With temperatures rising this summer, many of us will start to take our furry friends out more than ever to explore and exercise their legs. However, we explore some unexpected risks to our dogs in summer in this post.
Heatstroke and dehydration
When a dog’s inner body heat spikes higher than usual (hyperthermia), it can lead to heatstroke because the pet can’t cool itself down. Pets, unlike us humans, can’t sweat out the extra heat. Though perfect for staying cosy in winter, their furry coats make it harder for them to get rid of this excess body heat through their skin.
- Dry pale gums
- Bright red tongue
- Excessive panting
- Agitated (restless)behaviour
- Increased heart rate
To help your pet dodge heatstroke:
- Make sure they can always get to clean, fresh water.
- If you’re going for a walk, try to do it when it’s cooler, like early morning or late evening.
- Remember to bring a water bottle and a small bowl for your furry friend on longer walks.
Watch out particularly if your dog has a flatter face (we call this ‘brachycephalic’), is older, carries some extra weight, or has dark fur. All these factors make them more prone to getting heatstroke.
If you’re worried your dog might have heatstroke or is dehydrated, find some shade and give them small sips of water. You can also dampen their fur with cool water (not ice-cold, though, as it might shock them). A cool, wet towel can help, too. Please don’t delay contacting your vet and ask to have your dog seen immediately.
Keeping your pet’s fur tidy and short can help fend off heatstroke. Clear out any tangled hair, especially around their rear end, to avoid something called ‘flystrike’. It’s a gross situation where flies lay eggs in their fur, which hatch into larvae that can cause painful sores on your pet’s skin.
While fur is a handy natural sunscreen, parts of your pet’s body that aren’t as furry can still get sunburnt. And, just like us, pets with lighter-coloured fur can burn more easily. So, keep an eye out for that!
Hot pavements and artificial grass
Imagine a summer day when you can’t stand on the pavement without shoes because it’s scorching hot. The same goes for your pets. Hot pavements can hurt their paws.
The seven-second rule is an excellent test to see if it’s too hot. Press the back of your hand against the ground for about seven seconds. It’ll be uncomfortable for your pet if it’s uncomfortable for you.
To save your pet from such discomfort, here are a few simple tips:
- Try to walk them during the cooler parts of the day, like early morning or late evening.
- If you’re out and about during the peak heat hours, try walking on grass whenever possible.
- Keep their paws clean and check them regularly to ensure they’re in good shape.
Remember, a dog won’t become ill or die from missing a walk but walking in extreme heat can cause severe illness or death. If it’s too hot, keep your dog indoors.
Barbecues and outdoor dining
Who doesn’t love a good barbecue party, right? The smell of the bbq and your favourite drink in hand, all enjoyed outdoors, it’s just perfect. But remember, while you’re having fun, you must also keep an eye on your pets! There are some hazards they might run into, like harmful food and drinks, hot grill surfaces, and even those sharp skewers you’re using for the kebabs.
Let’s talk about some food and drinks that you should keep far from your pet’s reach:
- Cooked food containing bones
- Raw onion
- Raw garlic
- Food containing seeds
- Corn on the cob
- Coffee/coffee beans
- Teas/tea bags
Flowers and Plants
Our dogs are curious little beings and tend to munch on stuff they find interesting. Unfortunately, some of those exciting things might be plants or flowers that are harmful to them. Depending on the type of plant they eat, they could end up with just an upset stomach or something more severe like kidney failure.
Let’s look at some of the usual suspects that are harmful to pets:
- Geranium: Yep, this one’s a bummer. The entire geranium plant is toxic to both dogs and cats.
- Hydrangea: Some parts of a hydrangea plant contain cyanide, which is toxic to dogs and cats.
- Lilies: These beautiful flowers carry a toxin that can trigger a lot of nasty symptoms like vomiting, diarrhoea, fainting, seizures, heart issues, and even kidney failure in cats.
- Foxglove: Another pretty but deadly one, its seeds and leaves have a toxin that can cause heart problems, sickness, diarrhoea, seizures, and sudden collapse.
- Elder: Beware of this plant; it’s a complete no-no for cats and dogs, elderberries included.
So it can be good to be a plant expert if you have pets!
Fertiliser and pesticides
It’s not just plants and flowers we must be aware of as pet owners. Many types of fertilisers can give your pet a sore stomach if they decide to have a nibble. Dogs usually get into this kind of trouble due to their knack for scavenging. Signs that your dog may have eaten fertiliser include diarrhoea, vomiting, excessive drooling, and a belly that seems to be causing them pain.
Pesticides are another danger. They can cause your pet to shake or even have seizures. If you see a farmer spraying their fields, avoid that area for a few days and choose a different path for your walks. And remember to give your dog’s paws a good rinse when you get back home, just in case they’ve picked up any residue.
Bee or wasp stings
Our curious pets love to explore, and sometimes they get too close to bees and wasps, ending up with a sting. The spot where they got stung can swell and itch, but it’s uncommon for them to have a serious allergic reaction.
Some of the most common symptoms of stings include:
- Pawing at the face or mouth
- Biting at the site of the sting
- Holding up their stung paw
- Hives (small bumps along the skin near the sting)
Ticks, those little blood-sucking pests, are often found in woods and grasslands where animals graze. They latch onto an animal’s skin to feed, and as they do, their egg-like bodies balloon and darken.
If you spot a tick and feel comfortable, remove it immediately using a tick-removal hook. You can get one of these useful gadgets from your local vet. Remember not to squeeze the tick or leave its head in your pet, as it can lead to infection. Call your vet if you need a hand getting a tick off your pet.
Swimming pools, sea, rivers, and lakes
Not all dogs are natural swimmers, so be careful around open water, especially if it’s deep or has strong currents. If your dog gets in trouble, don’t endanger yourself trying to save them. Tragically, people drown each year in such attempts.
Consider using a dog flotation device to introduce your dog to swimming. Start with a paddling pool to let them dip their paws before moving on to deeper waters. After a swim, rinse your dog to remove salt, chlorine, or harmful bacteria from their fur.
Please keep your eyes peeled for blue-green algae, as it’s poisonous for dogs. Don’t let your dog swim in or drink water that might be contaminated. Contact your vet immediately if you suspect your dog has been exposed to this algae.
NEVER leave your dog in the car on a hot day, even if it’s just for a short time. A window left ajar is not good enough, as the inside of a car will quickly become an oven on a hot day. Heatstroke can set in fast and can be deadly. If someone walking by spots a dog that looks to be in distress in a locked in a car, they’re advised to call 999. The police will do what’s needed to free the dog, and that could include damaging the vehicle.
That wraps up our tour of things to watch out for during summer for our furry friends. From the danger of hot pavements and cars to risky encounters with insects and hazardous plants, summer can throw a curveball at our dogs. However, by staying informed and vigilant, we can ensure that our canine buddies have a safe and fun-filled season.
Remember, the trick is to be prepared and proactive. Stay ahead of the curve with regular grooming, keep an eye out for those pesky ticks, and always ensure your dog stays hydrated. It might seem a lot, but our four-legged friends are worth all the effort.
If you’re ever unsure about something or think your pet has encountered any of these hazards, don’t hesitate to contact your vet. They’re there to help, and they’ll be able to guide you through what to do next.
In the end, summer is a time for fun, frolic and adventures – let’s ensure it stays that way for our pets too! Stay safe, enjoy the sunshine and don’t forget the most crucial rule – have fun with your best friend!
Until next time, happy dog walking!