A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

28 Safety Tips to Keep Your Dog in Top Shape This Summer

Updated: Aug. 09, 2023

You know not to leave him in the car while you run to the bank—but do you know how to quickly check for dehydration?

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Remember this hydration test

To quickly test your dog’s hydration, pull up the skin around her neck. “It should snap back down,” says Nicole Ellis, pet lifestyle expert at Rover.com. “But if the dog is dehydrated, it’ll go down very slowly.” Try it on a temperate day at home so you have a reference point. Not sure you’re getting enough H2O yourself? Here’s how to stay hydrated.

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Keep a visual reference

Two common signs of heat exhaustion in dogs are pale gums and a bright pink tongue. In order to to check these symptoms quickly, Ellis recommends taking a photo of them on an average day and keeping the shot on your phone. That way you’ll have something to refer back to if your suspect something is off. P.S. These are the best dog cooling vests to prevent your dog from overheating.

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Know the signs of heat exhaustion

If you’re feeling hot on a steamy summer day, you can bet your dog feels just as warm. “Dogs are good at hiding their critical nature,” says Ellis, “which means if there’s any question he’s suffering from heat stroke, it’s best to see your vet.” That said, there are warning signs. In addition to pale gums and a bright pink tongue, listen for rapid, loud, or heavy panting. A disoriented wobbly walk, weakness and fatigue, vomiting, and bloody stool could also indicate something is awry. These are the 50 things your veterinarian wishes you knew.

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Bring your dog’s temperature down like this

To cool your dog in a non-emergency situation, add ice to her water and wet her chest and the pads of her feet. Some tricks work for humans as well—these hacks will help you cool off on a hot day.

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Know your dog breed

Summer safety is important for all dogs, but some have a harder time regulating their body temperature than others. Breeds with squished-in faces, such as bulldogs, as well as ones with throat problems, such as Yorkshire terriers and Labradors, have a harder time regulating their heat.

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Beware hot asphalt

“If you can’t hold the back of your hand to the asphalt for five seconds, it’s too hot for your dog to walk on,” says Ellis. Those temps are no joke: On an 85-degree day, the asphalt can get up to 135—and your dog’s paws can be burned in under 60 seconds. If crossing hot ground is unavoidable, carry your dog or look into purchasing booties for her.

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Check her paws

If you notice your dog limping or licking his paws after a day in the sun, it’s possible he’s burned his paw pads. Check them for redness, blisters, and cracks, and head to your vet if anything looks amiss. “Many times, we will bandage the feet and start antibiotics,” Dr. M. Duffy Jones, DVM, of Peachtree Hills Animal Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, told PetMD. “Paw pad burns can get infected quickly and make things much worse. Sometimes we can suture the pad back on if there is some left.”

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No sniffing for snakes

Hiking with your dog is tons of fun, but it’s important to remember he’s not the only animal on the trail. In many regions, snakes are an issue. “Often these critters will hide out in holes,” says Ellis, “and you don’t want your dog putting their nose in there.” Ellis recommends keeping your dog on-leash so she’s less able to sniff out the local wildlife. Additionally, if you hear your dog scream while you’re not looking, check his body for bites. “It could be something that happens very quickly,” says Ellis.

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Be mindful of hot sand

Every beachgoer knows exactly how hot the sand can get on a steamy day. “People always run to the cooler sand where the water is hitting,” says Ellis, “and dogs want to be there too.” Carry your dog to the more hospitable sand or think ahead by outfitting him with booties. And don’t forget to bring a beach towel for your dog as well—that way he won’t be hitting the hot sand all day long.

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Invest in a life jacket

Ellis, who frequently goes paddle boarding and kayaking with her dog, knows how much fun beach activities can be. But she also stressed the importance of safety—and when it comes to the water, that means outfitting your dog with a personal floatation device. “Even if they’re just playing the waves, they can be taken out pretty easily,” she says. “A life jacket will bring them up quickly.”

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Don’t drink the water

Playing in the ocean is fun, but if your pup is chugging seawater her tummy won’t be happy long. The best way to prevent your dog from drinking the saltwater is to offer him plenty of freshwater in a bowl. If you notice your dog lapping it up from the ocean, take him back to your towel and let him rest and drink (from a fresh water bowl!). The same thing goes for the chlorine water in swimming pools; don’t let your dog drink it.

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Your dog might need sunblock

Just like us, dogs can get sunburned. Light colored breeds and ones with pink noses and skin are most susceptible. Apply doggie sunblock to their nose and ears. If you can’t find sunblock made specifically for dogs, use one made for babies with sensitive skin—and avoid, at all costs, any sunblock with zinc oxide, which is toxic to dogs.

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Treat sunburn like this

If you leave the beach and notice your dog does have mild sunburn, you can apply Neosporin with pain reliever to relieve the burn. (Of course, you should also get out of the sun.) Ellis says to avoid using aloe vera, which can be harmful if your dog licks it off.

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Give them a post-beach rinse

Before leaving the beach, rinse your dog’s coat as you wash your feet and shoes. Otherwise, the salt water could dry out and cause damage to her coat.

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In-ground pool? Have an exit strategy

Just because your dog loves to swim doesn’t mean you should allow him to hit the pool unsupervised. A major hazard to be aware of? Whether or not he knows how to get out. “Sometimes they’ll swim in circles because they can’t find the exit,” says Ellis. “Some people like to have a doggie ramp—if your dog looks like he’s panicking, lead him to the ramp or exit.”

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Ward off ticks ahead of time

Fleas and other bugs can carry infections and cause your dog to get sick. Avoid bug bites by giving your dog a vet-recommended regimen. Whether it’s drops, special shampoo, or a simple brush-through you’ll ensure your dog’s safety no matter what insects may be around this summer.

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But check for them anyway

Even with preventative measures, it’s good to check your dog for ticks when you get back from your hike. “It’s a good habit to run your hands evenly over your pet’s body, including their legs and feet,” says Ellis. Hot spots include between the toes, behind the ears, under their armpits and around the head and tail.

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Forget that petroleum jelly trick

If you do find a tick, don’t resort to Google for instructions on removing it—it’s best to go to your local vet and have them show you how. “A lot of websites recommend using petroleum jelly and nail polish remover to remove ticks,” says Ellis, “and while that can help release the tick, it can also cause the bug to release it’s disease-spreading saliva.

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Bring extra water

Because a dog’s primary way of cooling down is panting, it’s easy for them to become parched. Wherever you’re heading this summer, bring a collapsible water bowl for your pet. That way, he’ll be able to drink as much as he wants. Add ice to make it even more refreshing.

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Abide by this water rule

If you’re out on a hike, keep this rule in mind: As soon as you run through half your pet’s water, turn around. Your dog will probably walk faster on the way back, and go through less water, but it’s better safe than sorry.

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Don’t do a full shave

Your big fluffy dog looks like she needs a shave, right? Wrong. “That hair is protecting them from UV rays,” says Ellis, “and shaving them is a detriment.” Instead, ask for an undercoat rake. This allows your dog to have less fur, but still be protected, says Ellis.

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Try frozen treats

Need a cool treat to keep new summer experiences fun for your dog? Try frozen fruit. Your dog will love frozen bananas, apples, and cantaloupe. (Make sure they’re fresh fruit, with no added sugars. And never give your dog grapes.) Dogs will also get a kick out of chicken stock popsicles and frozen Kong toys stuffed with peanut butter.

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Never leave your pet in the car

It’s no secret that leaving your dog in a hot car can be deadly—on a 70-degree day, temperatures inside a parked car can reach 110 degrees. Before you head out with your pup in the back seat, consider if they actually need to come. “If the place you’re going is not dog-friendly, it’s better to leave them home in the air conditioning,” says Ellis.

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Keep all heads inside the vehicle

In the warmer months it can be tempted to let your dog hang his head out the window while you drive. Unfortunately, it’s unsafe. “When your dog stick his head out the window, he’s exposed to dirt, dust, and debris, which can damage his cornea and eyes,” says Ellis.

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Know it’s distracting

One AAA study found that 29 percent of people who drive with their dog admit being distracted by the dog while driving. Eighty-three percent agreed that having an unrestrained dog in a moving car could be dangerous.

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Harness your dog

The same AA study found that an unrestrained 10-pound dog in a crash at 50 mph exerts roughly 500 pounds of force. That means you’re not just putting your dog at risk, but bystanders as well.

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Watch the wildlife

In some regions, the summer heat brings more vicious wildlife out of the mountains and into the suburbs looking for water. Keep this in mind and supervise your pet while outdoors.

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Leave pets at home for firework displays

If you’re headed out to watch the fireworks display it’s best to leave your dog at home. The loud noises mixed with the nighttime away from home can cause your dog to become disorientated.

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Steer clear of fertilizers

Some fertilizers and lawn care products can cause an allergic reaction in dogs. Speak with your vet about what types of lawn care products are best to use. Always keep chemical bottles off the ground to keep dogs from accidentally ingesting them and becoming sick.