Summer is the season for spending time outside, relaxing and enjoying the sun. As with every season, summer poses risks to dogs which owners should be aware of. If you are concerned about your dog regarding any of the below, please seek veterinary advice.
Heat and dehydration
Dogs are not as good as humans at dealing with high temperatures, as they find it harder to cool down. It's important to pay attention to the signs that your dog is too hot (e.g. panting excessively and lethargy) and take the necessary precautions to avoid heatstroke. Make sure they have plenty of water and an area of shade to cool down.
Barbecues are popular during the summer, but pose quite a few risks to dogs. With food easily accessible, your dog may use every opportunity to sneak a snack off your guests' plates and off the floor. Establish boundaries to prevent your dog from picking up barbecue food, and inform your guests not to feed your dog inappropriate foods that are hazardous to your dog (e.g. cooked bones). In addition, be aware of your dog getting too close to the barbecue. Avoid leaving rubbish such as plastic wrappers and kebab skewers where your dog can get to them.
Blue-green algae can be found in many types of waterbody throughout the UK (e.g. ponds, streams, lakes, estuaries etc.) and these can produce toxins which may be harmful to animals and humans. The types of chemicals produced by the algae may vary and can therefore cause a wide range of different clinical effects. These effects can range from vomiting and diarrhoea (both of which may be bloody) to being sleepy, effects on the heart and blood pressure, twitching, problems breathing, liver and kidney impairment or can even cause death shortly after exposure.
Dogs are most commonly exposed when swimming, playing in or drinking from contaminated water. Water that contains blue-green algae may appear a different colour, or may be recognisable from coloured algal blooms, appearing on the surface of the water, or close to the shore. Unfortunately, it is impossible to know if there are any toxins present in the water without testing.
The amount of algae in a body of water may vary throughout the year, but is likely to be at its greatest in, or after, hot and sunny periods (i.e. mid to late summer) and will vary depending on the amount of nutrients available in the water. If you come across a body of water that is known to contain blue-green algae, do not let your dog swim in it or drink from it.
Flowers and plants
Summer is the perfect time to get out of the house and relax in your garden. However, some plants and flowers can be toxic to dogs, and can cause serious clinical effects. Learn more about the most common house and garden plants that are poisonous to dogs.
Insect stings and bites
Along with the flowers in bloom, summer brings an abundance of insects. The severity of an insect sting or bite depends on the insect, the location of the sting/bite and whether your dog is allergic. Typical signs include redness, pain and swelling.
Slug and snail pellets
Chemicals and fertilisers are the main garden dangers to dogs, with slug and snail pellets that contain metaldehyde being the most dangerous and common. Small amounts can cause severe toxic effects, so seek veterinary attention immediately if your dog has ingested pellets. Signs include muscle spasms and rigidity, tremors and convulsions, and incoordination.
Ant powders, baits and gels
These rarely cause significant poisoning as the active ingredients are usually low in concentration. If ingested, you may see salivation, constricted pupils, increased body temperature and wobbliness. In severe cases, toxic effects include respiratory depression, convulsions and could lead to a coma.
The common toad and the natterjack toad are native to Britain, largely found in forest areas and wet locations. Poisoning occurs when dogs lick or eat toads. Exposure to toads is at its highest between June and August when they are spawning. Signs include vomiting, frothing and foaming at the mouth, hypersalivation, shaking, oral pain and collapse.
The beach can hold a few dangers for your dog, so safety precautions should be considered. Stop your dog from drinking sea water as it could lead to salt poisoning; make sure you have fresh water to keep them hydrated. Ensure your dog has a shady area to cool down in and consider using sunscreen, especially if your dog has pale or thin fur, and on vulnerable areas such as the nose and ears. Running on sand uses more energy than on grass, so make sure your dog doesn't overdo it and has plenty of rest. Wash the salt and sand out of your dog's coat and paws, and check for any cuts.
Dogs in hot cars
Dogs should never be left in the car unattended, even on a mildly warm day. Dogs can die this way, even if the car has been left in the shade and car windows are open. If you are travelling in the car with your dog for a long period of time, make sure you take the necessary precautions, such as taking plenty of stops, having lots of water and an appropriate shady space for your dog. Learn more about the dangers of dogs in hot vehicles.
Think your dog may be affected?
If you're worried about your dog's health, always contact your vet immediately!
We are not a veterinary organisation and so we can't give veterinary advice, but if you're worried about any of the issues raised in this article, please contact your local vet practice for further information.
Find a vet near you
If you're looking for a vet practice near you, why not visit the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons' Find a vet page.