The Most Important Things to Know to Keep Your Dog Safe This Summer

Fun in the sun should be fun for everyone — and that includes your dogs. But as the dog days of summer drag along, things could go from playful to dangerous very quickly for your four-legged friends. From battling heatstroke to coping with fireworks, here are some tips to keep your dogs safe during the summer months.

Dogs get sunburn, too

Dog in sunglasses with cocktail

Sunburn in dogs is pretty similar to what it’s like in people. | iStock.com/Igorr1

We hope you apply sunscreen before a long day outside in the summer sun, but did you know your dog could use some, too? Sunburn in dogs is pretty much like sunburn in people. Veterinarian Millie Rosales tells PetMD that “a sunburned dog can suffer from red, inflamed skin that becomes irritated and painful. Sunburns on dogs can also lead to hair loss and scaly skin.” It even can lead to skin cancer.

Plus, veterinarian Richard Goldstein explains to PetMD that short-haired (or hairless) dogs with light skin — including pit bulls, Dalmatians, and greyhounds — are most likely to get sunburned. That’s because it’s more difficult for sun to penetrate dark skin and long fur. Even so, it’s important to protect any dog from sun damage.

Next: What you can do

What you can do

dog with sunglasses and scarf

Dogs should wear sun protection. | iStock.com/Damedeeso

Use sunscreen. Rosales tells PetMD that “sunscreen should be reapplied to sun-sensitive areas of the body — the nose, around the lips, tips of the ears, the groin, and the belly — throughout the day.” The best sunscreen is one made especially for canine use, but Goldstein says one made for babies and children with at least an SPF of 15 is acceptable. Plus, sunscreens with zinc oxide or para-aminobenzoic acid are toxic to dogs, according to PetMD, so it’s always best to consult your vet.

Next: Hot cars are death sentences.

Prevent heatstroke

cocker spaniels in back of car

Cars can get dangerously hot. | iStock.com/Bobhackettphotos

We’ve all seen a dog panting on a hot summer day. But do you really know why? According to Drs. Foster & Smith, dogs don’t sweat — at least not how humans do. They only have sweat glands on the pads of their paws.

So dogs use a combination of panting and convection to cool themselves. Both methods “cool the body by exchanging the warm body temperatures for the cooler air outside. If the surrounding air is not considerably cooler than the animals’ body temperature — as in the case of a hot, stuffy automobile — the cooling system will not work and heatstroke can occur.”

Some signs of heatstroke include “increased heart rate, excessive panting, increased salivation, bright red tongue, and red or pale gums,” Drs. Foster & Smith reports. If it worsens, your dog might have a seizure, go into a coma, or even die.

Next: What you can do

What you can do

Labrador with tongue out sitting in grass

Always monitor your dog in the heat. | iStock.com/Sanjagrujic

If you suspect your dog has heatstroke, take him to the vet immediately, Drs. Foster & Smith reports. It could be an emergency. In transit, place cool towels on him, and have cold air circulating around him. But don’t try to cool him too quickly, such as with an ice bath, as that can be life-threatening itself.

Your best option is to prevent heatstroke altogether. Always give your dog access to shade and water. Restrict exercise on hot days, especially for older dogs or those with medical conditions. And never leave your dog in a hot parked car, as death from heatstroke can occur faster than you think.

Next: A fur coat isn’t just for the chilly months.

Practice good grooming habits

A groomer brushes an Akita's fur

Your dog isn’t necessarily too warm in his fur coat. | Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images

So now that you’re sufficiently freaked out about heatstroke, you might be running to get the clippers to remove your dog’s fur coat. Stop. That coat provides insulation against both cold and heat for your canine friend.

The ASPCA reports, “Our pets’ coats have several layers that are essential to their comfort in the heat. Robbing your dog or cat of this natural cooling system can lead to discomfort, overheating, and other serious dangers like sunburn or skin cancer.”

Next: What you can do

What you can do

White poodle on green grass

Shaving isn’t necessary, but a coat trim is OK. | iStock.com/Disqis

You shouldn’t shave your dog, but you can give her a shorter summer trim, according to the ASPCA. Although, even that’s not necessary, as many breeds tend to naturally shed to lighten their coats for the warmer months. Regular brushing and baths, along with your other year-round grooming habits, are all your dog really needs.

And along those lines, when you’re trimming your dog’s nails, pay extra attention to her pads. Hot pavement in the summer is tough on your dog’s paws, resulting in seriously burned pads. The Spruce says awareness of hot pavement is key, and walking your dog in the shade or grass should prevent the problem.

Next: Know this before you dive in.

Know your water safety

Dog swiming in a pool

Not all dogs can swim. | iStock.com/Fongleon356

Contrary to what the doggy paddle leads you to believe, not all canines instinctively know how to swim. In fact, you should never assume your dog will stay afloat because he can drown “as fast (or faster) than a person,” according to Pet Health Network. And dogs end up being heavier and harder to control when they’re in the water with wet fur weighing them down, especially if they’re panicking.

But taking your dog with you to the lake or beach sounds like an ideal summer day, and it can be an enjoyable experience for you and your pet. You just have to make sure he’ll be safe in the water first.

Next: What you can do

What you can do

Labrador retriever swimming

Be patient when teaching your dog to swim. | iStock.com/Bicho_raro

PetMD reports there’s no way of knowing whether a dog can swim before introducing him to the water. He can’t tell you how many years of swimming lessons he had as a child, after all. So PetMD recommends you choose a calm, shallow spot and approach the water with your dog on a leash. Go at your dog’s pace, and don’t force anything to keep it a positive experience.

Next: The Fourth of July isn’t the only time you’ll have to deal with these.

Fireworks and storms are scary

Dog in laundry basket

Many dogs are scared of loud noises. | Chris Amaral/Getty Images

Summer is the time for booming thunderstorms and window-rattling fireworks. It’s basically a noise-sensitive dog’s nightmare. Your dog might shake, hide, have an accident, destroy something in the house, or even try to run away.

Rover reports that there could be several reasons why your dog is sensitive to fireworks and storms. Ironically, it could be both a lack of exposure or overexposure that became traumatic for a young dog. Additionally, Rover cites a study by researchers at Norwegian University of Life Sciences that says nature might have as great of a role as nurture. The researchers found certain breeds showed greater sensitivity to noise. And female dogs were 30% more fearful than male dogs.

Next: What you can do

What you can do

Woman and French bulldog

Comfort your dog with a calm presence. | iStock.com/DuxX

There’s a good chance your dog will have an aversion to some of the noises summer brings. Thankfully, you have some options to cope with it. Rover suggests staying indoors and turning on some white noise or leaving the area for a quieter spot, if possible.

There also are anxiety-reducing pheromones, as well as prescription drugs for the severe cases. And you could try a comforting pressure wrap, such as a ThunderShirt. Plus, just your presence alone might help soothe your dog. Most importantly, make sure he won’t be able to hurt himself or escape in a panic.

Next: The bugs are buzzing.

Bugs bother everyone

dog rolling in grass

Bugs will find your dog. | iStock.com/Erdinhasdemir

Summer is the season for bugs, and that affects your dog, too. Fleas come hopping out when the weather gets warm and humid, according to PetMD. And just one flea can turn into thousands in no time — both on your pet and in your home. Plus, they can transmit some serious ailments.

Ticks, too, are no joke when the weather’s warm. And they bring with them Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, and ehrlichiosis, according to PetMD. Plus, regular old mosquitoes can be deadly to dogs, as they transmit heartworm and other diseases.

Next: What you can do

What you can do

Dachshund sitting with flowers

Prevent bug problems. | iStock.com/Liliya Kulianionak

For starters, if you don’t have your dog current on vaccinations and on flea and tick and heartworm medicines, that’s a must. In most cases, the diseases brought on by pests are much more concerning and costly than the preventative measures you could have employed.

Also, give your dog regular baths and brushings in the summer. Check for ticks, especially when you know your dog has been out in nature. Ticks are easy to remove on your own, following PetMD’s advice.

Next: Road trip!

Factor your dog into your travel plans

girl with dog and luggage in car

Your dog likely would love to accompany you on a trip. | iStock.com/Wojciech_gajda

Summer means travel for many people, but what will you do with your dog? Dogs are pack animals. And chances are they probably hate it when you leave them to go on vacation. You could find a trusted kennel or sitter to watch your dog. But luckily, there are plenty of dog-friendly vacation destinations out there, too.

Next: What you can do

What you can do

dog in goggles hanging out of car window

Traveling with a dog takes careful planning. | Thinkstock

If you intend to travel with your dog, start planning early. Double check that any accommodations you book are pet-friendly. And don’t plan to leave your dog in a hotel all day while you go out and enjoy the sights. Even pet-friendly spots won’t take it well if your dog starts to suffer from separation anxiety.

The American Kennel Club recommends a vet checkup before you leave. It’s a good idea to carry current records with you, too, and make sure your dog has updated identification tags. Plus, get your dog used to whatever he’ll be in for on the trip. Don’t spring anything new on him on the day you have to leave, or you might be in for some unhappy surprises.

Next: Summer should be fun for everyone.

Make summer activities canine-friendly

four women and dog jogging

Summer is the time for you and your dog to get out of the house. | iStock.com/LarsZahnerPhotography

Your dog probably doesn’t care to attend fireworks shows with you. Bonfires are out of the question because he always tries to steal burning sticks. And maybe you love to go paddle-boarding, but your dog isn’t the type who wants to sit still and float. That’s all OK. There are plenty of other summer activities you can enjoy with your canine friend.

Next: What you can do

What you can do

dog rests head on owner's shoulder while sitting on dock

The dog days of summer should be memorable for all the right reasons. | iStock.com/Fcscafeine

Dog parks and dog beaches are hopping in the summer. And they make an excellent change of scenery from your backyard for your pup. Plus, you could finally enroll in that obedience or agility class you were too lazy to leave the house for in the colder months.

Also, many baseball teams host a dog day at the ballpark. Paw Culture has some tips to help you take your dog out to the ball game. Just make sure he doesn’t turn into a hot dog (in other words, overheated) and that he can handle the commotion. Really, the sun’s the limit when it comes to enjoying summer with your pup.