5 important summer tips for dogs (from a vet)

There is so much going on at a veterinary clinic in the summer. Apart from pets getting hit by a car or travel-related issues, some things come up every single summer. So here are my summer tips for dogs. I wanted to give you my best advice on how to keep your dog safe based on what we experience each year. I know you probably heard most of it already, but sometimes brushing off a long-forgotten knowledge can save lives 😊

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While I am a veterinarian, this article is not intended to replace professional veterinary advice. If you have any medical concerns about your pet, consult your vet immediately. Always seek professional assistance if you are unsure of your pet’s health.

dog with a red collar sleeping on a beach

Summer safety tip for dogs Nb. 1:
Don’t underestimate the summer heat

I know I know, you’ve probably heard this many times and it’s getting a bit annoying. But please hear me out. Dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat strokes are the most common health issues we vets have to deal with every single summer.

No matter how many times people hear (or read) about the dangers of overheating, it still happens (a lot) 🤷‍♀️ So yes, it does belong to my summer tips for dogs.

As a veterinarian, I firmly believe you have to know the signs of dehydration and overheating in a dog and you should also know how to help him. Even when you are careful with your own pup, you never know when you will see a dog that needs your help. 

Dogs overheat much faster than humans. This is especially true for small dogs (they are closer to the pavement which is much hotter than the air) and brachycephalic breeds. Brachycephalic dogs are those with short flat noses.

Humans cool down by sweating. Dogs have just a few sweat glands on their paws (and around the nose) so they use panting as a way to cool themselves. Dogs with flat noses have difficulty breathing on any day due to their short airways and tiny flat nose, but they can get into serious trouble when it’s hot outside. 

Dogs that are obese also have a higher risk of heat stroke. 

Signs of dehydration and heat exhaustion:

  • seeking shade
  • restlessness
  • choosing to lie down
  • disinterest
  • panting
  • sunken eyes
  • lack of skin elasticity
  • dry gums and mouth,
  • dry nose
Summer tips for dogs - heat stroke

Symptoms of heatstroke requiring immediate medical intervention:

  • thick saliva
  • unsteadiness and staggering
  • dark urine
  • lethargy
  • difficulty breathing
  • vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • bright red tongue and gums, which turn blue-grey as shock sets in
  • loss of consciousness
  • seizures

❗️Heat stroke can (and sadly often does) lead to death due to organ failure. If a dog is showing one or more of these signs, he needs help and he needs it fast. So what can you do?

How to help a dog with heatstroke:

  • Move the dog to a shaded area or indoors immediately. 
  • Begin by wrapping a wet towel around your dog’s paws and legs (not around his body as this can trap heat!). Alternatively, you can wet his fur with cool (not cold!) water. This way his body temperature will lower gradually. Lowering the body temperature gradually is crucial. You cannot dump cold water over the poor pup, but more on this later. 
  • Offer small sips of water, as forcing your dog to drink may cause further distress. He shouldn’t drink larger amounts even when he’s willing to, as this may cause vomiting. Frequent small sips are fine.
  • Employing a fan or air conditioning to create a cooling (but not cold!) environment is also beneficial. 
  • If you haven’t done it before, contact a veterinarian, as heatstroke can have severe repercussions and your dog might need to be rushed to a veterinary hospital. 
  • Monitor your dog’s temperature and watch for signs of improvement (or worsening of his condition).

It’s always a good idea to call your vet and follow his specific instructions. This way you can ensure the best possible outcome without inadvertently causing harm. And your vet will have enough time to get ready for an emergency patient.

Why you shouldn’t use cold water or ice:

Rapidly cooling a dog with heatstroke might seem like a logical response, but please refrain from dumping a bucket of cold water over your pup. Why? Drastically lowering a dog’s body temperature can lead to severe complications. 

When a dog’s temperature drops too rapidly, it can result in shock and vasoconstriction – the blood vessels will constrict and limit blood flow to vital organs (such as the heart and brain). This can rapidly worsen his condition.

Instead, use lukewarm or cool (not cold!) water and ensure proper airflow to ensure a gradual and controlled cooling process.

How to help prevent dehydration in dogs:

Your dog should always have fresh water at its disposal. Some dogs don’t like to drink warm water that’s been in the water bowl for some time. If you have a dog that doesn’t like to drink from his bowl you can try a water fountain, it usually helps. 

Don’t let your dog drink from a pool (the water contains chlorine) or lakes and puddles. Water in puddles can be contaminated with dangerous bacteria or parasites like giardia or leptospirosis.

Try giving your dog a piece of watermelon or cucumber instead of his usual treats. This way you are preventing obesity and giving him something yummy that’s full of water. You would be surprised how many dogs love watermelon 😊

Summer safety tips for dogs

Summer safety tip for dogs Nb. 2:
Don’t leave your dog in a car…ever

Another dog safety tip where you might go “Not this again!”. However, as a vet, I can’t leave this dog’s safety summer tip out. Because it happens so often and can be easily prevented… 

Did you know that leaving a dog in a car when it’s only 70°F / 21°C outside can be potentially life-threatening too? So yes, even on a relatively cool day, if it’s sunny, the temperature in a parked car can reach dangerous levels. 

Due to all those windows, a parked car behaves like a small greenhouse. It absorbs and holds heat. Sunlight pours in from different directions and heats the dashboard and seats, which then radiates heat as well. How hot a car will get varies depending on the outdoor temperature, whether the car is parked in the shade or sun, and the color of the paint and upholstery.

So even when it’s only 70°F / 21°C outside, after 30 minutes the temperature inside your car can reach a dangerous 104°F / 40°C and after 60 minutes it can even reach 113°F / 45°C. 

“Cracking” a window won’t help either, since it doesn’t allow for enough airflow to cool the interior down. Studies have shown that leaving windows slightly opened doesn’t significantly slow the heating process or decrease the maximum temperature attained. See references at the bottom if you want to learn more 🙂

What about the AC? Well, the fastest temperature rise occurs as soon as you turn off the AC. So you would need to let the AC (and the car) run, which may not be the best idea if you are not there. 

So if you see a dog in a car that is panting and not acting appropriately (doesn’t react when you tap on the window or is not responding well), call the police. 

Summer tips for dogs - how quickly a car heats up

Summer safety tip for dogs Nb. 3:
Take care of your pup’s paws

This is something people often forget. However, healthy paws are very important for your pup’s well-being.

A common misconception is that dogs’ paws can tolerate anything. Dogs can feel hot and cold, and yes, they can build up a certain tolerance. But they cannot tolerate hot asphalt in summer.

When the temperature of the air rises, so does the temperature of street walks and roads. If you go out with your dog, don’t just think about the air temperature.

You need to keep in mind that asphalt is much hotter than air. It’s the same for your dog as it would be for you to run around without shoes. And dog paws can blister and ulcer just like your feet. 

So how hot can asphalt get? 

Well, really really hot…

When the air temperature is 77°F / 25°C, the asphalt in the sun can be as hot as 125°F / 52°C.

With an air temperature of 87°F / 31°C, the asphalt can heat up to 143°F / 62°C 🥵

In comparison – an egg fries in 5 seconds at 131°F / 50°C
At 125°F / 52 °C tissue damage can occur in less than 60 seconds. 

You don’t need to google air and pavement temperatures in the summer heat. My advice is to touch the pavement with your hands or your feet and if you can’t keep them on the surface for at least 10 seconds, it’s not safe for your dog’s paws ♨️

How to protect your dog’s paws in summer:

  • Be careful when going for a walk during those first hot summer days. 
  • Use moisturizers and paw wax. Dry paws crack easily and are more susceptible to burns.
  • Walk your dog in grassy or shady areas if possible.
  • Try to walk your dog in the morning when it’s not so hot and the asphalt is not burning.
  • You can try using dog shoes. 
  • Check your dog’s paws after each walk. Not just for burns, but also for cracks, redness, wounds, broken nails, or swelling.
summer tips for dogs - protect your dog's paws

Summer safety tip for dogs Nb. 4:
Pool safety

A friend of mine had a new puppy. He also had a new swimming pool. He left the puppy in the garden for a few minutes and it ended in tragedy… 😢

Pools can be very dangerous, especially for dogs who don’t know them yet. So teaching your puppy or dog how to swim and get in and out of the pool is my next dog summer safety tip. 

Some dogs love water (hello retrievers 🥰 ) and will jump into any lake (or puddle) they can find. However, even if your dog loves lakes, ocean, or puddles, you still need to teach him a few things about pools.

People usually don’t realize how different pools are from lakes or beaches. There is usually no slow descent into water, it looks different, it even tastes and smells differently, and most importantly, getting out of a pool is much harder than getting out of a lake. 

Never force your pup to go into the water. And I can’t believe I have to say this, but also never push or throw your pup into the water. Try to slowly lure him in while standing in the shallow end. Gradually entering water feels safer than having to leap in. If your dog is afraid of pools, it may take a few weeks of training for him to feel comfortable. And some dogs will hate it and there’s nothing you can do about it. 

There’s only one exception to this rule – teaching your dog how to get safely out of the pool. I can’t stress enough how important it is for your dog to know how to get out of a pool. If your dog loves water and swimming, this is easy, just show him where to get out. If your dog doesn’t like water, he still needs to learn how to get out in case he accidentally falls in. Gently (with a calming voice, lots of love, and some treats) carry your pup into the water and show him how to get out. 

Teach your dog how to swim in deeper water. Most dogs know how to do this instinctively, but some may need a little help. You can support him or buy him a life jacket. 

Some dogs are just not built for swimming (for example Bassets, Bulldogs, or French bulldogs…) and you need to buy them a life jacket. They should wear it not only when they are in the water, but also when they are playing around the pool, otherwise they might drown if they fall in. 

Never leave your dog alone in or near water. If your dog sleeps outside, put a fence around your pool. Be careful with soft pool covers – dogs can’t see so well in the dark and a covered pool may look like normal ground. If a dog (or some other animal) falls in, he might get entangled in the pool cover and drown. 

You also need to teach your dog that the pool is not a giant drinking bowl. Chlorinated water won’t do him any good.

Summer tips for dogs - pool safety

Summer safety tip for dogs Nb. 5:
Parasites prevention and vaccinations

As they say “last but not least”, my Dog summer safety tip Nb.5. –  vaccinations and parasites prevention. 

If you own a pet, you probably had to deal with one (or few) ticks already. Tick infestation is a typical seasonal problem every pet owner knows. Although I must say that due to climate change the “tick season” is getting longer and longer.

Ticks are blood-sucking parasites that can be dangerous to your dog. Apart from an allergic reaction to tick bites, they are very effective carriers of various dangerous and potentially life-threatening diseases. So you need to be careful when removing them.

Since ticks pose a real danger to your dog, I have a whole article about ticks on dogs, effective tick prevention, and how to remove them safely. 

Another underestimated parasite that can cause severe health issues is the mosquito. Yes, not many people are aware of this, but they should be.

Mosquitos are carriers of heartworm microfilariae, which get injected into your dog’s bloodstream. They go through different development stadiums, and finally travel in your dog’s bloodstream, into the blood vessels that serve the heart and lungs, and in advanced infections also directly into the heart.

Heartworm in dogs is caused by an internal blood parasite called Dirofilaria immiti. It is a progressive disease that is hard to treat, potentially life-threatening, and preventable.

Talk to your vet about which form of prevention is best suited to your dog’s needs.

Your dog should also be vaccinated. Talk to your vet about which vaccine protocol your dog needs. This can depend on where you live but also on your lifestyle. There are places where you need not just tick prevention products, but also a vaccine against Lime disease. There are places where Heartworm is endemic and places where you won’t find it (yet). 

I would also strongly recommend talking to your vet if you want to travel with your dog. 

Ok, this was a bit long, thank you for reading till the end. I hope it will help you keep your pup safe and healthy this summer and avoid any unnecessary trips to a vet clinic 😊

So that’s it from me for now, stay safe and enjoy your summer ❤️🤗

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    • Monika

      Hello, yes, it’s ok if the AC is running all the time, you just have to put a sticker on your window that the dog is doing fine with the AC on, otherwise, you risk people calling the police. I personally would be a bit afraid someone might attempt to steal your car, however, if you have a Rottweiler it should be ok 😉

  • Nancy Cozart

    Great tips! I have a German Shorthaired Pointer named Dixie and I am always very cautious and conscientious about keeping her safe and healthy.

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