5 Dog Dangers to Avoid This Summer

For many of us, summer is synonymous with fun. There are so many exciting outdoor activities to do — and many of them can be enjoyed with our dogs in tow, like hiking, camping and boating.

However, it's important to remember that summer (and all those great outdoor adventures) come with a myriad of potential dangers, like stinging insects and water hazards. But don't hole up inside just yet! Here are some tips on how to avoid these potential disasters, plus strategies for handling them if they do occur.

5 Summer Dog Dangers to Avoid

Closeup of a wasp


Bees, Wasps and Fire Ants

The insects of summer can do more than just bug your dog while you're trying to enjoy the outdoors — wasp and bee stings can cause major problems, including swelling, pain and even anaphylaxis (a potentially fatal allergic reaction). If a sting occurs on your dog's head or neck, or in her mouth, it can cause dangerous swelling, affecting her ability to breathe. If you see your dog struggling to breathe or notice excessive swelling, take your dog to the vet immediately. It's an emergency. But if the sting simply causes minor redness, you can brush the stinger out of the skin with your fingernail or a credit card, then apply a washcloth with cold water or a soothing paste of baking soda and water to help ease the pain. (Use an e-collar if necessary to prevent your dog from licking up the baking soda.)

Fire ants are nasty buggers that won't hesitate to shower any dog in their path with a plethora of painful bites. Your first step is to get your dog away from the ants, then put on gloves and carefully brush off any that are still on her fur. If your pet has suffered just a few bites, you can treat them at home with baking soda paste, a cold compress or an antihistamine (ask your veterinarian to recommend the right product and appropriate dose for your dog), but if she's been bitten many times, go straight to the vet — some dogs can have a serious allergic reaction to ant bites, too.

Tick on a leaf


Mosquitoes, Fleas and Ticks

While some insects are dangerous due to their bites, others present a problem because they can potentially infect your dog with a variety of disease-causing pathogens and parasites. Mosquito bites can transmit heartworms, fleas can pass on tapeworms and tick bites can lead to Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis and other tick-borne diseases in your dog.
Fortunately, you can plan ahead for mosquitoes, fleas and ticks by talking to your veterinarian about which preventive products are a fit for your dog. There are effective oral products, topicals and collars available, but the best choice may vary depending on your lifestyle and the types of parasites most prevalent in your area.

Chihuahua sunbathing


Sun Exposure and Heatstroke

It's true that a dog's fur provides her with some sun protection, but pups with thin or light-colored coats, as well as hairless breeds, are susceptible to sunburn and even skin cancer, particularly those who spend a lot of time outdoors. Reduce your dog's risk by keeping her in the shade as much as possible and using a dog-safe sunscreen when she spends time in the sun.

Heatstroke is another scary summer danger. It's important to know the factors that make dogs more susceptible to heatstroke (for example, overweight dogs and dogs with short snouts are especially at risk). However, any dog can be affected if she's too active in the heat of the day or is left in a hot area without a cool place to which she can retreat.


Beach Perils

It might surprise you to know that consuming too much sand, either purposely or in the process of picking up toys, is a common problem vets who practice near the ocean see in the summer. Large quantities of sand can cause serious intestinal damage.

Sand can also cause a problem if your dog gets a face full and ends up with grains in her eyes. You can try using a basic rinse for irrigating eyes from the drugstore to help wash out debris, but if you notice squinting or redness, you'll need to head in to see your veterinarian in case your dog's cornea has been scratched. Playing on hard-packed sand can help reduce the risks of both these issues.

Finally, make sure to keep an eye on what your pooch is getting into as she frolics along the shore, to make sure she's not disturbing sea turtle nests or getting into anything potentially dangerous that's been left on the beach or floated ashore, like fishing hooks, syringes or marijuana.

Husky swimming in a pool


Water-Related Woes

Whether you and your dog hit the beach or find a man-made body of water in which to cool off, you'll want to take a few precautions to keep your pup safe. For one thing, take fresh water (and something to put it in) to keep her from drinking from the ol' swimming hole. Salt water can cause serious diarrhea and vomiting, and even lakes and rivers can harbor harmful organisms and chemicals.

It's also important for you to recognize that not all dogs are natural swimmers — especially flat-faced breeds with short legs, such as Pugs and Bulldogs — so a life vest may be in order, or better yet, keep them out of the water and in a cool place in the shade. And, of course, dogs should always be supervised when in the water.

Additionally, you should always give your dog a thorough freshwater rinse after she's gone swimming in salt water or a chlorinated pool — this will prevent the chemicals from drying out her fur and skin — and towel her off, especially if she's wrinkly. And don't forget her ears! After she's gone swimming, apply an ear cleaner recommended by your veterinarian and massage the ear to make sure it's all the way in there. Your dog will probably shake right afterward, and that's OK — it'll help remove water, wax and any debris in her ears. Then just dry the outer portion of the ear canal with a cotton ball.

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