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9 Tips for a Safe Summer with Your Dog

this post is part of a special safety series supported by Tom and Cindy Love in memory of their dog Gizmo

We all look forward to the sunny summer months. But when temperatures rise, they bring potential dangers for our furry friends. Check out these tips to keep your dog safe in the summer heat.

1. Rethink Your Routine. Pets need exercise all year round, but with the summer heat, that noontime run might not be the best choice. Remember that dogs can’t cool themselves as well as you can. Consider shorter, more frequent activities instead of long runs or hikes. Also, try to plan exercise for the early morning or evening, when temps are lower.

dog drinking water2. Water, Water, Water! If you’re thirsty, your dog is even thirstier. Dogs need more water than people do, so make sure you provide 24/7 access to clean, fresh water. When you head outside, especially in summer heat, always bring extra water so you can keep your pup hydrated. Also, at home water is a great way to cool off – you can give your dog a dip in a kiddie pool or time to play in the sprinkler.

3. Seek out Shade. Whenever you’re spending time outside with your dog in the heat, be sure to take breaks in a shady spot. Also, keep in mind that just like people, dogs with thinner coats can get sunburned. If you plan to be outside for an extended period, ask your vet if you should use a dog-specific sunscreen. (Don’t use a human sunscreen – they can be toxic for pets!)

4. Watch for Heatstroke. Dogs release heat by panting and sweating through their paws. If they can’t release enough heat, they’re in danger of heatstroke – a medical emergency that needs immediate treatment. Common signs of heatstroke include exaggerated panting, glazed eyes, bright red or purple gums, trouble standing or walking and vomiting. If you think your dog is having heatstroke, contact your vet immediately.

5. No Hot Cars, Ever! Leaving a dog alone in a car is one of the most dangerous things you can do. Even in the shade, the temperature in a car can rise by 35 degrees in just 30 minutes. Cracking a window doesn’t help. Check out this video for more about this important safety measure.

6. Protect those Paws. Many outdoor surfaces can get dangerously hot in summer, including pavement, wood decking, sand and truck beds. In fact, they can stay hot for hours after the sun goes down. Before letting your dog stand on or walk across them, put your hand on the surface for 10 seconds. If it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your dog’s paw. Consider booties or avoid hot surfaces. And, if you see signs of a burn, such as limping, licking at the feet or a color change in paw pads, contact your vet.

dog sitting in field7. Keep Parasites Away. Ticks are more common in the warm summer months and can attach to your dog while walking through grassy or wooded areas. They can transmit diseases like Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever to dogs and people. Fleas are also a bigger problem when the weather is warm. Talk with your vet about preventing parasites and learn to check your dog’s skin for ticks after being outside.

8. Know When to Stay Home. Everything’s more fun with your best friend along, but sometimes it’s safer to leave them at home. If you’re heading out for outdoor summer activities, consider the temperature, humidity and availability of water and shade. If you aren’t sure they’ll be safe, leave them at home with lots of fresh water (and a pet sitter if you’ll be gone an extended time!).

9. Talk with Your Vet. If you have questions about what’s safe for your dog, talk with your veterinarian. Based on your pet’s size, age, health and breed, they can make recommendations about how much exercise is okay in hot weather, how much water to provide, and any issues you should look for.

Here are some additional resources to help:

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