Along with the delights of summer come some familiar, not-so-pleasant experiences: getting stung by a venomous insect, receiving a blistering sunburn, suffering a cut foot from a broken seashell, going to the ER with heat exhaustion after an ill-timed run. But the summer can be even more challenging for dogs because those entrusted with their care and protection—their owners—often don’t know how to identify dangers. Sure, most dog owners know that leaving their pets in a car even on a pleasant day can be disastrous. But the hazards dogs face in June, July and August don’t stop there.
“Dogs spend more time outdoors in the summer, and that exposes them to more environmental hazards,” says Steven Marks, a professor at the N.C. State University College of Veterinary Medicine in Raleigh, N.C.
Hosting a family barbecue on the patio? Planning to take Fido on vacation? Going running or hiking with your faithful companion? All of these pose potential dangers that can injure, sicken, and even kill your dog.
Here are some common summer hazards along with resources on how to protect and treat your dog.
Heat exposure. Just like us, dogs can get too hot going on walks or hikes in hot weather, especially if they’re out of shape or have a chronic condition. Plan these excursions for early morning or early evening and bring plenty of water. If your dog pants excessively or experiences vomiting or diarrhea after being out in the heat, call an emergency veterinary hospital.
Backyard cookouts. Ensure that dogs don’t get into the grill drippings or steal meat, as excessively fatty food can cause pancreatitis and other gastrointestinal upsets. Hot grills can also burn inquisitive snouts. And while salty snacks, grapes, chocolate, onions and caffeine-filled soda might be standard picnic fare, they can also make your dog sick. So can the citronella candles that grace many patios this time of year. “I tell my clients that when it comes to protecting your dog, think of them as a three- or four-year-old child,” says Marks.
Gardening supplies. Do you use snail bait containing metaldehyde? Cocoa bean mulch? Fertilizer? They may make your garden thrive but can harm your dog. If you can’t reach your vet, try the ASPCA 24/7 pet poison control center at (888) 426-4435.
Water. Dogs can and do drown in backyard swimming pools. Monitor older dogs or those with physical limitations especially carefully. Lock up pool chemicals—they’re toxic. Dogs who love dips in ponds can get sick from the blue-green algae that often covers them. And dogs on boats should wear life jackets just like their human fellow passengers.
Travel. It’s fun taking the family dog with us on day trips and vacations, but know the risks. Dogs should wear restraints or be crated during car rides. At hotels, “dogproof” the room for potential dangers like drapery cords, cleaning products, booze from the mini-fridge and air fresheners. For extended trips, bring a certificate of health showing your dog’s vaccination record, an ample supply of any medications, and a list of vets in the area you’ll be visiting. Check The AAA Pet Book for tips on traveling with your pet.