What Does Summer Mean for My Dog?
By: Dr. Amanda Landis-Hanna
Follow Dr. LH on Twitter
Summertime is around the corner. For kids, that means long days of no school. For runners, it may mean more outdoors exercise. But what does it mean for dogs?
Dogs respond to the longer days as well, though it is often subtle. Some dogs prefer time inside, near an air conditioner, especially if they suffer from an endocrine disorder, like hypothyroidism. Other dogs prefer to be outside, sunbathing, as much as possible. Keep in mind dogs can get skin cancer, so apply dog or children’s sunscreen if your dog is going outside for awhile.
Many dogs show more activity in the summer. If the kids are home, and taking your dog for walks, she may get more structured exercise than normal. If you take your family hiking and camping, your pet may enjoy walks in the woods as well. Just make sure to apply flea and tick medication monthly (or as directed by your veterinarian), to minimize risk for flea and tick bites. Lyme disease risk increases in the summer due to heightened risk for tick exposure. If your dog is more active, monitor her calories burned and intensity (via Voyce) to make sure she is not over-exercising. Always provide her with ample fresh water, and many breaks in the shade.
Swimming is a great summer time activity for dogs. It is important to bathe her after a swim in the pool, to remove all chlorine from her coat. If she swims in a lake or stream, discourage her from drinking the water. Instead, bring a bottle of water and a bowl for her, to minimize her risk for contracting a bacteria or parasite from contaminated water (such as Leptospirosis or Giardia). And remember to clean her ears any time she swims; water in her ears may lead to ear infections.
Summer can be an anxious time for some dogs. The change in routine, having kids home from school, and the change in daylight hours can make some dogs more nervous; other dogs will relish these changes. New smells (campfire) and sounds (fireworks) can be stressful to many dogs. Watch your dog in new environments to make sure she is comfortable. If you are concerned your dog may be scared of a situation, remove her without coddling her; it is important to avoid reinforcing her fears.
One of the biggest summertime risk factors are ubiquitous barbeques. Make sure your dog doesn’t accidentally get burned by the fire or grill, and don’t allow her to eat any rich foods or scraps. Do not give her bones, as they may break her teeth or puncture her digestive system. Do not let her eat corncobs, as they may get stuck in her stomach and need to be surgically removed. Do not let her eat the chocolate from s’mores, and avoid raw or cooked onion. Instead, offer her healthy treats such as carrot sticks.
Heat stress and heat stroke are problematic in the summer as well. NEVER leave your dog in your car, even for a few minutes. Let your dog warm up before exercise, as well as cool down after exercise. Let her drink room temperature water, or ice water; both are safe options for your dog. If her gums get dark red or blue, stop exercising immediately and seek veterinary attention. Remember that it is most safe to exercise your dog in the early morning hours, or in the late evening hours, to avoid the worst heat.
Summertime is full of fun for all, humans and dogs alike. Keep these tips in mind to keep summertime safe and enjoyable