Safety Tips for the Dog Days of Summer

Loungin’ by the pool… running in the park… diving into the lake. Summer is the season most of us look forward to for outdoor activities, but dogs don’t do as well in hot weather as people do (this chocolate lab aside!). Sometimes it’s kinder to your dog, not to mention safer, to keep your dog at home (and even at home, there are summer safety tips to keep in mind)! But whatever you do and wherever you go, we’ve compiled the best tips to keep your dogs safe and happy this summer:

  • Never leave a pet unattended in a parked car. This warning is now (thankfully) as old-hat as wearing seatbelts to many pet owners, but vehicle temperatures can climb quicker than you’d think, even with the windows cracked. Studies show that the temperature inside cars can heat to lethal temperatures within 30 minutes even if the weather outside is relatively cool. Cars that start at a comfortable 72 degrees F, for example, soar to a deadly 117 degrees F after 60 minutes in the sun. Cracking the windows barely affects the temperature inside (especially if it’s hot outside). Nobody keeps statistics on dog deaths from being left in cars, but about 30 to 40 children die in parked cars each year. Considering that dogs aren’t allowed in most places children are, and that dogs overheat more quickly than children, it’s likely that hundreds of dogs die in closed cars every year.
  • Summer Itchies: stay up-to-date on vaccinations and preventative medications. Summer equals bugs.  Fleas thrive in hot weather and are a common reason for many dogs and cats to scratch. Even if your pet stays mainly indoors, fleas can be carried inside on your clothing.  Seasonal allergens like pollen and dust that lead to human allergy flare-ups also can cause allergies in our pets. Our dogs tend to get dirtier in the summer because they spend more time playing outside. Simply being dirty with foreign material embedded in their fur can lead to more mats which can trap dirt, heat, and moisture, leading to itchy skin and irritation. earthbath’s products are perfect for frequent use in the summertime – they are hypoallergenic, gentle and safe for sensitive skin! All of earthbath’s products are safe for use with conventional vet-prescribed flea remedies.

    • Tick removal: It is very easy for dogs and cats to acquire ticks in their coats. If you see a tick attached to your pet’s skin, grab the tick as close as you can to the skin using tweezers and gently remove the tick. Swab the area with alcohol once the tick is removed.  Don’t use “old-wives” methods like attempting to burn the tick off with a match, covering it with petroleum jelly, rubbing alcohol, or fingernail polish. These can all do more damage to your pet than the tick! And if you fear you haven’t fully removed the tick successfully, contact your veterinarian for help, as well as about ways to prevent tick infestations.
    • Bee Stings: Lots of dogs snap at annoying bees and flies that are buzzing around. Sometimes, this might result in a bee stinging your dog in the lip, resulting in some local swelling. If your dog allows you to put some ice on the swelling, the swelling and pain will likely go away. Sometimes, however, just as in certain sensitive humans, a bee sting may result in an allergic or anaphylactic reaction. Should your pet exhibit extreme swelling on his entire face, lips, and eyelids, you must call your veterinarian immediately as your dog may need an emergency trip to the animal hospital to save its life.
    • Mosquitoes aren’t just itchy pests. They can also spread heartworms to animals, which can be fatal. So stay up to date on testing for heartworm in your pets, and medicate as necessary.

  • Beware of toxic gardening products. Make sure you choose pet- and environmentally-friendly alternatives to toxic pesticides and other harsh chemicals to keep your lawn and garden beautiful while keeping your pet safe.
  • Don’t exercise your dog when it’s hot. Adjust your schedule to take advantage of the cooler temperatures in the early mornings and dusk or just after the sun sets. Though you may be able to tolerate the heat, your dog is much more vulnerable to the sudden onset of heatstroke than you are. Dogs overheat before people do, so when you may be feeling uncomfortably warm, your dog can become lethally overheated. On warm days, exercise your dog first thing in the morning, late at night, or only where he can cool off in water.  And beware of hot asphalt: Your dog isn’t wearing running shoes! Try to keep to park dirt paths and trails, or, at least, run or walk next to grass, where your dog can stride comfortably.
  • Recognize the signs of heatstroke: Hopefully you’ll never witness these symptoms, but heatstroke in dogs is characterized by rapid breathing, red gums, and thick, profuse saliva. It’s only a matter of time before your dog staggers and falls over, and now his life is in danger. Unfortunately, veterinarians see far too many dogs in this situation every year, many of which do actually lose their lives.
  • How to cool off a hot dog. Don’t plunge an overheated dog into ice water. This causes the peripheral blood vessels to contract, actually trapping the overheated blood at the body’s core — just where it does most harm. Instead, cool the dog slowly by placing him in cool water, or by draping him with wet towels and aiming a fan at him. Offer him plenty of cool water. If you have a thermometer, cool him until his temperature reaches 103 degrees F, then stop, as it will continue to decline. As soon as you have him cooling, race him to your veterinarian. Even if he appears to have recovered, he needs to go to the vet because some delayed but deadly effects from heatstroke can still occur even days later.

  • Keep people and other animals bite-free. Kids love dogs (and vice-versa), and both are around each other a lot in the summer, but be sure to supervise any interactions to prevent bites.  Ideally, your dogs should be properly trained and socialized to interact safely with other animals and people, and kids should be taught good pet manners.  If you are wary about your dog around other people, don’t let him or her out unsupervised, and make sure you tell others to stay away. Summer is the peak time for dog bites, so be alert!
  • Not all dogs handle heat in the same way. Obviously, dogs with a lot of thick fur like malamutes, huskies, chow chows, Bernese mountain dogs, Saint Bernards, etc. that were originally bred for working and living in much colder climates do not tolerate heat well at all. Dogs build up heat as a function of volume and lose it as a function of surface area. This means that larger dogs with rounder bodies have less surface area for their size, which means the heat builds up in their bodies faster. In addition, dogs lose heat through evaporation from their nasal passages and tongue. This means that dogs with flat faces lose heat much slower and inefficiently. As a rule, the bigger the dog and the flatter the face, the more prone they are to overheating. Overweight, large, and old dogs have an even greater risk of heatstroke.
  • Give your dog a chic summer haircut. Summer style is all about the “lion-cut,” for good reason. Fur provides some amount of protection from the sun, but thick fur prevents body heat from escaping and promotes overheating. Although shaving a dog’s fur to the skin can make him vulnerable to sunburn, cutting the fur down to about one inch can help him stay cool. If you don’t want to shave your dog, or trim his coat down, brush as much undercoat as you can out daily, and make sure there are no mats or tangles which  trap heat and moisture.  You’ll find out how hot your dog is by how he reacts to a blowing fan or the lawn sprinklers! earthbath’s spritzes are a nice cleansing and refreshing addition to a cooling summer regimen! It’s nice to have these around for his comfort, in addition to their primary purposes!
  • Provide for comfort at home. If you leave your dog in the yard when you go to work, provide for your dog’s comfort outside. Make sure he has a place to rest in that’s shady all day. Fill a kiddie pool with water so he can soak in it and cool off (like this happy guy):

    Make sure he has a deep water dish outside to drink from, and replace the water as often as you can. If possible, aim a fan at his favorite outdoor resting place (e.g., the covered patio or his dog bed on the porch) so he has a breeze. Don’t leave your dog confined in the garage! Garages are very hot and airless with toxic and stale fumes, and can be dangerous and inhumane to your dog. If you leave your dog indoors, be kind. You may want to conserve energy and not keep the A/C cooling the “vacant” house down to frosty levels, but regulate the A/C to cool it off to around 72-75 degrees, or at least keep a fan running. If you live in a climate that gets very hot, you may need to find a way to guard against electrical outages while you’re away. Some pets have actually died when the electricity, and thus the air conditioning, unexpectedly went off during the day.

  • Not all dogs have mastered the doggy-paddle: Although swimming is a great exercise in warm weather, don’t assume that your dog innately knows how to swim! Some breeds, particularly those with short legs, like Corgis, bulldogs, French bulldogs and Pekingese, have the swimming ability of bricks. And even breeds known for being good swimmers, like Labs, can drown in backyard pools if they don’t know where the steps are to climb out. And common sense says not to take your dog swimming anyplace dangerous, where the current is too swift, the boat traffic too busy, or where if something went wrong, you would both be in danger of drowning.
  • Ouch! Red is NOT a good color on your dog! Light-skinned dogs and white-haired dogs especially, are sensitive to sun exposure, and can in fact get sunburn and melanoma. White cats and cats with white ears and noses are very susceptible to sunburn so it is important to keep your cats and dogs inside more on very sunny days and to talk to your veterinarian about the occasional use of sunscreens.

For more, check out the recommendations from the Humane Society of United States for keeping pets safe this summer. If you keep these tips in mind this summer, you will find yourself rewarded by a very healthy, happy summer dog!