Summer hazards for your dog

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By Kim Gilliam

Summer offers many ways to spend quality time outdoors with your dog, exercising, exploring new places and participating in fun summer events.

With temperatures on the rise though, it’s important to take the necessary precautions to protect them from key hazards associated with the summer heat.

Avoid prolonged sun exposure

Limit the length of your walks or exercise in the sun. Not only is there a risk of heatstroke, but dogs can burn their feet on hot pavement and get sunburns too. Stick to the shade and grass as much as possible and provide your pet plenty of fresh, cool water. Consider purchasing dog sunscreen to ensure their skin is protected and avoid the heat of the day by heading out in the morning or evening when the sun isn’t as strong.

Think again before taking your dog to a festival

While it may seem fun to bring your dog along to a summer festival, large crowds can be overwhelming for them and increase the chance of injury, dehydration and exhaustion. They could also eat unhealthy or even toxic foods off the ground. Remember that loud noises (e.g. cannons or fireworks) can frighten dogs into running away or otherwise hurting themselves. If you do bring them, you will need to be on constant alert for potential hazards – and it might be more fun for both of you if you leave them at home.

Don’t forget about water safety

Not all dogs are skilled swimmers, and there are numerous hazards in the water you need to watch out for. Be sure to stay close to your dog if you decide to take them for a dip in a lake, river or ocean. If you are out on a boat, a pet life vest is a wise investment, as they can become anxious and disoriented if they fall in the water. And don’t let them drink the water; chemicals, salt content, parasites or bacteria can lead to dehydration, vomiting and diarrhea.

Watch out for parasites and other pests

Spending more time outdoors exposes your dog to some of nature’s most annoying pests. Always check your dog for ticks after being outside and be sure to keep them on a flea and heart worm prevention regimen year-round. You will also want to be on the alert for snake bites, stings and insect bites.

The most common hot weather dangers are heatstroke, dehydration and sunburn. Watch for signs of illness and call your vet right away if any problems arise.

Signs of heatstroke include heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, lack of coordination, profuse salivation, vomiting, a red or purple tongue, seizure and unconsciousness. In this situation, the goal is to bring the pet’s core temperature down slowly by running room temperature water over them or wrapping them up in cool, wet towels before taking them to the vet to be checked.

Signs of dehydration include sunken eyes, lethargy, loss of appetite and dry mouth. One way to detect this is to gently lift the skin on the back of your dog’s neck between the shoulder blades; it should immediately return to a normal position when released. Dogs who are elderly, nursing or ill are more susceptible to dehydration. If suspected, take them to a vet who will likely administer intravenous or subcutaneous fluids.

Dogs that are light-colored, have a thin coat or are hairless, such as pitbulls, Dalmatians, boxers, Weimaraners., greyhounds and Chinese crested dogs, are most susceptible to heatstroke. The areas most often sunburned are the nose, tips of the ears, around the mouth, underbelly and eyelids. When a dog’s skin is sunburned, it looks red, raw or broken, and your dog may exhibit pain. A vet will likely need to shave the area, wash it with a special solution and treat it with a topical cream.

As a dog owner, it’s your job to keep them safe. Be aware of the risks associated with summertime activities, prepare properly and know what warning signs mean trouble so you are ready to respond.

The writer owns Alexandria’s Frolick Dogs with her husband, Kevin Gilliam

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