Summer is a great time to be a dog owner. Make sure you know the everyday risks that warmer weather can pose to your pet.
Warm summer months offer the perfect opportunity to get out and about with your dog.
With no shortage of places to visit and people to see, there are lots of ways to give your dog the exercise and stimulation they need.
There are some everyday risks that arise in the summer months though, so don’t forget to be mindful of your dog’s needs. Keep reading to find out some of the things to look out for.
Heatstroke is one of the most common dog illnesses during warmer months, and happens when your dog is no longer able to regulate their temperature.
Symptoms include excessive panting and drooling, very red gums, vomiting or diarrhoea and weakness. If left unchecked, heatstroke can be fatal.
Most pet owners know not to leave their dog in a hot car, even with the window open, but there are other ways you can help prevent the onset of heatstroke
Keeping your dog well groomed, particularly breeds with very thick, long fur, will prevent them from becoming too hot in warm weather. Giving them access to plenty of fresh, clean water throughout the house, during walks and on long journeys will keep them hydrated and cool.
In hot weather, avoid walking your dog in the middle of the day when the sun is at its strongest. Instead, head out early in the morning or in the evening when the temperature has cooled.
If your dog prefers to be out in the garden, make sure they have plenty of shaded spots to sit in, away from direct sunlight. Letting your dog play around water sprinklers can also be a great way to keep them cool, while also providing stimulation.
Did you know that dogs’ paw pads are just as sensitive as human feet?
Scorching hot pavements, asphalt and artificial grass can burn their paws and cause severe pain, even on short walks. If it’s a pleasant, breezy day, the temperature of asphalt and tarmac can skyrocket to 52°C when the sun’s at its highest.
Walking your dog early in the morning or in the evening when the ground has cooled down will protect their paws. If you’re not sure if it’s too hot, place the back of your hand on the ground for seven seconds. If you struggle to hold it down, it’s too hot to walk your dog.
Most dogs love nothing better than diving into a refreshing lake or river on a long walk. While swimming provides a great way to cool off and an opportunity to exercise, stagnant water is at higher risk of fatal blue-green algae during the summer.
Make sure to look out for bacterial ‘blooms’ on the water’s surface (clumps of greenish-brown flakes or scum with a pea soup consistency) and keep your dog well away from water you think may be contaminated. Exposure to blue-green algae is often fatal and can cause long-term health problems even if they survive.
Don’t forget that blue-green algae can also thrive in garden ponds and plant pots.
Learn more about blue-green algae.
The great British barbeque is synonymous with summer, but it’s important to be mindful of the hazards it can create for your dog.
Keep charcoal and gas canisters well out of paw’s reach, and don’t let your dog to come too close to the hot barbeque itself; charcoal barbeques can spit unexpectedly.
The abundance of food around – particularly barbequed meat – will be irresistible to most dogs, but cooked and uncooked fat trimmings can cause pancreatitis. It may also be tempting to give your dog a bone to gnaw on, but they can splinter and become lodged in your pet’s mouth. Don’t forget that onions are highly toxic to dogs too.
With all this in mind, let your friends and family know not to feed their leftovers to the dog. Instead, having a few healthy dog treats nearby will let you include them in the festivities without the risk.
Keen gardeners will take advantage of warm weather to tend to their outside space, but if you're tackling some of the bigger jobs, such as mowing the lawn or trimming hedges, it’s a good idea to keep your dog inside.
It’s worth remembering that common garden tools, including lawnmowers, strimmers, secateurs, loppers and chainsaws, are extremely dangerous and should never be used around dogs. In fact, the loud noises that garden machinery creates can cause stress in many pets.
Pesticides, fertilisers, weed killer and slug pellets can also be highly toxic, so it’s essential to keep your dog from exploring areas of the garden that need them.
You may want to build a barrier around your allotment or vegetable patch to ensure they don’t run into trouble. Your compost heap will be full of bacteria that can be dangerous for dogs, so make sure it’s properly fenced off to keep them safe.
Bites and stings
Bees and wasps
Bees and wasps are essential for pollinating our natural environment. But while we’re aware of the risk of being stung, dogs aren’t. Your dog may get stung at some point, particularly as these flying insects can be a source of curiosity and entertainment.
Most of the time, a sting will cause only minor pain and irritation. If this is the case, you may not need to visit your vet. Don’t try to pick out the sting with tweezers, as this can squeeze more venom out. Instead, use a rigid piece of card to gently scrape the stinger away. Wrap an ice pack in a towel and apply to the area to reduce swelling and ease the pain.
However, if your pet is stung several times inside the mouth or throat it can be serious and requires a trip to your vet. Your dog may also have a severe allergic reaction to the chemicals in the sting.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction include:
- general weakness
- difficulty breathing
- excessive swelling
If your dog is having an allergic reaction, contact your local vet immediately, as the swelling can block the airway.
Poisonous adder snakes are native to the UK are can often be found in woodland, heathland and moor environments during the summer. They can be easily distinguished by the zig-zag pattern on their back and ‘v’ or ‘x’ shaped markings on their head.
While it’s relatively uncommon for dogs to get bitten by adders, it’s important to be cautious, especially when in known adder territory.
Symptoms of a bite develop within two hours and can include swelling, bleeding and lameness; they can sometimes also lead to lethargy, fever, excessive drooling and sickness. If you suspect your pet has been bitten by a snake, contact your nearest vet immediately. Most pets make a full recovery from adder bites.
Ticks become more prevalent between May and October and are most likely found in grassy, wooded areas. It’s important to thoroughly check your do for ticks after walks in such environments as they can sometimes pass on Lyme Disease.
If you spot a tick, don’t be tempted to remove it with tweezers; ticks latch on tightly and you can end up removing its body but leaving part of the mouth, causing irritation and infection. Instead, ask your vet for a specialist tick remover. If a tick is removed within 24 hours, infection can be prevented.
To protect your dog, use an effective parasite treatment that kills ticks within two days. These come in many forms, and your vet will be able to prescribe you with a treatment that’s best suited to your pet.
Beach days and coastal walks
A trip to the coast can be particularly fun for the dogs in that family. Whether you’re going for a hike along the coast or a relaxing day at the seaside, remember these tips for keeping your dog safe.
Always keep your dog on a lead when walking along coastal cliffs and give yourself plenty of space away from the edge; even the most agile dog can trip up on rocky surfaces.
When on the beach, don’t let your dog go too far out when paddling in the sea as the tide can turn easily. Always keep an eye on them whenever they’re playing around water. The high salt content of seawater can also cause problems for your dog’s stomach, so make sure to bring plenty of fresh water with you to prevent them from drinking from the sea.
Rock pools provide a great opportunity to explore, but look out for sea urchins and jellyfish that can give a nasty sting if your dog gets too close. Symptoms of a sting include vomiting, swelling, excessive licking and difficulty breathing. If you suspect your dog has been stung, contact your nearest vet straight away.
Many British coastlines are a haven for our native wildlife, including endangered seabirds like puffins. Prevent your dog from getting too close and disrupting their habitat and be mindful of picking up after your dog in all situations.
Just like humans, dogs can suffer from sunburn if they’re not properly protected.
Breeds with short or white hair with pink ears are most at risk, so you need to be extra careful to shield them from the sun’s rays.
Applying dog-friendly sun cream to the sensitive areas of the body (nose, lips, tips of the ears and belly), and keeping them out of the sun during the hottest part of the day is essential.
For more advice about keeping your dog safe this summer, speak to your local Medivet practice.
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