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Pet Safety

A guide to summer safety for dogs

A day of sun, fun, and canine companionship is something special — Learn how to keep your dog’s tail wagging all summer long.

Updated October 4, 2021

Created By

Mariah Ackary,

📷 by Greg Jenkins

Precautions to take from the backyard to beach

Summer is the perfect season to spend some quality outdoors time with your dog. From road trips to hot days outside, there are steps you can take to make sure your pup stays safe and happy.

Luckily, many of the precautions you should take for your dog are the same as the precautions you take for yourself. Dogs can get overheated and sunburned just like humans, so hydration and minimal exposure to extreme sun and heat are critical. And more time outside means more risk of exposure to unfriendly critters like snakes and insects, especially for curious pups who like to explore wooded areas.

As with any adventure, being prepared for summer outings with your dog is key. Read our guide to learn some of the most common pitfalls you might encounter, how to prevent them, and how to respond.

Common illnesses and injuries to look out for

Heat poses many of the same risks to dogs as it does to humans. But unlike a human, your dog won’t be able to directly tell you they’re in trouble. Here are a few common summer illnesses and injuries for dogs and how to spot them.

Dehydration. When dogs lose more water than they take in, they become dehydrated. And when it’s hot, they’re prone to losing water through increased sweating and panting. Symptoms of dehydration include heavy panting, dry gums and nose, thick saliva, lethargy, sunken eyes, and loss of skin elasticity. 

Heat exhaustion. Usually signified by rapid panting and a body temperature above 103 degrees, heat exhaustion is the precursor to a heat stroke, which can be fatal. Dogs experiencing heat exhaustion may also exhibit vomiting, diarrhea, glazed eyes, lack of responsiveness or coordination, drooling, or rapid heart rate.

Snake or bug bites. Unfortunately, snakes and insects enjoy warm weather, too. If you notice a bite mark or swollen area on your dog’s skin, check their behavior for irregularities. Some poisonous snakes can cause lack of coordination, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, or irregular breathing. Conversely, if you notice the symptoms first, check for a bite (though some bites are too small to be seen). In any case, most bites are worth a visit to the veterinarian — even nonlethal bites can cause long-term side effects. Read our full guide to treating bug bites on your dog. 

Drowning. Even if you rescue your dog from drowning, they may develop respiratory problems or electrolyte imbalances as a result of inhaling water. If your dog has a near-drowning experience, it’s probably best to take them to a veterinarian, who will be able to identify signs of near-drowning complications, including labored or irregular breathing, posture changes,  a weak pulse, or loss of consciousness.

Paw pad burns. A dog’s paw pads are thick skin on the bottom of dogs’ feet. Though they’re made to withstand rough terrain, they are prone to burns from scorching pavement during the summer. Dogs with burnt paw pads will often limp or nurse the area. You also may be able to see the burn, which can look like a dry or discolored patch of skin.  Learn how to treat burned paw pads with necessary first aid steps.

Sunburn. The symptoms of canine sunburn will probably sound familiar: reddened skin, blistering, skin tenderness. Sunburn is most likely to occur in areas with little hair. Lack of direct sun exposure is best, but dog-safe sunscreen does exist. Here are a few trusted tips on how to prevent and treat doggie sunburn.

Anxiety. Around the fourth of July, you’re likely to hear fireworks at night. This is a common anxiety trigger for many dogs. There are several tried-and-true methods for soothing your dog in this scenario — read them all in our guide to calming your dog during Independence Day fireworks.

Common dog breeds susceptible to the summer heat ☀️

In general, dogs that are large or old tend to struggle in the heat.  Another risk factor is snout shape. Brachycephalic dogs (those that have a short head and snout) can’t pant as efficiently as long-snouted dogs, which means they aren’t able to regulate their body temperature as well. Breeds that have a hard time in the heat include: 

  • Chow chow
  • Bulldog
  • Greyhound
  • Cavalier King Charles spaniel
  • Pug
  • English springer spaniel
  • Golden retriever
  • Boxer

How to keep your dog cool ❄️

The best way to beat the heat is to stay inside. But with the right know-how, you and your dog can have a great day outdoors. It’s all about taking breaks — a few minutes in the direct heat likely won’t harm your dog, but prolonged periods will. 

Classic heat relief strategies like fans, shade, and hoses work well for lowering a dog’s body temperature. Here are a few more tips for cooling your dog off quickly:

Take a dip If you’ve got a cool source of water nearby, let your dog stand in it. Dogs’ paw pads help regulate their body temperature, so even just submerging their paws can help. If your dog is really hot try not to let them get submerged too quickly. Rapid changes in body temperature can be harmful.

Use a wet blanket or ice pack If you plan to go on a walk, a damp towel stored in the freezer may be a welcome surprise when you get home. You can drape it over their head,  neck, or groin for a quick cool down. You can also use an ice pack wrapped in a towel to do the same.

Make popsicles Dogs tend to love frozen treats, too. And for many dogs, an ice cube will do the trick. If you want to make a special treat, try freezing some water mixed with a tiny bit of beef bullion for flavor — just don’t mix them up with your fruit pops! 🍧 If you want to get creative with freezy treats, here’s a handy list of the common household foods that your pup should and shouldn’t eat.

Where are you bringing your dog?

If you plan to take your dog to the pool, beach, or somewhere outside — be sure to plan accordingly to ensure your pup is properly cared for and supervised. On top of bringing water, here are a few safety tips for popular summer outings.

Pool safety for dogs 💦

Avoid pool covers — While they’re a good solution for cleanliness, pool covers are very dangerous for dogs. Most are not strong enough to support the weight of a dog, despite the fact that they appear solid. Once a dog falls in, it’s often impossible to find their way out.

Teach your dog to use the steps — Building a habit of cannonballing into the pool is dangerous because it doesn’t require your dog to have an exit strategy before being submerged. If they know how to walk their way into a pool, they’ll also know how to get out.

Use a flotation device — Even good swimmers can get caught in a bad situation, like being injured or trapped. Doggie life jackets help protect from the worst case scenarios and make swimming a little bit less exhausting. A good PFD (personal flotation device) for dogs will be brightly colored, reflective, and comfortable enough for them to spend hours wearing. A handle on the top is a nice feature, too for easy lifting. 

Boat safety for dogs 🛥

Plan for accidents — If your dog decides to take a swim or gets bumped into the water, you need to have a recovery plan. To start, they should be wearing a PFD (personal floatation device). Do not jump in the water to save your dog — They may be panicking and unintentionally harm you. Rather, get the boat close enough, cut the motor, and call your dog over to the boat. When they’re close enough, reach over and pull them up by their flotation device. 

Check local laws — While there are no federal laws about bringing pets on boats, it’s a good idea to check local and state regulations just in case.

📷 by Josh Rakower

Beach safety for dogs 🏖

Check the beach’s regulations — Two beaches within the same town may have different policies about whether dogs are allowed. Many beaches require dogs to be leashed at all times, visit the beach during certain hours, or may not be allowed at all.

Secure a shady area for your dog to rest — Even if you love to bake in the sun, your dog probably doesn’t. Beach tents and pens can provide a nice cool area for your dog to relax when they need a break.

Ensure the water conditions are safe — Check with a lifeguard before allowing your dog to swim in the ocean. Riptides and jellyfish can easily injure your dog. 

Bring sun protection — Ears and noses are very susceptible to sunburn, especially on light-haired and fair-skinned dogs. Be sure to bring a dog-approved sunscreen and reapply after they go in the water. Sunlight can also cause eye damage, so a pair of “doggles” may be useful if you spend a lot of time outdoors. 

👉 Do not let your dog drink salt water. Too much salt water can cause an electrolyte imbalance, which can lead to seizures or cerebral edema if left untreated.

Hiking safety for dogs 🌲

Bring a first aid kit — Dog first aid kits do exist, and they include many of the same components as human first aid kits — gauze, hydrogen peroxide, tweezers, bandages, etc. However, a dog first aid kit may also include some pet-safe wound ointment, an extra leash and collar, a muzzle, and travel water bowls. 

Check the local regulations — It’s never safe to assume that your dog is allowed on a public trail. Even if they are, walking them off-leash can be dangerous for both your dog and other people. Make sure you follow trail etiquette 

Be prepared for insect or snake bites Insect bites from mosquitos and other pests are common, and will produce a similar reaction in dogs as they do in humans — itching, swelling, hives, or pain. Ask your veterinarian ahead of time for the proper dose of Benadryl in such a case. Inspect bites and remove any stingers with tweezers. If you spot a tick in their fur, remove it with a tick key. Snake bites are less common, but you need to visit a vet ASAP if you suspect one. 

Be sure your dog is up-to-date on medications — Prevention is nearly always easier than treatment. Before you go into the woods, be sure your dog is adequately protected with flea, tick, and heartworm medications.

Car safety for dogs 🚗

Never leave your dog in the car — Even parking the car in the shade and rolling the windows down is not okay. It only takes a few minutes for a car to heat up to a temperature that can cause your dog to have a heat stroke. 

Don’t drive with windows wide open — A cracked window is nice for airflow, but you should avoid letting your dog hang out of the window or ride in a truck bed. Despite how cute they look catching some air, they’re in danger of falling out. 

Crate your dog if needed — Some dogs get car anxiety. If that’s the case, it’s best to limit car time. When you have to go for a ride, it may make sense to put them in their crate. Not only will it keep them safe from harm, but it will also protect you and your car. If you don’t want to bring a crate, doggie seat belts can accomplish the same thing.

When is it too hot to bring your pup outside?

There is no one-size-fits-all temperature for dogs. What might feel okay to a small, young dog may be very uncomfortable for a larger, older dog. Get to know your dog’s heat threshold before bringing them along on a long expedition outdoors. 

In general, the average dog will be alright up to 90 degrees, provided that they have great air flow, plenty of water, and shade. On days that exceed 90 degrees, you should limit outdoor activities and recover properly.

🚨  Asphalt pavement can become scorching hot — 140 degrees or hotter — on summer days, which is hot enough to cause permanent damage to your dog’s paw pads. Paw balms can minimize damage by providing a protective barrier between the ground and your dog’s paws.

Don’t leave the house this summer without these items

Summer brings on a world of possibilities — and challenges — for dogs. With the right toolkit, you can feel good about towing your pooch along on all of your summer adventures. Here are a few items you should always keep with you: 

Special gear for your dog this summer

A few specialty items can make a big difference on longer or more involved excursions. These include:

  • Dog shade. Like a portable, more breathable crate, dog shades provide a safe place for your dog to retreat when they’ve had enough sun. We love the SUPERJARE Outdoor dog shade because it keeps your dog off the ground, which can relieve pressure and tension for older dogs.
  • Dog sunscreen. Human sunscreen usually isn’t safe for pets if ingested. Consult your veterinarian about a quality sun protector for dogs. This dog sunscreen from Bodhi is one of our favorites because it’s non-greasy and dog friendly. 
  • Life jacket. Whether you’re playing at the beach, the pool, or spending a day on the boat, a PFD can give you peace of mind and help your dog enjoy the day. This life jacket from Outward Hound is handy because it’s got two handles on the top, making it easy to tug your dog aboard if needed.
  • Doggles. If you plan on spending lots of time in the sun with your pup, consider buying a pair of doggles, like these waterproof sunglasses