10 Summer Safety Tips from Our Dumb Friends League Experts

Dog Days of Summer

by Katarina Ronnlund, volunteer

Summer is finally here with long sunny days and fun outdoor activities! To make sure our animals—both at the shelter and at home—can enjoy the warm days ahead, two Dumb Friends League experts—Amanda Bolus (Animal Behavior staff member) and Camila Vieira (DVM, veterinary intern)—share their tips and reminders for how we can keep our four-legged friends safe and healthy this summer.

#1 Walks & playtime at home and at the shelter
To avoid overheating on hot days, when possible, walk dogs during cooler hours of the day or late afternoon. Our behavior experts suggest limiting the usual 20 minute walk to just 10 minutes. Also make sure dogs have access to plenty of fresh water to cool off and take frequent mini-breaks in covered, shaded areas to rest.

#2 Hot, hot pavement
Remember: Pavement easily gets too hot for sensitive paw pads. Make it a habit to touch the pavement with your hands; if it is hot to your touch, it’s better to let dogs walk on grass instead. When walking dogs around the Friendship Circle, you can walk on the sidewalk, but let the dog walk in the grass. If you don’t have access to grassy areas at home, buy dog booties to protect your pooch’s paws.

#3 Recognize heatstroke
Learn to recognize the signs of heatstroke in dogs at the shelter and at home: excessive panting and/or drooling, dog may look weak and act lethargic, and dog’s gums look bright red versus a normal, healthy pinkish color. In particular, cats and dogs with smooched faces (pugs, Pekingese, etc.) have a harder time cooling off since panting is restricted by compromised airways. Dogs with thick coats or overweight dogs overheat faster as well. When re-kenneling a dog, make it a habit to check for signs of heatstroke, and alert staff if you notice any of these signs.

#4 In the car
NEVER EVER leave your animals in the car during the summer! Cracking the windows open in the summertime will not help keep the temperature down; in fact, animals will overheat in as little as 10 – 15 minutes. To keep your animals safe, leave them at home when you run errands instead of bringing them along. If you notice animals in a car at a store or restaurant parking lot, help prevent an accident by going into the store or restaurant and asking them to page the owner over their PA system. If the animal is in immediate danger, call 911.

#5 Sunburn
Dogs can get sunburned, particularly breeds with white skin, such as the American bulldog. Don’t use regular human sunscreen as it is not safe for animals; instead, purchase one that is specifically for dogs.

#6 Lakes & streams

What dog doesn’t love drinking from streams and lakes in our beautiful outdoors? Better avoid it though, as dogs can easily pick up giardia. Always bring a separate bowl of water for your furry friend to cool off instead.

#7 Grass seeds
Make it a habit to examine your animals’ ears and nose if they have been in tall grasses, such as foxtails. Grass seeds can get stuck in the ears and nose, and bury themselves deeper and deeper, causing infection. This even happened to Dr. Vieira’s own dog!

#8 Campfires & BBQs
Who doesn’t love a crackling campfire or delicious BBQ? Your dog will certainly love the smells, but don’t let him be loose around these hot areas. It’s much safer to keep your dog on leash and at a safe distance from the fire.

#9 Gardening
Remember to keep planting tools and plant foods stored away to avoid any animals getting into them.

#10 Thunder & fireworks
For dogs that get anxious during loud thunderstorms or Fourth of July fireworks, there are several options to consider. The best approach is to distract the dog with positive associations when loud, “scary” noises happen. You do this by redirecting the dog’s attention with playtime, obedience training, snacks, etc. For the very sensitive dog, you can combine this type of distraction with:

  • ThunderShirt: A special shirt with a snuggly fit that you put on the dog and pull tight. It provides pressure to relieve stress, like a comforting hug.
  • Loud noise desensitization: This approach will take several weeks before your dog is desensitized. Get a CD with thunderstorm noises and play it at the lowest volume at first while you distract the dog with playtime or training. Do this every day and as the weeks go by, slowly increase the volume while continuing providing positive associations.
  • Long-term calming medications: Fluoxetine (Prozac), Buspirone and Clomipramine may be an option to keep calm during unforeseen storms. It’s important to start with a low dosage and slowly increase to a suitable amount, and then when fall comes, gradually decrease the dosage. Discuss this option with your veterinarian now as it take time for dogs to get adjusted.
  • Short-term medications: If you know you’re going to be in an area where there will be a big fireworks show, talk to your veterinarian about fast-working sedatives, such as Alprazolam (Xanax) and Diazepam (Valium) for temporary relief.
  • Keep dogs inside the house, or at a minimum, make sure outdoor dogs have tags and collars (and a microchip) in case they get scared and escape.
  • With these safety tips in mind, enjoy your summer with all your four-legged friends!