Protect Your Dog This Summer


Dr. Katy Nelson, an emergency veterinarian, has already seen the impact summer can have on a dog: “A 5-month-old pit bull almost died in my hospital because his owner left him in the car to play 15 minutes of basketball,” she says.

Nelson’s first piece of advice for summer car trips is to leave your dog at home. Below, she offers do’s and don’ts for keeping your dog safe all season.

Do Be Breed-savvy
Some dogs fare better in hot weather than others. Flat-faced dogs -- such as pugs, bulldogs and Boston terriers -- have shorter respiratory tracts. This makes it more difficult for them to cool themselves, compared to their long-snouted compatriots. “A dog cools itself by panting. The smoosh-faced breeds have less surface area for the heat to dissipate in,” says Nelson.

Long-haired dogs are also more vulnerable to overheating, simply because a cool breeze doesn’t make it to their skin. To prevent your dog from possibly overheating, Nelson recommends cutting its hair in the summer.

Do Know the Signs of Summer Sicknesses

  • Heat exhaustion
    Signs of overheating include heavy panting, hyperventilation, increased salivation, weakness, confusion and even vomiting or diarrhea. If your dog exhibits any of these, get it into a cool space as quickly as possible and gently hose off your pet with lukewarm water.
  • GI problems
    Dogs that swim in ponds often ingest water infested with parasites. You can’t stop your pet from drinking, but you can watch it in the days that follow for signs of stomach upset, like vomiting or a stool change.
  • Lyme disease
    A dog that gets bitten by a tick in the summer may not start to exhibit symptoms until fall. Symptoms can include fever, loss of appetite, pain, arthritis, lethargy, depression and enlargement of the lymph nodes. Investigate the risk of ticks in your area before letting your dog run free, and scan its body for ticks after being in a woodsy area.

Don’t Forgo a Veterinary Visit
If your dog displays any of the previously mentioned problems, have it treated by a veterinarian as soon as possible, particularly in the case of heat exhaustion. Left untreated, problems and infections can quickly become serious, requiring hospitalization instead of outpatient treatment.

Don’t Skip Basic Safety Measures
Flea, tick and heartworm prevention medicines should be given all summer long. Check the expiration dates to make sure their ingredients are still active.

Pet owners with balconies need to take care that their dog is not on these structures without supervision. “Every summer we see a pet with what we call ‘high-rise syndrome.’ They lose their balance and fall off balconies, usually with tragic results,” says Nelson.

Lastly, never leave your dog in a parked car -- even with the windows open -- or tied up outside under a blazing sun.

With a little bit of caution, summer can be vacationlike for your canine too, even if it never leaves the shade of your neighborhood.

by Darcy Lockman