As the temperatures begin to rise and the flip-flops get dusted off, we humans aren’t the only ones itching to get outside! It’s a pretty sure bet your canine friend is also ready for days spent lounging in the sun and exploring new trails. Before you slap on your sunnies and don the hiking boots, take some time to familiarize yourself with the common dangers outdoor fun can bring for your pup. We have put together a few outdoor tips for dog owners, including snake bites, ticks, and overheating.
The most common danger for dogs in warm weather is overheating.
The good news is: heat stroke is one hundred percent preventable if you stay alert to your dog’s behavior and the weather conditions. If it’s more than 80 degrees Fahrenheit outside, your pup could become overheated. Be sure to pay attention to humidity as well as the ambient temperature. According to the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, “Animals pant to evaporate moisture from their lungs, which takes heat away from their body. If the humidity is too high, they’re unable to cool themselves.”
Know the signs of heatstroke, and keep in mind short-faced dogs (like pugs and bulldogs) are more susceptible to it because they can’t pant as efficiently.
Signs of Overheating:
- Heavy panting
- Excessive drooling
- Balance problems
- Bright red gums
If you see any of these symptoms in your pup, offer him water and try to get him inside to a cooler place. If that’s not an option, find some shade, offer plenty of water, and rest for at least 20 minutes. If there’s an air-conditioned space, a cool tile or concrete floor, that’s even better. After resting in a cool area for 20, if he’s still panting excessively and not acting like himself, it may be time to seek out a vet.
Advanced Stages of Overheating:
- Labored and noisy breathing
- White gums
If you notice these symptoms, you need to cool down your pup immediately and get them to a veterinarian. A dog’s body temperature should not go over 104 degrees Fahrenheit (as taken in the rectum). The best way to cool down your dog when he’s overheating is to get his paws and belly wet with cool – but not iced – water. Using icy water causes the pores to close and could make things worse by inducing shock. You can also invest in a cooling mat, vest, or bandana if you live in a warm climate and your dog has difficulty managing his body temperature.
Generally Speaking of Summer Fun
One way to ensure you and your pup have plenty of summer fun without overheating is water play.
It may seem like a no-brainer, but even setting up a simple sprinkler for your doggo to prance around in could be a world of exciting, cool fun for him. Kiddie pools are another great way to get in those outside hours and stay cool on a hot day. Be sure to opt for the plastic sort so Fido’s nails can’t puncture it and deflate the summer vibes.
If you plan on spending a lot of time outside, be sure to lather up your pup!
That’s right, our canine friends need sunscreen too! Just be sure you don’t use the Banana Boat on him – dogs need a special canine-friendly formula. You can ask your vet for their recommendations on puppy sunscreen. Apply it to areas where there isn’t much fur like his nose, belly, and ears.
Speaking of fur, as tempting as it is to give Fido a buzz-cut in the summer, you should think again.
Dogs’ fur is engineered to keep them warm in winter and keep them cool in the summer and regulate their body heat! It’s okay to give them a shorter cut or a trim, but shaving it all off would do more harm than good.
Perhaps one of the best things* you can do for your pup in the summer is to give him frozen pup treats!
Frozen chunks of banana, strawberries, and blueberries are a simple and tasty summertime treat. But if you want to get a little fancier (and a lot more puppy-love), you could whip up some of these ideas from the American Kennel Club.
*According to your pup, who has compensated me for including this tip in the blog.
Who's Got the Map?
Are you the type that likes to get out and go in the summertime? As you and your pup prepare to take off this summer, here are some tips to keep everyone safe.
Driving somewhere? Whether you’ve got an errand to run (for those pupsicle ingredients) or you’re taking a road trip, rule number one: Never leave your dog in the car. Even if the windows are down. Even if it’s just for a minute. Just. Don’t. Do it. Even on a mild, 70* (F) day, the inside of a car can reach 100* F in just 20 minutes. The surfaces inside the car can get even hotter, even if the windows are cracked. In fact, more than half of the states in the US have laws regarding animals being left in cars. These laws range from it being illegal to do so to protection from lawful action against someone smashing your window to save the animal from being locked in the car. If you can’t take Fido out of the car with you when you drive somewhere, then just leave him at home.
Prefer to walk? Remember, not only is the air hot but so is the ground. When the air temp is 92* F, that sidewalk could be inching close to 120*F – and that’s HOT! A good rule of thumb is to place the back of your hand on the sidewalk/asphalt for 10 seconds. If you can’t handle the heat, your dog’s paws can’t either. If you live in a hot climate, this might mean that you need to adjust your schedule to walk first thing in the morning before the surfaces can heat up or in the evening once they’ve cooled back down. If that’s not a possibility, you may want to see if your canine friend will tolerate wearing protective booties so you can both enjoy the walk without getting burned.
Would you rather be chasing waterfalls?
Hiking and being in nature with man’s best friend can be such a fun adventure- for both of you! Just be sure to follow these tips for a safe and satisfying trek!
- Check with the vet first! Make sure Fido is physically ready for a hike. It’s also a good idea if he’s got some obedience training and trail etiquette training under his belt… erm… collar.
- Start small. Don’t hike the Appalachian Trail as your first big adventure… start with shorter, less technical hikes until your canine companion gets his footing and builds up his stamina for the trail.
- Be mindful of the terrain you’ll be hiking. If it’s especially rocky and your pup hasn’t done a lot of hiking, you may consider getting him some booties to protect his paws. Alternately, you can work on callousing his feet by taking short jaunts on similar terrain leading up to hiking day.
- Pack a first aid kit with supplies for Fido too! Booties for feet, a cooling towel, fresh water with a water bowl, and treats to refuel are all great supplies to have.
- Know your stuff as the pet owner! Remember the acronym BARK, created by the National Parks Service, to have the best experience on the trails!
B – Bag your pet waste (no one wants to step on that)
A – Always leash (with a harness for safety!)
R – Respect wildlife (stay on the trail unless you’re letting other’s pass)
K – Know where you can go (dogs aren’t always allowed on trails, make sure you know the rules!)
- Keep an eye out for thorns, burrs, foxtails, and poisonous plants (poison oak/ivy/sumac and nettles, to name a few). Running into these unfriendly greens will surely de-rail your hike.
Snakes are probably the most common wildlife hazard while out in nature with your furry friend.
The best way to prevent a snake bite is by keeping your friend leashed, staying on the trail, and keeping your eyes peeled. If your pup does happen to get bit, the first thing you need to do is not panic. Next, remove the dog ASAP and take note of the snake’s appearance while you sneak away. Check the bite when it’s safe to do so, and rinse it with fresh water or saline. If it’s a non-venomous stake, there will be two sets of multiple u-shaped rows of tiny punctures. Venomous bites will look similar but will quickly swell, have redness, and possibly oozing. Don’t tie it off if it can make things worse. Get in to see the vet as soon as possible.
Even though your dog may be on prevention meds for parasites, it’s always good to thoroughly check for ticks and other parasites that may have latched on and remove them safely. If you find your waterfall or are hiking near any sort of water, be sure Fido doesn’t decide to drink it. Lots of bacteria can be present in freshwater, and you never know how it will affect your pup. Saltwater is also a no-no for hydrating. Also, be sure to put a PFD on Fido if he wants to go swimming in deep water, and never allow him to cross whitewater rapids.
There’s a reason someone coined the phrase “Summer Fun” – because it really can be a lot of fun! With all the extra sunshine and vitamin D flowing through our veins, it’s no wonder we all want to be outside more. Just remember these safety tips (and always bring plenty of clean water!) to makes sure your summer fun doesn’t turn into a summer flop!