6 dog safety tips for summer

Dog playing in lake with child Photo by Vitalii_Mamchuk/Shutterstock

There’s so much for your dog to love about summer at the cottage, from hiking to boating to swimming in the lake. But summer brings doggy dangers too, such as heatstroke and sunburn. It’s important to know what to watch for so you can keep your dog happy and healthy throughout the season. Here are six dog safety tips for summer:

Keep your dog cool

Dogs lack efficient ways to dissipate heat, so heatstroke is a risk in hot weather. Senior and overweight dogs are at even greater risk, as are short-faced dogs like pugs and bulldogs. Signs include fatigue, drooling, rapid breathing, and muscle tremors. To protect your dog from life-threatening overheating, provide plenty of shade or access to the indoors, especially in the middle of the day. You can also fill a kiddie pool, play fetch through the sprinkler, offer frozen treats, or let your dog lie on a cooling mat.

Protect your dog from the sun’s rays

Dogs can get sunburned just like people—especially hairless dogs and dogs with white coats, thin fur, or lightly pigmented skin. Body parts like the stomach, groin, or top of the nose are most at risk. Sunburns are painful and can lead to certain types of skin cancers, so exercise caution. Practice dog safety by keeping your pup out of the sun during the middle of the day, provide plenty of shade, and apply dog-safe sunscreen to exposed areas of skin or dress your dog in sun-protective clothing.

Watch your dog’s wag

If your dog has lost their wag and their tail is hanging limp, they might have swimmer’s tail/limber tail. Known by the medical name of Acute Caudal Myopathy, this tail sprain can be caused by prolonged swimming. When your dog swims, they use their tail to steer and balance, and they can easily overdo it. Most common in hunting breeds like Labrador retrievers and pointers, this painful condition requires plenty of rest for the overworked tail muscles. See your vet for anti-inflammatories and to rule out other issues like a tail fracture.

Provide plenty of fresh, clean water

Dogs get thirsty in hot summer weather, but they should only be drinking fresh, clean water. Stagnant water like puddles or ponds can contain bacteria and other harmful organisms, and any water that has been contaminated with feces can transmit the parasite Giardia. Always provide your dog with plenty of clean water and prevent them from drinking from lakes, ponds, or streams.

Avoid water contaminated with blue-green algae for dog safety

Some dogs will swim in anything, even swampy ponds and rivers. But if your dog ingests blue-green algae or grooms it from their coat, it can be fatal. Although not true algae, these stinky and toxic blooms of cyanobacteria look like blue, bright green, brown, or red scum floating on the surface of the water. However, they’re not always detectable, so exercise extreme caution with where you allow your dog to swim. If you suspect your dog has been exposed, rinse them with clean water and contact your vet immediately.

Examine your dog for parasites

Warmer weather means fleas and ticks are a greater risk to your dog. Both are annoying, but more importantly, can cause additional illnesses. Besides using a flea and tick preventative or repellent spray, it’s important for dog safety to check daily for parasites. Examine down to the skin and don’t forget to peek under your dog’s tail and around their groin, between their toes, and inside their ears. Remove a tick with fine-tipped tweezers or a tick removal tool.

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