Summer is rapidly approaching and after this weekend, I believe it may already be here! We reached 90 degrees Fahrenheit this weekend and it was quite miserable, personally. I don’t do well with the heat and I’m sure having fur would make it any worse.
Summer is so much fun to be a dog parent; there are so many activities to do with your dog and experiences to share. However, with that fun comes some responsibility. Higher temperatures mean higher risks of heatstroke, insect or animal bites, and other incidents. Today I will talk about how to keep your dog safe during the height of the summer during all of the fun festivities!
Outdoor Activity Safety
There are so many things you can do in the summer outdoors; hiking, biking, camping…you name it, your dog will be right there excited ready to go.
Before hitting the great outdoors, make sure you pack a few things for emergencies, and just general health.
First aid kits should always be at the top of the list. The internet is full of ideas on how to make small first aid kits that will conveniently fit in a backpack without taking up too much space. Some of the main things you should have in your first aid kit for your dog are:
-Benadryl (for insect bites)
-A list of your vet information and emergency contacts
-Strips of cloth or a muzzle to prevent biting during an emergency
The Humane Society, AVMA, and American Kennel Club have a more detailed list of all of the things you need. It is always great to be prepared for any mishaps that may happen on the trail.
Other things that you should consider packing are food and water bowls with fresh water, booties for hiking trails, a tie out stake or long lead, a crate or personal shelter just in case your dog needs to be kept away for any reason, and maybe a hiking pack for your dog to help carry things.
As I’ll cover shortly, its usually better to start walks or hikes in the early hours before the heat sets in. As the day goes on, make sure to take frequent water breaks and to rest in the shade. Dogs cannot sweat and therefore are at a higher risk of heatstroke.
If camping or staying somewhere rural, make sure you can keep your dog supervised or kept away if needed. You do not want an incident with coyotes or any other wild animals. If you are near farms, many farmers will shoot intrusive dogs and no one wants to face that either. Respect the laws at the place you are visiting!
Walking and Hiking Safety
Dogs go bananas for their daily walks…so a hike is like heaven on earth! The summer brings along many opportunities to take amazing walks and hikes in some unique places.
When considering a walking venture with your dog, remember how quickly the temperatures rise.
If you are just sticking with your daily walk, start at times right before the sun rises or later in the day when the sun is setting. This will provide cooler conditions and the pavement should be cooler as well. Dogs’ paw pads are extremely sensitive to heat and walking during the day can cause burns and/or tears.
Whatever temperature it is outside, the pavement is usually 20-30 degrees higher than that. Use the palm test before deciding to walk: if you lay your hand down on the pavement for a few seconds and you cannot keep it there for more than 5 seconds, you definitely should not walk your dog.
If you are planning a hiking adventure, those are usually much longer than your average walk. In this case you should pack extra safety precautions. Take plenty of water for yourself, and an equally large container of water for your dog. Along the hike, take frequent stops to rest in the shade when safe to do so and let your dog drink.
As I mentioned before, dogs cannot sweat to cool down like we do. They pant to regulate their body temperature but when it gets too high, it is very difficult to bring it back down and this is what causes heat stroke.
Some signs of heat stroke are:
-Bright red tongue
-Thick, sticky saliva
If you suspect your dog has heat stroke, immediately move them to shade or a cooler area. Start using a cloth to wet them down to help start bringing their temperature down. The water should be cool or for smaller dogs, lukewarm. Do not use ice water as this can throw your dog into shock from the two extremes in temperature.
Monitor their temperature every 5 minutes, trying to get their body temp to 103 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure it does not drop too quickly or any lower; once again, this can cause shock and organ failure. Once your dog’s temperature has gotten to that point, try giving them water or a child’s re-hydrating drink. Do not force them to drink it; they may choke.
At this point you should take your dog to the vet and let them take care of your dog. Time is of the essence for your pet; left too long and heatstroke can cause brain damage, other internal damage, or even worse, death.
My dog absolutely loves swimming; and when I say swimming, I mean biting at the water in a kiddie pool. She has yet to experience real swimming in a lake or other water body.
Most dogs cannot refuse an opportunity to have some fun in the water; this is what makes them such awesome boating and fishing buddies.
Before hitting the lake, the most obvious thing is to know if your dog can actually swim. Just like children, do not allow them to go deeper than what they can handle or they may drown. For dogs who possibly can’t swim as well, bring along a doggie lifevest. They usually have a handle across the dog’s back so you can lift them up if needed. You may want to consider booties as well if you will be in an area that is rocky.
Do not allow your dog to drink from stagnant water or mud puddles; summer is prime mosquito season and there are plenty of puddles full of their larvae. This can make your dog very sick or cause them to catch worms. Leptospirosis and giardia are also water-born illnesses that are zoonotic, meaning they can be passed to humans as well.
If your dog has a pool at home, make sure it is being regularly cleaned and dumped out when not in use. This will prevent mosquitos and other things from laying eggs in it.
Dog Boarding Safety
As a dog care professional, I could speak for awhile on this topic. I have covered it before, but just a reminder on how to be prepared to board your dog!
Sometimes your summer travels call you to far off lands that your dog can’t come along or a family emergency snatches you away last minute. This situation most likely will require your dog to be watched at home or boarded.
If you are choosing to have a pet sitter, make sure that you give plenty of time for your dog to meet the person. Start a few weeks in advance with having the candidate come to your house, maybe take your dog for a walk, and maybe even stay a few hours during the day with you somewhere on the property or only a short distance away.
Your dog should feel comfortable with this person and be able to establish trust. If not, you could have a big problem on your hands. A dog that does not trust may bite, act out, or run away. Your pet sitter should have experience and feel comfortable giving your dog commands and being the leader.
The timing is extremely important as you don’t want your dog to be frightened by a stranger coming into the house while you are away.
If you decide to board, choose somewhere that fits your expectations. Do you want your dog to be in a kennel or personal suite? Are you okay with them getting to do extra activities or are potty breaks sufficient? Do they require vaccines or other medical records?
There are many things to consider. Always check a boarding facility’s requirements before trying to make a reservation; it makes the process much easier and less stressful for everyone involved.
If you are going to be gone for a week or more, I highly suggest finding a facility that offers activities. It will help keep your pup’s anxiety down and still allow him to get exercise and have fun!
Before boarding, get your dog up to date on the required vaccines. Pack their favorite things that remind them of home; just like a kid headed to camp!
Don’t worry, it is hard to leave them but they really adjust well and enjoy the chance to visit with other dogs and be spoiled by the pushover kennel techs! 🙂
Summer is an exciting time for everyone. I love the chance to get outside and let my dog be a dog! What are your summer plans? I hope you get to have some fun, but remember to be safe!