Summer is a great time to adventure with your pup. But it’s important to keep a few safety tips in mind to make sure your dog stays happy and healthy during the dog days of summer!
We’ve put together 7 tips to help you and your dog prepare for safe adventures during the summer months!
1. Be Heat Wise
While exercise is really important for your dog’s well being, you can definitely overdo it in the summer. Remember that dog’s can’t sweat, they have less body mass relative to their skin, and they are covered in fur, so it’s a lot harder for them to regulate their body temperature! This is especially true for brachycephalic (short nosed) dogs, like bulldogs. Get to know your dog - some dogs are a lot more heat sensitive than others. And, like us, dogs take time to get acclimated to the heat. For those first few warmer days of the season, take it really easy and let your dog adjust. If you are traveling to a hotter area, your dog may be especially sensitive to the heat for a few days.
Schedule walks for early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the hottest part of the day. If you must hike in the heat, take it slow, find a shady trail, and stop for lots of water and shade breaks. Do NOT wait for your dog to show signs of overheating, like excessive panting or laying down. Be conservative.
Be mindful of the surface you and your dog are walking on – dogs don’t have shoes! If the surface is too hot for you to lay the back of your hand on for three seconds, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws. Avoid sidewalk strolls during the hot part of the day.
And last but not least – in the warmer months – NEVER leave your dog in a hot car for any length of time! It can take just a few minutes for a car to heat up to a dangerous degree. If you must leave your dog in the car, park in the shade, crack the windows, leave water in the car, and don’t leave for more than a couple of minutes. There are now apps that can let you check the temperature inside your car, and cars with a remote ignition may be an option for leaving the A/C on. That said, a locked car is no place for a dog. Play it safe and keep your dog alive.
2. Access to Water
It’s super important at all times, but especially in the warmer months, to make sure your dog has access to fresh, clean water at all times. Keep a water bowl around – and bring extra water and a collapsible water bowl when you’re hiking with your dog, or anytime you’re out and about.
Quick Tip: We use inexpensive silicone bread baking pans as water bowls during our group walks – they’re more economical and larger capacity than most collapsible water bowls! Some dogs enjoy drinking from flowing water from a Camelbak or other hydration pack hose – just aim the hose down and release the valve to allow them to drink the flowing water!
Always offer your dog water before, during, and after a hike or any outdoor outing. As a bonus, this may help your dog feel less tempted to drink water from natural water bodies, which could make them sick!
If you’re traveling long distances, your dog should have access to water in the car.
3. Parasite Prevention
Summertime often means bugs – fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and other regional insects. Make sure your dog is up to date on their flea and tick meds. If ticks are common in your area, check your dog frequently for ticks after outdoor activities. It’s especially important to check in the groin/belly/armpits, around the ears and face, and under the collar.
If you find a tick embedded in your dog, grasp it with tweezers as close to your dog as possible and apply steady, slow, pressure until you are able to remove it. If possible, save the tick for a few days to show the vet in case your dog develops any symptoms.
You may consider a natural citronella spray to keep ticks and other bugs away. Consult your dog’s vet for the best care products for your dog when it comes to parasite prevention.
4. Other Outdoor Hazards
During the summer months, you may be more likely to encounter various types of wildlife. Here are a few wildlife hazards you may encounter:
Bees and Wasps: If your dog gets stung by a bee or a wasp, you may consider administering Benadryl to reduce swelling, particularly if they get stung around the face or mouth. Talk to your vet about an appropriate dosage for your dog’s size. After the bite, watch your dog carefully for swelling or other concerning symptoms.
Rattlesnakes: Rattlesnakes are prevalent here on the West Coast during the summer months. Reptiles are cold blooded and like open rocky areas where they can stay warm. Rattlesnakes are especially prevalent in open areas, grassy areas, or around rock outcroppings. For hikes, try to stick to shady streamside trails and heavily wooded areas, or choose a grassy playing field or Sniff Spot for your walks during the height of the summer. Be vigilant in watching for rattlesnakes, and try to minimize the time that your dog spends running or exploring off trail in rattlesnake habitats.
Working on a solid recall and keeping your dog in view and on the trail are good ways to minimize the chance of running into a rattlesnake. Try to avoid throwing a ball off trail, or any activity where your dog is running fast in rocky or brushy areas off trail. If your dog steps on or startles a snake, they'll be more likely to strike.
We recommend always having the number of the nearest emergency vet programmed into your phone in case of an emergency, like a rattlesnake bite. You may want to call to confirm they have rattlesnake antivenom on hand (not all do). If your dog does get bitten, do everything you can to get them to an emergency vet as quickly as possible. If you can, carry them to the car and keep them as still as possible until you can get them to the vet.
Be Foxtail Aware: The number one hazard for dogs that we see in the summer months here on the West Coast is foxtails. Foxtails are an exotic grass that grows in disturbed areas like trailheads, roadsides, and along sidewalks. Foxtail seed heads are barbed, and they can easily enter a dog’s body via the nose, mouth, ears, or through the skin (especially between the toes). This becomes even more of a concern once the plants dry up and the seeds scatter across the ground. Once a foxtail enters your pup’s body, it can continue to travel and cause serious internal injury.
Minimize the risk of foxtail injury by avoiding where they grow. Foxtails are common along roadsides, sidewalks, near trailheads, in open fields and in other disturbed areas. Know what they look like and keep your dog leashed and away! Be vigilant on your walks and do not allow your dog to sniff or roll around where foxtails grow.
Consider getting your dog comfortable wearing an OutFox hood - this can greatly reduce the risk of foxtail injury. You may even consider booties or lightweight protective clothing if foxtails are unavoidable.
If your pup has long fur, consider a short haircut, especially on their feet (sometimes called a “poodle cut”). Check your dog over carefully after a hike or walk - through their fur, between all of their toes, and around the eyes/ears/nose/mouth.
Signs of foxtail entry or ingestion can be coughing, wheezing, gagging, sneezing, pawing at the eyes or ears, head shaking, redness between the toes, or licking between the toes. An inflamed “pinhole” between the toes or anywhere on the skin is a telltale sign of foxtail entry. If you suspect a foxtail issue, contact your vet immediately. Early intervention is critical to prevent more serious problems caused by a foxtail.
Water Borne Illness: It’s super fun to play in or near the water with your dog during the summer months, but there are some hazards to be mindful of. Unfortunately, the lack of summer rain and higher temperatures can mean stagnant water and toxic algae blooms that can pose hazards for dogs.
Do not let your dog drink from or play in standing or stagnant water. This can result in exposure to giardia, a parasite that can cause tummy issues and runny stools for dogs, or even leptosporosis, which can cause very serious illness. If your dog is experiencing diarrhea, vomiting, or bloody stools, call your vet right away. If your dog is diagnosed with giardia, they’ll need to stay away from other dogs while he/she is being treated. Talk to your veterinarian about whether a leptospirosis vaccine is warranted.
Toxic algae – blue green algae is a neurotoxic bacteria that can be deadly for dogs, and unfortunately it is increasing in prevalence. Check signage and local alerts for toxic algae blooms in water bodies you visit. Avoid any water that looks like thick “pea soup,” has greenish or bluish colored algae. If you have any concerns, play it safe and have your dog avoid the water.
5. Keep Your Dog Cool
There’s nothing like a cool treat on a hot day! Your dog will be thrilled when you pull out a frozen lick mat or a rubber chew treat dispenser filled with frozen goodies. Soft, spreadable options for frozen enrichment include peanut butter, cream cheese, pureed pumpkin, yogurt, wet or freshly cooked dog food.
You may also consider a cooling tool, like a cooling vest or cooling mat! Cool tools are specially designed to help regulate your dogs’ body temperature. The idea is similar to a cooling pad or an ice pack for humans, but big enough to wear or lie down on.
Cooling mats often use a cooling gel/water-based technology, which helps absorb your dog’s body heat and creates a cooling effect. This can prevent your dog from overheating, especially during hot summer days. Cooling vests can use a similar technology, or some simply allow you to add frozen gel packs to the vest.
Most dog cooling mats and dog cooling vests are made to be portable and lightweight so you can travel with them.
Remember, cool tools aren’t a substitute for shade and access to water. But they are a refreshing tool that can provide your dog with some extra comfort in the summer.
6. Indoor Enrichment for Your Dog
When it’s too hot for your dog to be outside, but you also need them to burn off some energy and work their brain, remember the power of sniffing!
Sniffing is a great way for your dog to use their brain power and have fun – all while sticking close to home, and the A/C. There’s lots of ways to get your dog’s sniff on, including snuffle mats and playing hide and seek with treats.
High Tail Hikes Insider Tip: We have a sniff-worthy project in the works to help you build sniffing confidence with your dog!
7. Summer Travel Safety
Traveling with your pup can be awesome, but it can also be stressful for your dog. It’s important to prioritize keeping your dog safe and comfortable during a summer road trip or vacation. We have a comprehensive blog post all about planning a road trip or other vacation with your dog. If you’re planning a camping trip, don’t miss our blog post all about camping with your pup!
We hope these tips help keep you and your pup safe and comfortable this summer!