 104 degrees on an 85-degree day… 119 degrees in a half an hour. Parking in a shady spot doesn't help. Neither does leaving the window open.

Imagine being stuck inside a car that's 120 degrees? At least, you'd be able to sweat some of that excess heat out. Your dog can't do that. And with each minute that passed, your dog's internal temperature would climb, and her heart and respiratory rate would increase.

On an 85-degree day, it can take less than an hour for your dog to die. And less than 20 minutes for your dog to have heatstroke, which isn't much better news.

According to Iowa Veterinary Specialties, an emergency hospital, "the prognosis for dogs diagnosed with heat stroke is guarded to poor. Death generally occurs within the first 24 hours… One study found an overall mortality rate of 50%."

If you need to be out and about running errands on a hot summer day, leave your pup at home or bring someone along to stay in your running, air-conditioned car.


Signs of Heatstroke

As mentioned above, overheating is a top danger for dogs in summer as it can lead to heatstroke and death. This can be the result of overdoing it while playing outside or sitting in a parked car.

All dogs are at risk for heatstroke on a hot summer day, but some dogs are more susceptible including puppies, geriatric and overweight dogs, and breeds with flat faces like Boxers, Pugs, and Shih Tzus.

If you see that your dog has any of the following symptoms on a hot summer day, get him to the vet as quickly as possible.

  • Heavy panting or difficulty breathing
  • Glazed eyes
  • Excessive thirst, drooling and/or excessive salivation
  • Lethargy
  • Dizziness or lack of coordination
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Vomiting or bloody diarrhea
  • Dark red or purple tongue
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness


Summer Safety for Dogs: Pool Safety

You'd never leave a four-year-old alone at the pool, right?

Leaving your dog unsupervised is just as dangerous.

Not all dogs are good swimmers. In fact, some are downright bad. And while many of these dogs will avoid the water on their own, accidents can happen.

There are no official statistics, but according to PetInsurance.com, it's estimated that thousands of pets drown each year.

To keep your pup safe around the pool, ensure that you're aware of his swimming ability. If you know he's not a strong swimmer, make sure you've got a life vest on him whenever he's near the water. (This includes visits to other people's pools and beaches or rivers.)

You may also want to install a fence around your pool and even put in a pet-safe ladder so it's easier for your pup to get out if he accidentally falls in.

Keep in mind, pool covers are not protection. They look solid and many dogs end up drowning when they try to walk out onto them.

One last note about dogs and pool safety: Don't let your dog drink pool water. It usually contains chlorine and other chemicals and is not safe for her to drink. Always have fresh water on hand if you're spending time with your pup at the pool.


More Tips for Dog Care in Summer

Watch Out for Ticks/Fleas

Ticks and fleas can cause your dog issues throughout the year, but they're more of a problem in the summer when your dog spends more time outside.

Make sure you're checking your pup regularly for ticks if he's been outside rolling around in the grass and bushes. And don't forget your preventative medicine.

Not sure where to check for ticks on your furry BFF? Here are eight spots where ticks hide on dogs.


Stow Chemicals Out of Reach

It's easy to forget that so many of our most common summer activities can pose a threat to our pups, like caring for our lawns or keeping our pools clean.

One forgotten bag of lawn fertilizer can spell doom for your pup.

Always remember to put lawn fertilizer, insecticides, chlorine, and other similar chemicals away. And never leave your dog unattended with an open container of any of these.