As the weather heats up, dog owners and their pets will be headed outside to the beaches and the mountains, to backyard bbqs and family camping trips. We want you and your pet to safely enjoy the “dog days of summer” for years to come, so here are a few common summertime health risks for dog owners to look out for.
- Heatstroke and dehydration
Just like people, dogs can quickly get sick from too much fun in the sun. Always make sure your dog has access to clean, cool water, as well as a shady place to cool down if they are outside. It’s important to know and watch for the signs of heat stroke and dehydration in dogs: lethargy, decreased urination, refusal to eat, vomiting, dry gums and nose, excessive panting, and disorientation or confusion. If your pet displays any of these symptoms after spending time in the heat, there are several immediate steps you should take. First, move him to a shaded area and cool him down using a hose or cool bath; always use cool water, as cold water can constrict the blood vessels and make overheating worse. You can also offer him small amounts of cool water to drink. Once your dog has cooled down, wrap him in dry towels or a blanket to keep him from getting cold, and bring him to your vet right away to have his temperature monitored.
- Ticks and mosquitos
All kinds of pests can plague your dog during the summer months, but ticks and mosquitos pose the biggest risks. Ticks spread a number of diseases in both animals and humans, while mosquitos are carriers for heartworm, which poses an especially big threat to puppies and dogs with lowered immune systems. The best way to prevent tick- and mosquito-borne illnesses in dogs is to regularly administer preventative tick and heartworm medication – either monthly topical ointments applied to your dog’s skin or monthly oral medications.
According to national statistics, more dogs go missing around the Fourth of July than at any other time of year. The culprit? Loud fireworks that can scare your pet and send him running for cover – often away from home. There are some things you can do to help keep your dog calm and safe during fireworks season. Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise earlier in the day, before dusk falls and the show begins. Provide a safe spot, like a crate or other small enclosed area for your dog to retreat to while the fireworks are booming. Double-check all escape routes – doors, windows, doggie doors, etc. – and make sure your dog is wearing a proper ID tag at all times.
This is one people often don’t think about – but dogs CAN get sunburned, too! Sunburns are common on dogs’ bellies, noses, and ears, and dogs with white or blonde coats or with thinner coats are particularly susceptible to painful burns. Your first line of defense is to keep your dog in the shade as much as possible. Sunscreen for your dog is also a good option, but make sure it is dog-friendly – zinc oxide, the major ingredient in most human sunscreens, is toxic to dogs. There are several options for pooch-friendly sun block out there, but the FDA has currently only approved one line of dog sunscreen. If your dog does get a sunburn, you’ll likely notice red skin that is tender to the touch; you may also notice your dog scratching or licking tender spots. An oatmeal bath in lukewarm water or a slathering of aloe vera gel can help relieve your dog’s discomfort, but if you suspect the burn is more severe, go to your vet.
- Popular summertime foods
Your dog probably loves all of the attention he receives at family bbqs, but too much “people food” can have some unpleasant side effects. Barbecue sauce and ice cream can both cause diarrhea, vomiting, and gastrointestinal pain in dogs; corn on the cob can also upset a dog’s stomach, as well as posing a choking hazard. Stone fruits such as peaches, nectarines, and plums can also be a choking hazard, as can kebabs and other foods on toothpicks or skewers. If you do want to give your dog a special summertime treat, try doggie ice cream – either a commercial variety or some natural plain yogurt mixed with bananas or peanut butter and then frozen!
Owners are usually very in tune with their pet’s health. If you think something just isn’t right, go with your instincts and call your vet.