16 Summer Dangers for Dogs
For many of us, summer means getting outside and enjoying time in nature with our furry best friends! Unfortunately, this also means that our pets can be exposed to new dangers. Summer temperatures, the great outdoors, swimming, and barbecues all pose health risks to our pets if not monitored closely.Read more about what to look out for during the summer, what you can do to prevent these dangers, and how to act if an accident occurs! We’ll discuss heat stroke, grass seeds, ticks, blue-green algae poisoning, toads, and seawater, among many others.
1. Heat Stroke
One of the biggest summer dangers for dogs is the heat. Tragically, every year dogs die from heat stroke after being left in cars. Dogs can also suffer from heat stroke when exercising in hot weather, especially without access to sufficient drinking water. Dogs are very sensitive to heat because they cannot regulate their body temperature by sweating to cool down, in the way that humans do. Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition that causes great suffering and can cause serious damage to internal organs. Read our article for more information about how to treat heat stroke in dogs. in dogs.
2. Grass Seeds
Seeds from grasses and other cereals can be very troublesome if they find their way into a dog’s eyes, ears or nose. Grass seeds can also cause skin problems, such as hives or rashes. If a dog has irritation in any of these areas, look carefully for any grass seeds, pollen residues or dust. If you suspect that your dog may have a grass seed in its eye or ear, always consult a vet.
Warmer weather throughout the year now means that ticks are active for longer periods. Ticks can spread several diseases, through biting, including Lyme Disease (Borreliosis) and Anaplasmosis to our dogs. Effective tick control is key to preventing these diseases. Avoid tick exposure whenever possible. Remove any ticks found on your dog right away. Use a monthly tick preventative when necessary. Read more about ticks in dogs in our related article.
4. Algae Poisoning
When blue-green algae blooms in lakes, streams, and seas, a poison can form in the water. There are many species of blue-green algae; only some produce toxic compounds. If a dog drinks or swims in the water, it can suffer from rapid and often fatal algae poisoning. Read more about how to prevent blue-green algae poisoning in dogs.
5. Barbecue and Table Scraps
When the weather is nice, many people like to have picnics and barbecues. Our furry friends have an excellent ability to sniff out and raid leftover food. As a dog owner, it’s important to dispose of waste and leftovers carefully so that our dogs can’t eat potentially dangerous items. Use a strong and sealable bag for trash and dispose of it in a bin or secure it in a safe place where dogs can’t reach.
Bags of garbage can contain sharp pieces of glass, wooden skewers or metal grills, as well as packaging and food scraps, such as bones. If chewed and swallowed, pieces of bone can puncture the delicate stomach or get stuck in the dog's mouth, esophagus, or further down the intestine. Corn cobs are also not digestible, and therefore can easily get stuck in the intestine. Dogs with a foreign body or intestinal blockage will often start vomiting and show signs of abdominal pain. These cases are an emergency that will require surgery to resolve.
6. Insect Bites and Stings
Bites or stings from insects such as wasps, ants, and mosquitoes rarely make dogs ill, but they can be itchy and sore. Some dogs, however, are hypersensitive and may have allergic reactions to these insects. The more bites or stings a dog gets at one time, the greater the risk of a more severe reaction. Signs of an acute anaphylactic reaction include: swelling at the bite site, hives, difficulty breathing, pale gums, collapse, and potentially death. Itching, facial swelling, panting, vomiting, and diarrhea are further signs of an allergic reaction. If you see these, please seek prompt veterinary advice.
For those dogs that are known to suffer from allergic reactions, we recommend keeping your dog supervised or on a leash. Keep dogs inside during times of peak insect activity, and use insect repellents or a pet t-shirt where necessary. Pain associated with a sting can be reduced by holding a cold wet cloth, or ice cubes wrapped in a damp cloth, against the skin. Remove the stinger, if possible, and bathe the skin with cool water. However, if your dog is stung by several wasps, a whole swam or near the mouth, seek vet advice immediately. Occasionally, your vet may need to give a corticosteroid injection, tablets, or a topical cream to reduce swelling and other signs.
7. ‘Hot spots’ (Moist Dermatitis)
In the summer, moist dermatitis (‘hot spots’) is common, especially in dogs with dense fur and those that are bathed frequently. Moist dermatitis often arises where a dog itches, for example on the neck or thigh. The skin becomes irritated and develops an ulcerated, red patch. Bacteria spread quickly in a hot, humid environment. The hot spot grows rapidly and can be extremely painful. To prevent them, take time to dry your dog thoroughly after bathing. Prescription medication from your vet is usually required to treat a hot spot, including antibiotics and pain relief. Read our article for more information about how to treat hot spots in dogs.
If dogs drink a large amount of saltwater they are likely to suffer from salt poisoning. However, they may not show signs or only vomit once. In these instances, offer fresh water to drink, little and often. Do not allow them to drink large volumes in one go to avoid further vomiting. Next, offer a highly digestible meal little and often, for example, Purina EN, or cooked rice or pasta with a little cooked chicken/turkey/rice/white fish/egg. Signs of more severe salt poisoning include continuous vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, stiffness, cramps, and coma. If your dog vomits multiple times, retches repeatedly or is salivating, seek veterinary advice, as your dog may require fluid therapy.
Small wounds and sores can often be taken care of at home. Large and deep wounds will usually need to be sutured by a vet. If your dog has difficulty standing or walking, is bleeding heavily, or appears to be in pain or shock, visit a vet immediately. For severe bleeding, keep the dog quiet. Apply a firm pressure dressing to slow the bleeding and protect the wound. If the bleeding does not stop, add another layer, and repeat as necessary. If possible, carry your dog and keep it quiet on the way to the vet.
Superficial wounds or abrasions can usually be taken care of at home. The most important thing is that the wound is kept clean and moist. Bathe the wound with clean warm water or saline (1 teaspoon of salt in 2 cups cooled boiled water). Flush dirt and debris out of the wound. Larger foreign bodies will need to be removed by your vet. Apply sterile unmedicated wound hydrogel and a sterile dressing. Check the dressing regularly, and change it daily for the first three days. Use an Elizabethan collar or bodysuit to prevent your dog from chewing the bandage. We recommend keeping walks short until wounds have fully healed because movement and contamination slow down wound healing. Dog booties are useful for keeping paw bandages clean and dry outside.
Wounds that are full-thickness (all the way through the skin), deeper or more than ½ inch long will need to be assessed by a vet. Wounds should ideally be sutured within 4-6 hours. Wounds over a joint must also be investigated by a vet. Other wounds, such as those on the pad, may be more difficult to assess, so we would recommend seeking veterinary advice. Read more in our article about first aid for your dog.
Just like humans, dogs can get a sunburn. Dogs with thin-skin or very thin fur are most at risk. Dogs with pink skin have less of the protective pigment melanin in the skin, which therefore increases their risk of sunburn. Dogs, like humans, can be at increased risk of developing skin cancer if they get a sunburn. To prevent sunburn, use a pet-specific perfume-free sunscreen on all exposed areas. If in doubt, it is best to ensure that dogs have plenty of access to cool, shady spots, and avoid long periods in the sun.
Dogs are usually good swimmers, but each year in the US, some dogs drown. If a dog falls into the water from a boat, pool edge, or dock it can be very difficult to get them out of the water, especially if it is a heavy dog. If they are unable to climb out by themselves, there is always a risk of drowning, even under full supervision. A dog that gets into the water will swim as long as they can, but after a while will become exhausted. Falling into the water by accident will cause a dog to panic and it can become exhausted very quickly. A panicked dog can also be very difficult to rescue from the water, especially if it does not have a life jacket.
To help a dog that has aspirated water (inhaled water into its lungs), a quick response is needed. For small dogs, hold them vertically, with their head pointing down towards the floor, to enable water to drain out by gravity. For larger dogs, place them on one side, ideally on a downhill slope with their head and neck lower than their trunk, so that the water can run out. Carefully pull the tongue forwards and place it hanging out of one side of the mouth. Check that there is nothing inside the mouth and that the airways are clear.
If the dog is not breathing, cardiac resuscitation must be given. Contact your vet for instructions on how to do this and what steps to take before transporting the dog to a veterinary clinic. Dry the dog to prevent it from getting cold (hypothermia) on the way to the vet.
How can you prevent your dog from drowning?
- Always use a life jacket on a boat or around the dock, even if your dog is well behaved. Dog life jackets have a handle on the top, which makes them easier to lift.
- Never tie a dog using a life jacket as fatal accidents can occur if they try to jump into the water and get stuck on the leash.
- Help dogs to climb on and off boats, so that they do not slip
- Make sure your dog has a safe place to lay on the boat.
- Always watch your dog closely when they are near water.
Toads have glands on their back, which secrete a poison. If a dog licks a toad or carries it in its mouth they can develop signs of poisoning. These include hypersalivation, frothing at the mouth, vomiting, and restlessness. Their gums may become bright pink, they may paw at their mouth and vocalize. The mouth should be rinsed with copious clean water. Ensure that the dog does not swallow the rinsing water. If further signs do not develop within two hours of exposure, then serious toxicity is not expected. If you have concerns, please seek veterinary advice.
13. Fly Strike
Fly larvae are most likely to attack dogs during the summer months when the weather is warm. Adult flies are drawn to wounds, stools, and hot, humid environments. Flies will lay their eggs in fur that is warm and moist, or contaminated with fecal material, urine or discharge from a wound. After as little as 24 hours, these eggs hatch into larvae that can eat into damaged skin. Fly strike is very painful for the dog.
The fly larvae are white and 5-10 mm long. If they are not found quickly, they can cause serious harm. It can be fatal in severe cases. Dogs with dense fur and those who have had diarrhea or urinary tract disease are particularly at risk.
If you discover fly larvae, always take your pet to see your vet. The problem often appears smaller than it is because the larvae burrow into the tissue. At the vet, the dog is usually given a sedative. The fur in the affected area is clipped and all visible fly larvae are removed. Pain relief and often antiparasitic treatment will be given. To prevent fly strike, check your dog's skin daily for signs of ulcers, skin irritation, or fecal contamination. If necessary, bath your dog with pet shampoo and trim their fur during warmer months.
There are two main species of flea, cat and dog fleas. Both can infect cats and dogs. Fleas are rarely dangerous but can be very troublesome for you and your pet. The adult female flea jumps onto the host to take a blood meal, before jumping off and laying eggs in the environment (for example, in carpets and soft furnishings), where the rest of the flea life cycle takes place.
Fleas can cause severe itching and skin problems, such as hair loss, dandruff, and rashes. Areas typically affected are the lower back, flanks, and buttocks. Some dogs and cats develop allergies to fleas, Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD), which causes intense itching and often secondary skin infections. Read more about fleas in cats and dogs, and how best to manage them in our articles.
15. Traveling Abroad with Your Dog
For trips outside of the US, a health certificate or pet passport, additional vaccines, and anti-parasite medication are often required. These take time to arrange, so please plan at least 3 months in advance of any anticipated international trips to avoid disappointment. For the most up-to-date information regarding pet travel regulations, check out the USDA APHIS Pet Travel website.
It’s important to know that traveling abroad can pose certain risks to your pet. Certain parasites and infectious canine diseases are much more common in other countries, compared to the US. In some cases, it may be more appropriate to find a dog sitter or boarding kennels for your dog while you’re away.
16. Other Summer Hazards
The summer heat attracts snakes, who bask in the sun to raise their body temperature. Fortunately, snake bites in the US are rare. It is important to know what to do if you suspect that your dog has been bitten. As a pet owner, you will rarely see the snake but may hear your dog yelp and run away from a particular place. A dog that has been bitten by a snake will quickly become tired. A large, sore swelling will develop where the bite occurred, often around the nose or on the leg. If your dog has been bitten, keep it as still as possible to prevent the poison from spreading. Take your pet to the nearest vet clinic immediately. Treatment will often require hospitalization for intravenous fluids with pain relief and close observation. Read our article for more information about how to manage snake bites in dogs.
Limber Tail Syndrome
This condition is also known as cold water tail syndrome, broken wag, or broken tail. Its formal name is acute caudal myopathy, and it is a relatively common condition in sporting dogs. Limber tail is caused by a restriction of the blood supply (ischemia) to the tail muscle, generally after swimming or exposure to cold or wet weather. A limp tail usually confirms the diagnosis. Treatment involves gentle warming with heat packs, pain relief prescribed by your vet, and rest. The prognosis for a full recovery is excellent; most affected dogs will regain their tail tone and wag within a few days, but this may take up to a week. Read more about limber tail syndrome in our related article!
Dogs who go out with their owners on a fishing trip can sometimes get a fishing hook stuck in their mouth or skin. Fishing hooks often have a barb to prevent the fish detaching. If this is the case, do not try to remove the hook backward (the same way it went in) as you may cause more tissue damage. Instead, try to push the hook forwards through the skin, or use pliers to cut the hook to remove it safely. This is not always easy, especially if the dog is stressed and moving. In many cases, fishing hooks will need to be removed by a vet after a sedative has been given. These types of wounds typically heal very quickly and do not require sutures.
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