Summertime is officially here, so for both you and your dog, it’s time to get outside and enjoy some quality time together in the sunshine. However, with the rising temperatures and extra time outside, there are a few things to be aware of to ensure that you and your pet have a fun, and ultimately safe, summer time.
Every dog owner loves the long, lazy days of summer – a chance for long walks, outdoor swimming, snoozing in the garden and plenty of together! Your pet can be at greater risk from certain health hazards at this time of year, though, so it’s well worth knowing what to look out for. Here’s our five-point guide for how to take care of dogs in summer.
Keeping your dog hydrated in the heat
Just like humans, most dogs need to drink more in hotter weather –sometimes as much as double or even triple their normal intake. The most common reason for dogs becoming dehydrated is that they simply don’t have enough access to water, perhaps because they’ve finished off their bowl too quickly.
How to help
- Make sure you top up water bowls regularly, and if you’re ever leaving your dog alone, then provide an extra bowl or two, in case one gets tipped over.
- If you’re going on a long walk or car journey, invest in a travel bowl and take a bottle of water along.
How to keep dogs cool in summer
Unlike us, dogs don’t sweat. They rely on less efficient cooling methods, such as panting – which means they are much more prone than us to heat exhaustion, heatstroke and heat-related death in summer.
Some dog breeds are more vulnerable to the heat than others. Brachycephalic (short-faced) breeds such as Pugs, Boxers, Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Chihuahuas, and King Charles Spaniels often struggle more with breathing, which makes it harder for them to regulate their body temperature.
Thick-coated breeds – including Huskies, St Bernards, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Alaskan Malamutes, Samoyeds and Chow Chows – also cope less well with higher temperatures, having been bred to be at home in colder climates. Heat risks can also be heightened if your dog has a black coat (which absorbs more light and heat), is overweight, or is young or elderly.
A particular heat hazard for dogs in summer is pavements and hard paths – on sunny days, these can reach shocking temperatures by the afternoon.
How to help
- During hot weather, limit exercise to early morning and evening, and avoid the hottest part of the day – particularly if your dog is one of the at-risk breeds above.
- Know their temperature risks:
- 15°C – presents no risk to most dogs.
- 18°C – no risk for smaller and medium-sized dogs but larger breeds may experience difficulty, however unlikely
- 21°C – unlikely risk for smaller and medium-sized dogs, but there is a potential hazard for larger dogs
- 23°C – potential hazard for all dogs
- 26°C – potential hazard for smaller and medium dogs, this can be dangerous for larger dogs
- 29°C – dangerous for smaller and medium dogs, potentially life-threatening for larger dogs
- As a quick test, press the back of your hand against the pavement. If it’s too hot for you to touch, it’s too hot for your pet’s paws, so wait a while longer for walkies, or stick to grassy tracks.
- Never leave your dog unattended in your car on a warm day – temperatures can rapidly reach dangerous levels.
How to protect your dog from sunburn
Just because our dogs are a bit hairier than us, it doesn’t mean they can’t get sunburn! Fur coats are a good form of protection against UV rays, but if your dog has a very short or light-coloured coat, or any areas of hairless skin, they could be at risk – particularly on sensitive areas like noses and ears. Some breeds, including , are more susceptible than others.
How to help
- If your pet is susceptible, it’s easy to prevent: apply a layer of pet-friendly sunscreen, 30 minutes before going outside.
- If you’re out all day, reapply sunscreen every four to six hours, or after your dog has gone swimming.
- Make sure your dog has plenty of shade, rather than lying in direct sunlight – it may be safest to avoid sun exposure between 10am and 4pm.
Dealing with summer bites and stings in dogs
We’re not the only ones who love the better weather – Britain’s insect population thinks summer is party time, too! Dogs are just as vulnerable as we are to flying pests such as mosquitoes and horseflies. And nowhere in the UK is safe from fleas. Lively dogs who like to burrow in hedgerows are more at risk of picking these up from passing wildlife. Meanwhile, some regions harbour ticks, which lurk in tall grass before hopping onto unsuspecting animals.
Although very rare, snake bites are also more likely to occur in summer. Adventurous canines who love bounding through the undergrowth risk encountering Britain’s only venomous snake, the adder – and can sometimes provoke an attack by trying to play.
How to help
- Flea and tick bites aren’t normally dangerous in themselves, but these pesky parasites need addressing – so make sure you’re up to speed on dealing with these and other pests.
- Bee and wasp stings can be more problematic, as it’s possible for dogs to be severely allergic, although this is rare. Treat stings swiftly and seek veterinary attention if your dog has received numerous stings or is showing signs of a reaction, such as breathing difficulties or a swollen throat.
- Symptoms of adder bites include pain and swelling around the affected area, as well as vomiting and diarrhoea, pale gums, panting or drooling, seizures and breathing difficulties. Seek veterinary attention immediately if you’re worried, as adder venom can sadly be fatal.
Watch out for plants that are harmful to dogs
While summer walks are a wonderful source of exercise and entertainment, your dog can sometimes end up with more than they bargained for. Some common plants – including buttercups, foxgloves, privet, ragwort, rhododendron and many types of bulbs – can be harmful to dogs if ingested. Another potentially dangerous summer hazard is blue-green algae, which can appear in ponds and lakes during hot weather. And grass seed can sometimes get lodged in paws or ears, causing irritation and injury.
How to help
- Keep an eye on what’s being chewed or dug up! If you’re worried that your dog has eaten something they shouldn’t, get in touch with a vet. Symptoms of plant-related toxicity can vary widely in style and severity, ranging from digestive upsets such as vomiting and diarrhoea to dermatitis, excitability, depression, breathing difficulties, heart problems or coma.
- Never let your dog drink from, or swim in, water with a blueish green ‘scum’ or ‘pea soup’ on the surface, as some forms of blue-green algae can be highly toxic.
- Read our advice about grass seed injuries and check your pet over after walks to avoid problems.
Download our fun infographic and keep it close to hand as a useful reminder on how you can keep your dog safe this summer and help them to beat the heat.