Summer Tips For Dogs
As the summer gets into full swing, here are some summer tips and facts: from heatstroke to what to do when you’re going on holiday…
Most dogs are sensible in the heat, but remember that they can easily overheat when playing games and running, so be careful when exercising them. To be safe, it is best to walk your dog during the cooler morning and evening hours in the summer months. This will also avoid sore paws from walking on hot tarmac.
More summer tips for dogs
While we love a sunny day, we have to be careful with our canine companions as they can easily develop heatstroke.
Heatstroke occurs when your dog cannot lose excess heat, causing the body to reach dangerous temperatures. A body temperature rise of only 4 degrees can be enough to kill! Being in an environment that is too hot or humid can lead to heatstroke, especially if your dog is running or playing. This can include, but is not limited to, a hot day, being enclosed in a warm room (conservatories especially can become lethally hot very rapidly, even on cool but sunny days), and being left in the car.
Like in people, sunburn can lead to skin cancer in dogs. Sadly, development of cancer often requires surgery for treatment to remove the affected area. Early detection is key to managing skin cancer – keep a close eye on your dog’s skin changes. If you do notice any changes, contact your vet as soon as possible.
You can help minimise the risk of sunburn in your dog in two ways:
- Keep them inside on very sunny days, or keep to the shade. If your skin would burn, so would theirs. Keeping them away from direct sun reduces the risk of sunburn.
- Apply dog-friendly sunscreen. Just like us, dogs can have protective sunscreen applied to protect skin from sun damage. Apply it to the nose and ears especially, but anywhere the fur is thin needs protection. Especially for swimmers, don’t forget to re-apply frequently.
With the summer comes trips, long walks and days out. While this is all great for your canine friends, this increased freedom and new environments can lead to more dogs getting lost. At home, doors and gates are more likely to be left open, also increasing the risk of unwanted escapades.
Making sure you are always aware of your dog is important when you are out, as is keeping them on a lead if you aren’t sure an area is secure – this also reduces the risk of accident and injury. Researching dog-safe walk routes can help keep your dog secure if they like to be off-lead.
If the worst does happen, it is really important that your dog is easily identifiable. As well as wearing a collar and tag, one of the best ways to provide permanent identification for your dog is with a microchip. Getting your dog microchipped means that even if their collar is lost or removed, your dog can still be identified, greatly increasing the chances of them being returned to you.
Travel within the UK on ‘stay-cation’ is a great way to see a bit more of the UK and take your dog with you! Making sure your dog is happy when travelling, and knowing the risks of travel, can help you make sure that your trip is great for everyone.
- Car sickness. Some dogs get very agitated in the car. This can be due to true motion sickness or can be due to a phobia of car travel. Your vet can help you if you aren't sure if your dog has true motion sickness, a phobia, or both! True motion sickness can be aided by anti-nausea tablets, which can be given before travel. Phobias are much more difficult to deal with, and require patience and training to overcome.
- Strapped in. A loose dog in the car is a huge hazard, both as a distraction, and in the case of a crash. Dogs legally should be restrained in the car, by a dog specific harness or in a secured crate. Not doing so may invalidate your car insurance, along with breaking the law. Keep everyone safe on your travels by keeping your dog strapped in this summer!
- Dogs die in hot cars. A familiar slogan, hundreds of dogs still suffer from heatstroke every year after they are left in cars. Cars can become lethally hot in only a few minutes, so make sure never to leave your dog in a car unattended.
- New friends. While most of our parasites are found across the UK, some are found in higher density in certain areas. Ticks are a great example of this, and while found country-wide, are often seen in higher numbers in the south of the UK, and in areas with long grass. Make sure you know the parasite risk of any areas you travel to with your dog, and speak to your vet about keeping your pet protected.
Dogs like company, and a mainstay of care is to find an arrangement where they will still get enough walks, care and attention. If you can find a trusted friend, neighbour or family member, or a professional house sitter, to look after your dog in their normal environment while you are away, this is a great option.
Dogs are often happy to stay at another house whilst you’re away. A popular alternative to at-home care is kennels, where dogs are looked after 24/7. This can be stressful for dogs who are not used to it, as there is often lot of noise and new smells, so getting them used to it from a young age if possible is preferable.
Some tips for putting your dog in a kennels include:
- Check your kennels in advance. A good kennel should have no problem with you visiting ahead of time to see where they keep the dogs, and the condition. Check the dogs seem content, although expect some barking when you visit, and go with your instinct about if you feel your dog would be happy there. Good questions to ask include asking if they feed each dog their own food, if they are happy giving medication if necessary and how often the dogs are walked.
- Recommendations. Recommendation can be a great way to find a kennel, your vet may be able to help, and there are a wealth of review sites online. Don't forget what suits one dog may not suit another, so make sure to assess a kennel from the point of view of your own needs.
- Paperwork. You will need to provide evidence that your dog has been vaccinated, as well as details of your vet, and emergency contact details. It is also worth leaving information on your dog's likes and dislikes, think about their favourite toys and treats, as well as any problems they may have with other dogs, or lead walking. The more information your kennels has, the better they can help your dog settle in.
- Updates. In the age of social media, some kennels will post daily updates on their current residents, so you can check up on your pet while you are away.
- Multi-dog. If you have more than one dog, they will likely be best housed together. Make sure the kennels knows that you will be bringing multiple dogs, and check that larger pens are provided for multiple boarders.
- Belongings. The more familiar your dog is with their surroundings, the happier they will be. Taking their own bedding, toys and food will help keep your dog feeling secure. Using their own food will also help keep their tummy settled, as a change of diet can cause diarrhoea.
While fleas can be a problem year round, their numbers often see a peak in summer. This is due to the warmer weather, and the increased interactions between dogs as they spend more time outdoors.
Tick numbers also rise between spring and autumn, and these nasty blood-suckers can carry a range of diseases such as Lyme disease, as well as causing irritations of the skin.
Preventing parasites using treatments available from your vet, and as part of our Complete Care Health Plan, is the best way to protect your dog from parasites this summer.
If you do see fleas or ticks, don’t panic! Your vet will be able to help you treat flea infestations, which will involve treating your pets and also your home. Tick treatment generally just involves removing the tick, but this should be done carefully using a tick hook/remover to avoid leaving any of the tick mouthparts in the skin. There are a number of tick preventative treatments available from your vet, so it’s best to ask about these before going on holiday.
Some dogs loathe water, but others can’t get enough. If you are out near water with your dog this summer make sure to consider:
- Not all dogs can swim. Swimming might not come naturally to your pup, and flat-faced breeds especially can struggle to keep their noses above water. Keep a very close eye on your dog if they choose to go swimming, and always try shallow water first.
- Life vests are for dogs too! If you are out on a boat, or if your dog isn't a great swimmer, make sure they are wearing a life jacket.
- A quick drink. Seawater can hugely upset their tummies. Make sure to offer them plenty of clean, fresh water to drink and stop them if they start trialling a lap from the sea! Water from rivers and ponds should also be avoided as this can also upset stomachs, as well as having the possibility of harbouring leptospirosis.
- Currents. It can be impossible to see currents in the sea from the beach, and intrepid swimmers can soon get into trouble. If you think your dog is in trouble, always call the coastguard and don’t get in the water yourself as this can just lead to lifeguards needing to save two lives.
- Don't force them. Swimming isn't for everyone, and if your dog is a definite land-lubber then that's absolutely fine! Just make sure they have other ways to cool off.
- Ear ache. Dogs who frequently swim can be prone to ear infections, so make sure dogs are thoroughly dried after a swim and use ear cleaner from your vet to help make sure their ears are kept dirt and infection-free.
Grass seeds caught in your dog’s paws, eyes or ears is an extremely common problem during the summer months especially in breeds with hairy ears and feet such as Cockapoos and Spaniels.
Grass seeds are like tiny arrowheads which easily get stuck into your pet’s coat and can then penetrate the skin. In some cases, the grass seed can keep travelling to other areas of the body such as the chest which can make them very difficult to find and remove.
Your pet may show signs of discomfort, often shortly after a walk. Signs depend on where the grass seed got stuck and can include: violent shaking of the head, rubbing at the eyes, chewing at the feet or sudden onset sneezing. Other signs are sudden onset lameness and swelling between the toes.
To help prevent grass seeds getting stuck, you can:
- Trim the fur on your pet's paws and around their ears
- Check your dog for grass seeds routinely following a walk especially their ears and between the toes
- Avoid meadows and woodlands where these grasses commonly grow
Grass seeds can be painful and are difficult to remove from sensitive areas, so please consult your local vet if you suspect your pet may have a grass seed stuck.
If you can't hold your hand on the hot pavement for longer than five seconds, it is too hot for your dogs to walk on. Leave walks to the early morning and late evening when it is cooler and make sure to pack a water bottle so your dogs can drink occasionally. If you are concerned about your pet in the heat, contact your local practice as soon as possible.