Dr Hannah Godfrey BVetMed MRCVS
You probably look forward to the summer if you're a pet parent. After all, when the evenings are lighter and the weather is drier and warmer, there's plenty more fun to be had! But the summer sun also poses some dangers to your canine companion. So, what do you need to know about keeping dogs safe in the summertime?
What are the risks?
Summer safety is really important if you have a dog. Although it's great getting out with the family for walks, runs, and other adventures, your furry family members are more at risk from the sun than you might think. There are three primary risks for dogs when it comes to sun safety:
Heatstroke is the first and most significant risk to your dog when the weather gets warmer. Dogs can only lose heat by panting or sweating from their paws, so they're not very efficient at cooling off. Heatstroke occurs when their body temperature increases above the normal range. The symptoms include excessive panting, red gums, dribbling, diarrhoea, vomiting, wobbliness, seizures, and collapse. Without prompt intervention, heatstroke is rapidly fatal, so you should contact your veterinarian right away. You can find out more about the treatment for heatstroke here.
Although not as immediately dangerous as heatstroke, sunburn can also be very serious. Just like us, pets can get a sunburn, and they’re particularly at risk in areas where their fur is white or sparse. Ear and noses are common areas for your poor pooch to catch the sun. Continue reading to find out how to prevent sunburn safely.
3. Burns from hot pavements
Have you ever been to the beach and tried to walk across boiling hot sand with bare feet? It can look like a real-life version of the game 'the floor is lava'! Well, hot pavements, paths, and other concrete surfaces can be just as painful for a dog’s poor paws! Aside from being painful, hot surfaces can also cause serious burn injuries to your dog’s pads.
How do you protect dogs in the sun?
Protecting your dog from the sun isn't always easy. It can be tempting to take your dog out and about when the weather is nice, especially if they're used to having a long walk. However, it’s worth remembering that missing out on a walk isn’t the end of the world, whereas taking your dog out during the heat of the day could have disastrous consequences.
To keep your fur buddy as safe as possible in the sun, you should only take them out at dawn or dusk, when it’s cool. You should always check the pavement with the back of your hand to make sure it's not too warm for them before taking them out for a walk. If your dog is outside, you should put sunblock onto any light-furred or thin-furred areas like ear tips and noses. Make sure that the sunblock is safe for dogs, though. It shouldn't contain any Zinc Oxide or PABA. More information about using sunscreen in dogs can be found here.
You should make sure they have access to a shady resting spot and plenty of drinking water wherever they are. A pool of water to splash in or some ice cubes to play with can make cooling off more fun for your furry friend. You should always avoid leaving your dog in the car, especially if the weather is warm.
Is it OK for dogs to sit in the sun?
Some dogs don't know about sun safety, and they sometimes lie out in the garden snoozing in the warm weather! As long as they have plenty of shady spaces available, you should be able to rely on them to move when it's time to cool off. However, if they're panting a lot and seem to be getting a little warm, it's worth encouraging them inside for a drink and a cool down.
Warm weather advice for pet parents
If your dog is panting excessively, collapsed, or otherwise seeming unwell in the warmer weather, they might have heatstroke. Heatstroke is an emergency, so you should contact your veterinarian right away. If you can, try to start cooling your dog down, using cool (but not ice cold) water. Wet towels or blankets or an air-conditioned car can be handy. Your veterinarian will be able to give you more advice about what you can do to cool them on the journey to the practice.
If your dog has sunburn or burns on their feet, they also need veterinary attention. Your vet will be able to assess the injuries and treat them as needed. Finally, if your dog or any other dog has been left in the car and is showing signs of heat exhaustion, you should take them to the veterinarian straight away. If they are locked in a vehicle and the owner is not nearby, you should contact the police on 999.
Sadly, the summertime poses a few risks to our canine companions. However, as long as you follow sun safety advice, you can keep your perfect pooch safe and still have some fun with the family.