Top 10 Tips for Your Dog this Summer

Summer is here, and with it, higher temperatures. The following tips are intended to make sure your dog stays safe and comfortable throughout the long, hot summer.”

  1. Keep her hydrated! Dogs generally require 3 ounces of water per pound of body weight per day, although this can vary by breed, environment, and activity level. If in doubt, check with your vet to make sure your dog is getting enough precious liquid.
  2. Prevent heat stroke. Heat stroke is a very real threat for dogs. When the temperature outside is above 80 degrees, even a short walk can overheat your dog, especially an elderly or overweight dog. Symptoms of heat stroke include:
    1. elevated temperature
    2. heavy panting or difficulty breathing
    3. excessive drooling
    4. increased heart rate
    5. diarrhea and vomiting
    6. a glazed or anxious expression
    7. redness around eyes
    8. weakness
    9. sudden collapse

To prevent heat stroke, exercise in the early morning or evening to avoid the heat of the day, or include water in your exercise—such as a beach, lake, or dog-friendly pool. If your dog has overheated, get him in the shade with plenty of water and place a cool, wet towel on his belly. If that doesn’t work, see your vet immediately.

  1. Don’t neglect grooming. Regularly grooming is more important during the summer months to remove hair mats and excess hair and alert you to fleas, ticks, hot spots, and other skin irritations. Although many dogs are more comfortable with shorter hair in the summer, don’t shave your dog too closely. A dog’s coat is designed to keep her cool in summer and warm in winter—and cutting it too close runs the risk of exposing your dog to sunburn, as well as making her an easier target for fleas, ticks, and other biting insects. Also remember that you can contract poison oak from your dog if she has brushed against it. A bath after backcountry hikes is often recommended!
  2. Fight those pesky parasites. Fleas and ticks are dormant throughout the winter, but proliferate and pester when temperatures rise. Check your dog for fleas and ticks regularly, and apply some kind of preventive medicine to minimize the misery they inflict on your pet. Topical liquids that you can apply directly to the dog’s skin are probably the safest and most effective option, unless your dog has skin sensitivities, when an oral pill may be preferable. Ask your veterinarian before starting your dog on any kind of flea and tick treatment.
  3. Beware of internal parasites. Hiking the trails around Santa Barbara (and elsewhere), it’s easy for dogs to ingest giardia—a waterborne parasite—from drinking in backcountry streams. Other internal parasites are also more plentiful during the summer, including roundworm, heartworm, tapeworm, and hookworm. Check your dog’s feces for worms regularly—and particularly if his eating or bathroom behavior changes.
  4. Watch for rattlers. Snakes, too, are outside enjoying the sun—or the shade—during the summer, and you don’t want your dog to get bit by one. For that reason, it’s good to keep your dog on a leash, even when walking a trail you appear to have to yourself. It’s also good to invest in either rattlesnake awareness training, a rattlesnake immunization (available for pets, but not humans), or both. Some rattlesnake aversion methods employ shock treatments, but others teach dogs to stay away from snakes without the shock. Google the programs in your area for the one that’s right for you.
  5. Pay attention to what’s in your immediate environment. The summer growing season is also the fertilizer and pesticide season. In 2014, of the tens of thousands of calls to the Animal Poison Control Center of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the third most-common was for pets exposed to insecticides. (Numbers 1 and 2 were for ingestion of human prescriptions and over-the-counter medications.) Number 9 was for pets exposed to traps or bait set for mice and rats. (Rodent poison can cause internal bleeding, seizures or kidney failure.) Number 10 was for exposure to lawn and garden products, particularly fertilizer, which can cause stomach pain and, in severe cases, be life-threatening. The key to preventing poisoning accidents is to be aware of what is in your dog’s environment and using dog-friendly products whenever possible.
  6. Don’t leave your dog in a locked car. Ever! You know why. Temperatures climb rapidly in an enclosed car. Because of the danger, it is illegal to leave a pet unattended in a motor vehicle under California Penal Code Section 597.7 PC. Many other jurisdictions have similar laws on the books.
  7. Remember, hot pavement can burn your dog’s paws! Before asking your dog to walk on concrete or asphalt, put your own bare feet on the ground. If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your dog.

Get out there! It’s summer! This list of precautions is not meant to discourage you, but to empower you to enjoy the great outdoors. Walking, running, swimming, hiking, barbecuing, picnicking, playing ball with YOU are all on your dog’s bucket list. Expect more from you dog. Enjoy more from your dog! Unleash your dog’s full potential and your own!

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