Everybody loves the dog days of summer, including your four-legged friend. But summertime also gives rise to canine incidents, from sunburn (yes, it’s a real concern, even for long-haired breeds) to dehydration and bug bites. Our pets still need exercise when the weather’s warm, and they’ll want to be right next to us at the beach, on camping trips, and when relaxing in the backyard. Load up your picnic basket or backpack with some H2O, sunscreen, and your favorite natural dog treats, because it’s time to get out and get active with your pet in the safest way possible!
Water, Water, Water — The most serious concern to be aware of when exercising your pet in any weather is dehydration. Dogs get dehydrated just like humans do, but, since they’re unable to say so, we have to make sure we’re prepared and bring plenty of water on every summertime playdate. Be sure you know the signs of dehydration, which include panting, pacing, loss of elasticity in the skin, xerostomia (dry gums), and thick, pasty saliva. Here are some tips for keeping your pet hydrated all summer:
- Always bring a large bottle of fresh water with you wherever you go and constantly offer it to your dog.
- After a run or a particularly hard play session, offer your pet water and encourage them to take a break to drink.
- Provide positive reinforcement when your pet drinks water.
- Bring along a collapsible bowl so you don’t have to do the dreaded pour-and-lick, which may leave your dog thirsty and frustrated.
- If your four-legged friend isn’t super keen on lapping up the H2O, you can try adding flavor to the water, such as a bit of broth or bullion.
- Don’t overwork your pet in the summertime. Make sure to take plenty of breaks and know when it’s time to head in for some shade and a nap.
- Prevent Saltwater Poisoning — Taking your dog to the beach for a swim or jog is a great way to get them exercise and build strength without putting too much weight or strain on their joints. However, there are some very important things you need to know before bringing your furry friend to the beach on a hot, summer day, including the risk of saltwater poisoning.
Dogs who are not used to salt water may be tempted to lap it up while playing in the surf, but that’s a major no-no. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), drinking excessive amounts of salt water can cause your pet to experience weakness, diarrhea, seizures, and muscle tremors.
Consider Dog Sunscreen — Remember, just like people, dogs can get sunburn and can have serious complications associated with too much sun exposure. Hairless and light-colored breeds are especially high-risk, but all pets can experience burns. In addition to keeping your pet out of the hot sun — more info on this below — you will want to consider investing in some dog sunscreen to help protect them on those hot, sunny days. Always make sure to use sunscreen formulated specifically for dogs because some ingredients in human sunscreen can be harmful or even toxic to certain dogs.
- Keep Your Dog Out of the Sun — Make sure to keep your dog indoors during the hottest times of the day, which typically last from around noon into the late afternoon. A hardy dog chew treat is a great way to keep your dog occupied and help them expel some energy while they cool off inside. If you do bring them outside, shade is absolutely crucial to keeping your dog happy and safe during the hottest months of the year. If you like to go running, hiking, or swimming with your pet, it’s best to go early in the morning or after 5 p.m. Many beaches prohibit dogs in the middle of the day anyway.
- Remember Flea and Tick Prevention —The warm weather months bring all kinds of opportunities to explore nature and get lost on the trails. Pet owners know that means extra opportunity for opportunistic fleas, ticks, and other bugs. Unfortunately, Lyme disease and other insect-borne illnesses can wreak havoc on your pet’s immune system — not to mention make them super uncomfortable and itchy — so you want to make sure you’re especially diligent about their preventative regimen during these months.
- Take Them for a Swim (Safely) — If it’s especially hot out, taking your dog for a swim may be one of the best options for safely getting them exercise and burning off some serious energy. However, you need to make sure you do so in the right way to ensure safety for everyone.
Contrary to popular belief, not all dogs aren’t born with the ability to swim. In fact, even water-loving breeds — spaniels and retrievers are especially prone to loving water — may need to learn how to swim over time. Always let your dog lead and make sure they’re comfortable in the water before using this as a form of exercise.
Be Mindful of Car Safety — If you plan to take your dog on a ride to the lake, trail, or dog park, be conscious about leaving them in the car for too long. The temperature in a car on a summer day can get to 100 degrees or higher very quickly, and the heat can be fatal for your dog. Be extra conscious of how long your dog is in the car, in general, and never leave them locked in the car alone on a hot summer day when heading out for some exercise.
Summer is the best time of year, bringing with it sun, warmth, and plenty of opportunity to get outside and bond with your furry friend. But it also comes with a host of potential issues for both humans and their animals, so it’s vital that you stay vigilant and keep your pets safe. Follow these tips and enjoy a fun, low-risk summer with your best pal!