Summer Safety Tips for Dogs by Zack Manko
Ahhh, summer. A time for relaxation, restoration, and recuperation. A time for lounging and fun (did you catch Sorsha’s bucket list? ). A time for food. A time for . . . danger?
With summer in full swing, we’d like to take the opportunity to remind you about some of the more hazardous aspects of this hottest of seasons. Just when you thought it was safe, the sun strikes you down with its burning rays. Think the heat is a cause for celebration? Wait until it fries you with heat exhaustion. Danger even lurks in the seemingly benign family cookout—and we’re not talking about the aftereffects of baked beans.
Histrionics aside, summer can pose some serious threats to the health of your canine companion. Fortunately, avoiding these hazards and enjoying the summer months is easy with just a few steps.
Keeping the “Burn” Out of “Fun in the Sun”
Summer fun is likely to take you outdoors. Whether that means a day at the beach, lounging on the porch, or a nice hike through the woods (Sorsha’s favorite), don’t forget to protect yourself, and your dog, from the potentially harmful effects of the sun. Just like humans, dogs can get sunburned and even skin cancer from overexposure to the sun.
For example, hairless dog breeds are particularly at risk for sunburn. Thus, if you have a Xoloitzcuintli, Chinese Crested, an American Hairless Terrier, or other hairless breed, be sure to take precautions. Similarly, dogs with white or thin coats and dogs with light skin in their noses and eyelids are also more susceptible to sunburn. Owners of Collies, Australian Sheepdogs, Dalmatians, Bulldogs, Whippets, and similar breeds should also find a way to protect their pets.
While humans can use sunblock and sunscreen to protect themselves from the sun’s blazing rays, fido will not take the same enjoyment and benefits from these items. Thechemicals used in most sunblocks are typically hazardous to pets, causing all sorts of discomfort and even serious medical problems. For example, zinc oxide (a common ingredient in many sunblocks) can cause facial swelling and itchy skin, and salicylates can cause gastric ulcers, blood poisoning, and seizures.
Fortunately, there are some sunscreens that are safe for our canine companions. These sunscreens and sunblocks are generally specially designed for dogs. Because they are configured from the ground up for dogs, they should not contain any harmful ingredients or chemicals or pose any significant medical threat.
You can apply sunscreen to your pet’s belly and face (be careful around their eyes!) by gently massaging it in. After doing so, be sure to watch them for a few minutes while it is absorbed, to make sure that your dog does not lick it—even though dog sunscreen won’t hurt when applied correctly, it can still upset their stomach if they ingest it!
Even without tracking down a dog-friendly brand of sunscreen, there are still ways you can protect your furry friend during the sunny days of summer. First and foremost is to stay in the shade. Similarly, you can relegate your outdoor activities to the early morning and later evening when the sun has begun to set. Limiting your exposure to the sun will help keep fido safe.
Panting Like a Dog
There’s more to sun safety than just avoiding sunburn. Summer’s golden orb can also cause heat-related problems for humans and dogs alike. Canines do not sweat like humans to shed excess heat (though some are quite good at shedding their fur). Instead, they pant rapidly to regulate their body temperature. Oftentimes, panting is not enough, and heat exhaustion can set in.
Heat exhaustion (also known as hyperthermia, hypothermia’s lesser-known cousin) can lead to complications like fever, listlessness, and confusion. Severe heat exhaustion in dogs can lead to heat stroke, which can cause organ failure.
Happily, there are many ways for you and your dog to avoid heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Number one is to stay hydrated. Be sure your pet has ample clean water to drink. Keep it accessible to them whether they are indoors or outside. Also, stay cool. Make sure your pet has shade outdoors, either from a nice tree or maybe a doghouse. On particularly hot days, take your dog inside from time to time to give them a break from the hot weather.
Similarly, to prevent heat stroke you and your dog should avoid certain situations. Do not leave your dog alone in the car for too long during hot days. If your dog is old, weak, or particularly sensitive to the elements, do not go on walks or outside toward the middle of the day, when temperatures are at their highest.
If by some chance your dog does develop heat exhaustion, stay calm. You can provide some first aid by moving them to a cool area and wetting them down with cool water. If you have a fan available, set it up to blow on them. In the meantime, call your vet and follow their instructions.
Summer eating typically involves a grill, a patio, and plenty of delightful smells and tastes. We’re talking hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, watermelon, corn on the cob, and more. However, the goodies from BBQs, block parties, and cookouts can be potentially dangerous to your dog.
For example, staple vegetables like onions are toxic to dogs. Similarly, tomatoes, since they contain tomatine and solanine, are also dangerous for dogs. Grapes too are highly toxic to dogs.
With this in mind, steer your pooch away from the fruit and veggies and direct them to some nicely cooked meat. Avoid the bun, though, as carbs and yeast can cause gastric distress, and the buns themselves can be a choking hazard.
Also, avoid the alcohol. Alcohol is toxic to dogs, so don’t even think about sharing your lawnmower beer with your furry friend.
Want to give your dog something special during your next cookout? Try one of these do-it-yourself frozen doggy treats. They’re safe and tasty.
Enjoy It While It Lasts
Sorsha and I hope you don’t mind the doom and gloom in this article. Summer can be dangerous, but more importantly, it is a great opportunity to get outside and spend some time with your dog. So, pack some water, use your head, and have a blast.
Enjoy the summer!
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