Pool parties, festivals, hiking—summer is here. Those of us with dogs know that none of our summer activities would be complete without our four-legged pals. Below are a few scenarios with safety tips to help you and your dog make the most of this fun season.
Water Safety: Dogs love a refreshing swim in the pool or lake, especially when a game of fetch is involved. Remember dogs will get tired while swimming, just like a human, and they don’t always have the forethought to take a break. Alleviate your worries by investing in a canine life jacket for whenever your dog is participating in water activities. A strong handle is featured on most, so you can easily lift your dog from the water to safety.
Food Safety: A picnic with family and friends is full of delicious snacks—many of which are fed to our dogs as treats. Though fun to give, treats contain extra calories that put your dog at risk of obesity, a concerning condition in veterinary medicine. Additionally, foods safe for humans are hazardous for dogs. For example, onions and garlic are toxic to dogs though commonly found in salads or dips. Excessive salt or fat (such as in hot dogs or hamburger grease) spikes blood pressure and causes pancreatitis. Treating dogs is fun and supports the human-animal bond, so bring a cup of dog food to the party to use instead of human food.
Festival Safety: Be mindful of your dog’s stress level when perusing a festival. Hundreds of new people and dogs can be frightening. When your dog acts concerned (excessive panting, barking, whimpering, cowering, charging), take a break from the activity to prevent fear-biting and subdue anxiety. Additionally, when the sun is shining, asphalt and concrete constantly absorb energy and reach scalding temperatures. Even though your dog’s paw pads are covered with thick skin, excessive heat will still hurt and cause damage. Protect your dog’s feet by walking on grass and limiting time on pavement.
Car Safety: Don’t leave your dog in a car (even with the windows cracked open) unless the car and air conditioner are on. It is heartbreaking to imagine our best friends sweltering in a hot car, and heated cars can be fatal in as few as 10 minutes. When your dog is with you, opt for drive-throughs or save shopping trips for later.
Hiking Safety: When exercising on hot days, remember dogs can over-exert themselves and develop heat stroke just like humans. Heatstroke occurs when the body’s rising temperature overwhelms its cooling mechanism. For dogs this mechanism is panting, which uses the same principle as sweating: The evaporation of water from the body cools it. While evaporation cools, it also leads to dehydration if insufficient water is available or consumed to balance the losses. Evaluate how rapidly your dog is panting as your hike progresses. Be sure to take frequent breaks and offer ample fresh water throughout the hike. If you think your dog has heatstroke, get your dog into a cooler environment, such as a cold stream or air-conditioned car, then immediately bring your companion to the vet. Heatstroke can be life-threatening so know the signs.
Woods Safety: In the woods, your dog encounters plants, insects, and animals—some of which are harmful. You may not be able to make the woods safer for your dog, but there are steps you can take to defend your pet. Preventative medications against fleas, ticks, and heartworm (contracted from mosquito bites) are crucial to every pet's well-being, but especially those who explore outdoors. Ticks carry Lyme disease and many other infectious organisms which cause painful diseases. Mosquitoes can infect your dog with heartworm, a potentially fatal condition. You can get flea, tick, and heartworm preventatives from your veterinarian during your pet’s annual exam. Also during the exam, your vet will make sure your dog is up to date on vaccines, including rabies. Wildlife can carry the rabies virus and transmit it to your dog via a bite. If your dog chases wildlife, keep him or her on a leash while hiking to prevent any squabbles. Walking your dog leashed will also help protect him against accidental poison ivy or poison oak exposure. Keep an eye out for these irritating plants. With preventative measures, plus frequent water breaks, you and your dog will be unstoppable.