Our Top 10 Summer Safety Tips for Dogs

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Our pets love summer just as much as we do! For many, it’s the best time of year to be out, about, and enjoying all that the season has to offer.

While there is certainly nothing wrong with taking your pet out for picnics, hikes, swimming, or running, keep in mind that warm weather can be dangerous. It’s hard for pets to keep cool when the sun is beating down, and animals don’t sweat like people do. Dogs do sweat, but not very much, and it does little to cool them off. As you probably know, dogs more commonly cool themselves down through panting. When there is only hot air for a dog to breathe, it’s a lot harder for that dog to keep cool. Read on to learn some important summer safety tips for dogs.:

1. Never, ever, EVER leave your dog in a hot car
Okay, you’ve probably heard this one before, but it’s so important that we still decided to list it first. It can take minutes – yes, MINUTES – for a pet to develop heat stroke and suffocate in a car. Most people don’t realize how hot it gets in parked cars. On a 78 degree day, for instance, temperatures in a car can reach 90 degrees in the shade and top 160 degrees if parked directly in the sun! Your best bet is to leave your dog home on warm days. If you’re driving around with your dog in the car, bring water and a water dish and take your dog with you when you leave the car.

2. Make sure your dog is protected from parasites like fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes
If not protected, your dog is at risk for heartworm, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and a host of other nasty and dangerous conditions. And don’t forget, many of these diseases can be caught by people too!

3. Keep your dog's paws cool
When the sun is cooking, surfaces like asphalt or metal can get really hot! Try to keep your pet off of hot asphalt; not only can it burn paws, but it can also increase body temperature and lead to overheating. It’s also not a good idea to drive around with your dog in the bed of a truck – the hot metal can burn paws quickly (and they can fall out to be injured or killed in an accident).

4. Your dog should always have access to fresh drinking water and shade
Our dogs get much thirstier than we do when they get hot, and other than panting and drinking, they really have no way to cool themselves down. Keep your pet in the shade as often as possible. While dogs and cats like to sunbathe, direct sunlight can overheat them (especially dogs) and cause heat stroke.

Find out how much you know about heat stroke with this quick quiz

5. Give your dog his very own "kiddy pool”
Dogs who love the water, naturally love it even more during the hot months, and getting wet keeps them cool. Providing a small, kid-sized pool will go over big.

6. Don’t assume your dog can swim well
Just because dogs instinctively know how to swim, doesn’t mean they’re good swimmers. And if your dog jumps in your swimming pool, he might not be able to get out without help and could easily drown. Make sure your dog can’t get into your swimming pool without you around.

Read more about water safety here

7. Dogs get sunburns too!
Believe it or not, dogs can sunburn, especially those with short or light-colored coats. And just like with people, sunburns can be painful for a dog and overexposure to the sun can lead to skin cancer. Talk to your veterinarian about sunscreens for your dog (don’t assume a sunscreen for people is appropriate for your dog).

8. If there’s no fence, keep your dog on a leash
Summertime means all sorts of exciting sights, scents, critters running around, and new and exciting places to explore. You never want to lose your dog because he became distracted in an unfamiliar environment. And remember, not every dog is meant to be off-leash; some dogs just can never be fully trusted to come when called. Make sure you understand your dog’s tendencies and err on the side of being overly-cautious.

9. Watch your dog’s weight
After a long winter, many dogs put on a few extra pounds. Summer is the perfect time to increase his level of exercise and get in tip-top shape. A pet that maintains a healthy weight throughout his lifetime will live, on average, 2-3 years longer than an overweight pet! Just make sure not to over-exert your dog. Talk to your veterinarian, give him adequate rest and if your dog is especially overweight, make sure you ease him into physical activity.

Check out "5 Must Ask Questions about Pet Obesity"

10. Keep your windows screened!
You may want your house to be ventilated, but you definitely do not want your dog jumping out!

Perhaps the most important tip is to pay attention to your dog – you’ll know when he seems uncomfortable. Summer can be a great time to spend with your dog, but it’s important to keep these tips in mind! Be sure to check out our tips for firework safety too.

And as always, make sure you talk with your veterinarian about any questions or concerns you have about your pets in warm summer weather.

Summer safety tip 3: Know the warning signs of sharks.

Compared to other summer vacation safety threats, shark attacks are extremely unlikely. However, they do happen. Here are a few tips for avoiding sharks:

  • Don't swim at dawn or dusk, or after heavy rains.
  • Don't swim near fishing piers, where sharks may be attracted by bait.
  • If you see small fish schooling and jumping out of the water, a shark may be nearby.
  • Sharks are attracted to mouths of rivers, channels, deep drops and areas between sandbars.
  • Watch for blue or purple flags, which indicate sharks, jellyfish or other dangerous marine life. 2

Tips for buying a pet life jacket

Dogs are a lot safer with a life vest, but when you’re shopping for one, choose carefully. Turn to resources like the Center for Pet Safety or the U.S. Boating Foundation for information about pet safety vests.

“Unlike flotation devices for people, the U.S. Coast Guard does not govern pet life jacket performance, and there are no test standards to ensure appropriate or adequate buoyancy,” Wolko says.

What’s even more alarming is that in a pilot study conducted by Western University College of Veterinary Medicine, the findings indicated that some pet life jackets might increase the risk of drowning. Some of the tested jackets had uneven buoyancy, causing the dog’s head to tip into the water or the dog’s body to rock unsteadily from side to side.

So what can pet parents do? The study’s findings suggest that an inflatable dog life jacket would likely perform the best should Fido fall overboard. These life vests are compact but have a sensor that automatically inflates when they are submerged in water.

The CFD also should be bright yellow in color rather than black. A dark CFD can be hard to spot in the water and it can increase your pet’s body temperature. It should have a handle on the back to make it easy to pull your pup from the water.

“Remember, that if you jump in to save a person or pet who has fallen overboard, your risk of drowning increases,” Wolko says. “Always travel with a friend and dive in to save someone or a pet only as a last resort.”

Boat insurance is not required in every state, but having a boat policy can help protect you financially should an accident occur. Erie Insurance can also help protect your furry family members with pet injury coverage that’s automatically included in ERIE auto policies (not available in all states). Contact an Erie Insurance agent in your community to learn more.

Top 10 summer safety tips for dogs - pets

Keep Your Cool: Warm summer weather can be tough on our furry friends. Keep these tips in mind when it’s hot outside:

1.Always provide plenty of cool, clean water for your animal. When away from home, carry a thermos with fresh water.

2.Leave your pets at home as much as possible. While you may think that they will be lonely, they will be much more comfortable in your cool home than riding in a hot car.

3.If you must take your pet along for the ride, don’t leave your pet alone in a parked vehicle. Even with the windows open, a parked car can quickly become a furnace. If the temperature outside is 80 degrees, the temperature inside your car can quickly climb to 120 degrees.

4.In extremely hot weather, don’t leave your dog standing on the street, and keep walks to a minimum. Your canine companion is much closer to the hot asphalt and his body can heat up quickly. His paws can also burn on hot asphalt or concrete. If you’re going to be on hot pavement, consider bringing along a towel or blanket for your dog to rest on, giving his pads a break from the sweltering heat of the pavement. Be sure to allow for plenty of breaks and find shady spots to cool off.

5.Don’t force your animal to exercise in hot, humid weather. Exercise your pet in the cool of the early morning or evening.

6.Dogs can get sunburned too – don’t forget to protect hairless and light-coated dogs with sunscreen.

7.Always provide plenty of shade for an animal staying outside the house. Bring your pet inside during the heat of the day and let them rest in a cool part of your house. If you take your dog to the beach or park, make sure you can provide a shaded spot for resting.

8.A clean coat can help to prevent summer skin problems, so keep your pet well groomed.

9.Take your companion animal to the veterinarian for a spring or early summer checkup. Have the doctor recommend a safe, effective flea and tick control program.

10.Be alert for the signs of heat stress: heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid pulse, unsteadiness, a staggering gait, vomiting, or a deep red tongue. If you believe your pet is suffering from heat exhaustion, contact your veterinarian right away—it could save your pet’s life.

Never leave your pets in a parked car

Not even for a minute! Not even with the car running and air conditioner on. On a warm day, temperatures inside a vehicle can rise rapidly to dangerous levels. On an 85-degree day, for example, the temperature inside a car with the windows opened slightly can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, the temperature will reach 120 degrees. Your pet may suffer irreversible organ damage or die. Learn how to help a pet left inside a hot car by taking action or calling for help. Local law enforcement can follow this handy guide [PDF] on how to proceed.

Print our hot car flyer and spread the lifesaving word. Download the PDF

Leaving pets locked in cars is never safe. But when the weather gets warmer, it can be deadly. Pledge to never leave your pet in a hot car.

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