We all look forward to spending summer with our dogs. Trips to the beach, long walks in woodland, and barbecues are all more fun with a canine companion.
Hotter temperatures can be dangerous for your pet though. Heatstroke and dehydration are the main concerns, but burnt paws, sunburn and even drowning are more likely during summer.
To keep your pet safe, here are five of the most common summer dangers for dogs.
1. Know the Signs of Heatstroke
Dogs struggle to cope with heat. They only have sweat glands on their paws and nose, and their coat is an excellent insulator. Unlike humans, they largely rely on panting to stay cool.
Heatstroke occurs when a dog’s body heats up faster than he can cool himself. It’s a serious condition that requires urgent veterinary treatment, so it’s vital to recognise the warning signs.
Some of the most common symptoms of heatstroke include:
- Heavy panting
- Excessive drooling
- Lack of energy
- Pale or red gums
- Loss of coordination
- Elevated heart rate
- Very red tongue
- Difficulty breathing
If heatstroke gets worse, it can lead to seizures, collapse, coma - and even death.
If you notice symptoms of heatstroke, remove your dog from the hot environment, provide water and call your vet. Don’t delay, as your dog may need cooling treatment, intravenous fluids, or other medical interventions.
Tip: All dogs can suffer from heatstroke, but it’s most common in brachycephalic breeds, such as pugs. Obese dogs are also more susceptible to overheating.
2. Avoid Over-Exercising in Hot Weather
Heatstroke can either be exertional or non-exertional.
Non-exertional heatstroke happens when a dog spends too much time in a hot environment. Warm rooms or gardens without shade are two common examples. You can reduce the risk by providing shade, a cool bed and plenty of water.
Exertional heatstroke, which is caused by exercise, is more common. The highest risk is during the first few weeks of summer, as it can take two months for a dog’s body to adjust to warmer temperatures.
Dogs still need plenty of exercise during the summer though. Try to walk during the morning or evenings, as the cooler weather is safer for your pet. Taking your pet on several shorter walks, rather than a single long one, can also reduce the risk.
Most importantly, don’t expect a dog to slow down when he starts to overheat. Many dogs will keep running right up until they are struck by heatstroke. It’s our responsibility as dog owners to ensure our pets exercise safely.
Tip: Indoor games can provide mental and physical stimulation when a dog can’t go outside. “Find the Treat,” tug-of-war and hide-and-seek are all great for entertaining your pet without exposing him to hot temperatures.
3. Beware of Hot Surfaces
Sand, concrete and asphalt become extremely hot in direct sunlight. While dogs have tough paw pads, they can’t cope with sun-baked pavements.
For this reason, try to avoid pavements during the summer. If this isn’t possible, dog boots can protect your pet’s feet - although they may increase the chance of overheating.
If you’re not sure whether pavement is safe for your dog’s paws, try touching it with your hand (carefully!) If it feels too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your pet.
4. Provide Plenty of Fresh Water
Aside from panting, drinking water is the most important way for a dog to stay cool. Dogs also need to drink more water during hot weather to stay hydrated.
It’s a good idea to have a bowl of water in each room. It’s easy to accidentally shut your dog in a room or outside in the garden, so make sure he always has access to drinking water.
If your dog is reluctant to drink, a water fountain could help. Some dogs prefer moving water, as it remains cool and fresh.
A paddling pool can also keep your pet cool - but make sure it’s not too deep for dogs with short legs.
5. Be Extra Careful Around Water
Swimming is a brilliant way for your dog to stay cool - but it has its own dangers.
Not all dogs are natural swimmers. If you plan to spend time on a boat, by a pool or at the beach, it’s important to keep your pet safe.
Every dog should wear a life jacket near water. Even if your pet is a strong swimmer, he could still get tired or taken by a strong current. A life jacket is just as important for swimming pools as it is for open water.
If you have a pool, make sure your dog knows how to safely get out. A pet ladder or stairs could be a lifesaver in an emergency. When you’re not supervising, keep your dog away from the pool with a tall fence.
At the beach, make sure your dog doesn’t drink saltwater. Too much can cause sickness and dehydration, so bring a bottle of fresh water with you.
…And Never Leave Your Dog in a Car
Most dog owners know that a hot car is dangerous for a dog. But many still don’t realise how quickly a car heats up.
Car interiors are essentially mini-greenhouses. Sunlight passes through windows, before being absorbed by seats, dashboard and other surfaces. When the light is reflected or re-emitted due to heat, it’s at a wavelength that can’t pass through the glass, so it’s reflected back into the car. This is why interiors can rapidly get hot.
In fact, a car interior can reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in less than 10 minutes when the outside temperature is 85 degrees. Leaving the windows open makes very little difference.
The bottom line is that a car can become deadly in less than ten minutes. For this reason, never leave your dog inside a car - even for a short time.
Summer can be a wonderful season for spending time with your dog. The days are longer, walks are more pleasant, and your pet can play outdoors more often.It’s important to be aware of the dangers though. Hot temperatures increase the chance of heatstroke, so try to walk your dog during cooler parts of the day. You should also avoid hot asphalt, provide plenty of water, and make sure your pet always has a cool place to rest.