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6 Summer Hazards for Your Dog

Updated on July 7, 2014
Photo shared under Creative Commons license.
Photo shared under Creative Commons license. | Source

Summer is a time of year that brings people outdoors along with their canine companions. Unfortunately, it is also a season that can put your dog at risk of encountering several hazards. Read on to find out how you can protect your pet.

1. Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke

With the change of seasons comes increasing temperatures, and in some areas of the country, increasing humidity. These can both contribute to heat-related illness in dogs.

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are two consequences of overheating. Dogs cannot sweat, and have to pant to keep themselves cool. On an exceptionally hot day, some dogs may not be able to cool themselves enough by panting. Dogs with heavy hair coats, upper airway problems, obesity, or other medical problems are at increased risk from the heat.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat stroke could include weakness, fatigue, heavy panting, collapse, vomiting, or diarrhea. If you suspect that your dog is overheating, then the most important thing to do is to cool them down with tepid water. It may seem counter-intuitive, but using cold water can lead to shock and less rapid cooling.

Heat stroke is a medical emergency and is not something that should be treated at home. If you suspect your pet may be suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke, you need to see a veterinarian immediately. Even if your dog appears to be recovering, some of the most serious consequences of the condition develop over the first 12 to 24 hours.

Organ failure, bleeding disorders, and neurologic complications can ensue, making heat stroke a potentially fatal condition, even with appropriate treatment.

The English Bulldog is a breed with an increased risk of heat stroke. Photo shared under Creative Commons license.
The English Bulldog is a breed with an increased risk of heat stroke. Photo shared under Creative Commons license. | Source

Prevent heat-related illness by taking the following precautions:

  • NEVER leave your dog unattended in a car. Cracking the windows does NOT provide adequate ventilation to keep them cool.
  • Exercise caution when taking your dog on a long walk or running at the beginning of the summer. They may require time to adapt to the summer heat and humidity.
  • Dogs with airway problems such as a collapsing trachea or laryngeal paralysis are at increased risk. Avoid exercise in hot weather.
  • Also use caution with brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds such as the English Bulldog, Pug, Boston Terrier, Pekinese, or French Bulldog. Avoid exercise in hot weather.

2. Trauma

Accidents happen, but they tend to happen more often in the summer. With additional time spent outdoors, pets will find ways to get into trouble. Whether it's a tussle with a neighbor's dog or a sharpened stick in a paw, trauma is more common during the warmest months of the year.

Many dogs will stay by you through any adversity, but just let them catch a glimpse of a squirrel and that loyalty is lost. Make sure your dog's collar fits appropriately and that your leash is in good repair. Don't let your dog run loose to avoid accidents such as getting hit by a car.

Dog parks can be a great experience for your dog, but not all of the other dogs there may be socialized. Be aware of your pet's body language and be alert for larger dogs that show signs of aggression. Most dogs will play well together, but when they don't, a fight can be a frightening experience for everyone and can lead to serious injuries or even death.

3. Insect Bites and Stings

Bees and other insects can bite or sting your dog. This can lead to mild discomfort and pain or an allergic reaction.

Facial swelling caused by an allergic reaction. Photo shared under Creative Commons license.
Facial swelling caused by an allergic reaction. Photo shared under Creative Commons license. | Source

Most dogs are stung by insects on the face or a front paw. Often, the original sting is not witnessed. You may notice that your dog is excessively licking one foot, or maybe rubbing at her face.

If your dog is allergic to the sting, then you may see swelling in the lips, face, ears, or around the eyes. This can develop within a few minutes or up to several hours later. The swelling is often itchy and some dogs can rub themselves raw.

Sometimes an allergic reaction will also cause hives over the body. This can be visible on areas with thin fur, such as the groin, abdomen, or insides of the ears. In some dogs, you can see hives as small patches of hair that stand up.

If you suspect that your pet is having an allergic reaction, call your veterinarian. Some pets may be able to take Benadryl over-the-counter. Check with your vet to see if this is safe for your dog based on his medical history.

In rare cases, a pet can go into anaphylactic shock shortly after the sting. Symptoms include vomiting, collapse, pale gums, or respiratory distress. This is a medical emergency and you should seek immediate veterinary care.

4. Backyard BBQ

While some dogs have cast-iron stomachs, many others are prone to gastrointestinal problems when ingesting high fat or spicy food items that we enjoy.

Tasty for us, often dangerous for pets. Photo shared under Creative Commons license.
Tasty for us, often dangerous for pets. Photo shared under Creative Commons license. | Source

It can be tough to resist that adorable face, but human food is the cause of many animal emergency room visits. Any food item that your pet is not used to, especially ones high in fat or with added spices or sauces, can lead to problems. Common symptoms of gastroenteritis include vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy, diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

While a healthy young dog may be able to recover with little intervention, gastroenteritis can cause serious illness in some cases, particularly in puppies or geriatric pets. Any pet with bloody diarrhea, severe abdominal pain, excessive vomiting, or severe lethargy should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Another sequela of ingesting human food is pancreatitis. Under normal circumstances, the pancreas secretes digestive enzymes and hormones such as insulin. A high-fat meal can trigger inflammation in the pancreas, leading to pancreatitis. In this state, the pancreas essentially begins to digest itself. The symptoms of pancreatitis can look very similar to gastroenteritis.

Photo shared under Creative Commons license.
Photo shared under Creative Commons license. | Source

Some pets with pancreatitis will require hospitalization. A few dogs will develop diabetes mellitus as a complication of the inflammation in the pancreas. Other dogs will need to stay on a bland diet life-long after recovery.

Many common barbeque items contain bones, and it may be tempting to give one to your dog, but this is not a good idea.

Bones can cause gastroenteritis or can even lodge in your dog's esophagus, stomach, or intestines. This can lead to serious illness or even death if the bone is not removed using an endoscope or surgery.

Make sure your garbage is secure so that your dog can't help himself after the day's fun is over. Even items that are purely waste to us will be eaten by dogs. Moldy food can contain poisons called tremorgenic mycotoxins. Corn cobs or fruit pits will cause an intestinal obstruction that requires surgery.

5. The Beach - Sand and Sea Creatures

If you live near the ocean, the beach is a popular destination for everyone in the summer. Many dogs love to run across the sand and leap in and out of the waves. However, others can encounter hazards which can ruin the trip.

The previous sections of this article have already outlined a couple of the dangers to be had at the beach. Heat stroke is a risk, even with the water so close. Many dogs will exercise beyond the point at which a person would stop. Your pet may be so caught up in the fun that he will not heed the early warning signs of heat-related illness. Encourage your dog to wet down in the waves and limit play time in the heat of the day.

Lacerations and wounds are common on the beach. Many rocks or shells can be sharp and your dog's feet or pads can be easily injured. If the beach is a long distance from home, be prepared with a first aid kit for your dog. This can include items such as gauze, Neo-Sporin, an Ace bandage, and duct tape. For a comprehensive list of items to include, look at this kit put together by the American Red Cross.

Photo shared under Creative Commons license.
Photo shared under Creative Commons license. | Source

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The main components of the beach - water and sand - can also pose a danger to your dog. Make sure that your pet is able to swim before sending them into the water. Use caution in conditions of rough seas and high winds. If you wouldn't brave the waves, keep your dog on a leash and out of the surf.

While most dogs won't eat mouthfuls of sand, by the time your pet has spent the day in the water she may have inadvertently ingested a large amount of the beach. This can cause irritation in the stomach and intestines, leading to gastroenteritis. Drinking excessive sea water can also lead to illness. Bring fresh water for your dog and encourage them to drink it. If your dog starts to vomit a lot of water, the day at the beach is over.

Dogs are inquisitive and many like to eat gross things. Be aware that there can be dead crabs, fish, jellyfish, or seagulls on the beach. These can all lead to gastrointestinal problems for your pet.

The beach can be a great place to visit for both you and your best friend. An awareness of the dangers can help prevent it from leading to a visit to the vet.

6. Blue-Green Algae

While not everyone lives near the beach, many people seek relief from the summer heat at inland lakes and ponds. However, there can be a hidden danger to dogs and people when blue-green algae are present.

Under certain conditions, blue-green algae proliferate and cause an algal bloom. Blue-green algae are also called cyanobacteria, and are not true algae. These bacteria produce a variety of cyanotoxins which cause acute liver failure in dogs.

An algal bloom. Photo shared under Creative Commons license.
An algal bloom. Photo shared under Creative Commons license. | Source
Heed signs warning of blue-green algae. Photo shared under Creative Commons license.
Heed signs warning of blue-green algae. Photo shared under Creative Commons license. | Source

While the algal bloom in the photo above looks obvious, this may not always be the case. Look out for signs warning of blue-green algae and heed "NO SWIMMING" signs. Keep your dog on a leash and do not allow her to drink pond water if there is any concern about an algal bloom.

Symptoms of blue-green algae poisoning look similar to many other toxins. Vomiting, diarrhea, and weakness are some of the initial signs. However, blue-green algae toxicity leads to rapid liver failure. Additional symptoms may include collapse, abdominal pain, jaundice (visible as yellow discoloration in the skin, gums, or whites of the eyes), seizures, and spontaneous hemorrhage.

If you suspect your dog may have been exposed to blue-green algae, see a veterinarian immediately. Even with extensive treatment, this condition is often fatal.

Have a Safe and Happy Summer!

Most of the summer hazards for your dog can be avoided simply by being aware of the danger. Keep the items on this list in mind when you're enjoying the long days with your best friend and you'll keep everyone safe and happy for many summers to come.

Photo shared under Creative Commons license.
Photo shared under Creative Commons license. | Source

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    • SixIRISHKids profile image

      SixIRISHKids 3 years ago from USA

      Great hub and love how you speak about offering the dogs the barbecued food. It's often not thought about too much, but should be. My dog gets those little gnats that fly around her eyes and has been stung by bees, so, we resorted to using Benadryl as well.

    • Dr Ner profile image
      Author

      Dr Ner 3 years ago from New Jersey

      Thanks for reading, Pamela! Mosquitoes can an annoying problem for our pets too. I'm glad the apple cider vinegar is working for you. Mosquitoes can carry heartworm disease, so in some parts of the U.S. they can be more than an annoyance.

    • Pamela Bush profile image

      howtopam 3 years ago from Alberta, Canada

      Very good information! I live in the country and have a large 120 pound newfoundlander/border collie cross and his eyes swell when the mosquitoes are really bad. I use apple cider vinegar for a repellant and it seems to help keep the mosquitoes away from him.