Updated: Feb 18
We all love the summer and the freedom of the outdoors that it brings into our lives. But…put
yourself in your dogs paws for a moment. When you’re out and about with them - you need to be
aware of a few dangers lurking. Here’s our guide to a safe summer with your furry friend.
It’s a little known fact that your dog could be as exposed to the affects of the sun as much as you
are. If you plan to spend your day in the outdoors, walking, playing at the beach, camping etc, then
there are ways you should consider protecting them.
Dogs can be known to get skin cancer - and certainly sunburn isn’t something that you want to risk
inflicting on them wither.
Pets who live outdoors for the majority of the time can suffer squamous cell carcinoma that affects
the tips of their ears and noses; ulcerated sores that have to be treated immediately before it
spreads and they lose their lives.
Dark-skinned, densely-coated dogs like many labradors or terriers, are usually alright. But a white,
light-coloured, sparse-coated dogs like a Bichon Frise are especially at risk. That’s why we do not
recommend that you shave their pets down during the height of the summer season unless you are
fully aware of the risks of sunburn.
If you think your dog has been sunburned then the one treatment is the most natural one; aloe
vera. However, if the situation looks more serious then it might entail a trip to the vet.
Prevention is better than cure however, and there are a section of sunscreens for dogs available
on the market. This comprehensive guide from Pet Life Today lists a lot of them and this article
from Good Housekeeping also has some good tips. There are also ideas in this article from All
Natural Pet Care for things you can feed your dog that will protect them from the inside out in the
most natural way.
However, you may pay through the nose for many specialist items! So its good to know that any
“natural” sunscreen meant for children should also work on your dog as they have the very same
skin as us. These creams tend to be lower in the more nasty-if-ingested chemicals, such as zinc
oxide, which your dog WILL lick off their nose.
Ensure that it is fragrance-free, non-staining and contains UVA and UVB barriers of SPF 50. Avoid
those with zinc or PABA as they are very toxic if ingested. Products containing titanium dioxide as
an active ingredient are okay to use for your pets. Apply the cream to their muzzle, tips of ears, top
of nose, groin, inside legs, and abdomen.
Epi-Pet sunscreen is pH-balanced for pets and designed for dogs and horses. It is a non-greasy,
quick-dry formula that is safe if licked after applied. It is water and sweat repellant. The sunscreen
is even virtually silent when sprayed.
But it isn’t just their skin that you should be aware of. Pad burns, which can happen to dogs walked
on hot asphalt or sand, can be very painful ending up in blistering burns that need to be see by the
vet. Just remember, if you couldn’t walk on it without shoes, then the dog probably can’t either.
When we are hot we sweat to expel heat. Our furry friends, however, only perspire around their
paws, so to cool down, they pant. This enables them to take air through their nasal passages,
picking up excess heat from the body, which is then expelled through the mouth.
Heat exhaustion can rapidly progress to heatstroke and become an emergency situation. Be aware
of the signs:
Dog becomes anxious
Lack of response to commands
If your dog is overweight or is a breed known to be affected by heatstroke (such as dogs that are
unable to breathe clearly like Bulldogs or pugs) then you need to be even more vigilant.
If you recognise these signs in your dog, you need to cool them down immediately. Dogs who are
not cooled down at this point could get heat stroke which leads to a shut-down of all normal
circulatory processes and death.
If possible, move the dog to a cool, shaded area. If the dog is having difficulty breathing, ensure its
airways are clear. The dog’s temperature needs to be brought down to normal as quickly as
possible. This can be done by applying towels soaked in cool water to the dog, ensuring that they
cover the hairless areas (groin and feet) as these areas are sensitive to heat and will quickly help
reduce the dog’s temperature. Alternatively, you can hose the dog down with cool water. If your
dog is small enough, move them to a tub of cool water. Once your dog is stabilised, seek veterinary
To avoid the risk of heatstroke, try not to exercise them in the middle of the day in full sun. Don’t
throw balls and toys for them to run after. Dogs will run until they drop so it’s important to use your
judgement to control the exercise
Overweight dogs are inclined to suffer more in the warm weather, so ensure your dog stays trim
Feed them in the evening when the temperature has dropped. The dog’s appetite can be affected
in hot weather
Always have fresh water available - take a supply with you if you go out.
You can also create some lovely cool treats for your dog! Iced water for example or stuffing their
food into a kong and freezing it overnight. This ensures they are entertained by the act of getting it
out of the kong - and whilst it remains frozen, its a nice cold treat.
During summer parasites are found at their highest numbers in summer. Ticks, fleas, and
mosquitos can cause real problems for your pet. See your vet for regular treatment recommended
for your breed.
Fleas aren’t the only animals to watch out for. Adders can often be found in the UK when walking
through long grass and sadly we have known a few dogs that have died from the bite of an adder -
particularly in long grasses in the sand dunes and up on the moors.
Because dogs tend to wade through the grass headfirst they often get bitten on the face or neck
rather than towards the back of their body, if this happens your dog could begin to experience
breathing issues. This is because an adder’s bite is poisonous and causes swelling, if this happens
visit your vet as soon as possible who will probably have antivenin.
Beestings in general are not harmful to your pet - although they can cause a nasty swelling.
However, if they are very irritated, they may scratch the stung area, pulling out the fur. These "hot
spots" make your pet look bald. Bring your pet to the vet right away if you notice this behaviour or
Everyone loves a BBQ in the summer! Dogs are driven mad by the tantalising smells of the meat
cooking in front of their nose. But be aware - dangers lurk. Eating barbecue scraps can upset your
pet’s stomach – undercooked or fatty food can make them sick so skip the scraps!
Foods such as grapes, onions, garlic and raisins can be toxic to dogs - so if you have small
children running around the garden with food - make sure that the dog cannot take advantage of
Also - watch out for them raiding the bin! Vets often have to operate on pets who have eaten things
they shouldn’t, like corn on the cob cores!
Table scraps and treats should be kept to less than 10 per cent of a pet's diet. Boneless chicken,
hamburgers and hot dogs are okay, but limit them to small quantities. As you know, most pets eat
anything and everything, so keep an eye on them. Bones - particularly chicken bones, can be very
dangerous for dogs as they splinter when chewed and can get stuck in the stomach or throat. It
may lead to them being surgically removed!
Do not leave them in the car!
As we explained above, dogs find it very hard to regulate their temperature and their ability to pant
is severely affected in high humidity or when the dog is confined. Even on a mild day, with the
windows open, the temperature inside can reach 120 Fahrenheit (about 49 degrees celsius) in less
than 30 minutes.