Dog dangers of summer: How to keep your pet safe all season

·9 min read
The summer dangers dog owners need to be aware of. (Getty Images)
The summer dangers dog owners need to be aware of. (Getty Images)

The recent warm, sunny weather has come as a welcome relief to many of us, but it isn’t always good news for dogs. 

From poisonous plants to the risk of overheating, open water dangers and issues with other animals, all sorts of hot-weather issues can occur for dogs when the mercury rises. 

Nobody ever wants their beloved dog to suffer - but sometimes we don't know they're in danger until it's too late. 

With that in mind, here's how to keep your furry friend safe throughout the summer.

Alabama Rot

A couple have shared a warning to other dog owners after their Cocker Spaniel, Millie, died from a disease called Alabama Rot while on holiday in Cheshire.

According to The Manchester Evening News, Rebecca Fox, 29, and her husband James were holidaying near Delamere Forest with their dogs in May, but one week into their trip they noticed Millie was frantically licking her paw, holding it up and limping.

By the Sunday, Millie became "very lethargic" although the couple thought it may just be tiredness due to the exertion of being away.

Having returned from their trip they decided to take Millie to their local vets and then a specialist hospital in Solihull. 

Despite the best efforts of the vets, Millie continued to deteriorate and the couple made the devastating decision that it was kindest for the dog to be put down. 

The couple now wants to raise awareness of the deadly condition.

According to The Kennel Club, Alabama rot, also known as CRGV (cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy), is a very rare, potentially life-threatening disease that blocks and damages the blood vessels in a dog’s skin and kidneys.

"Affected dogs often develop ulcers or sores (usually on the bottom part of their legs) and generally go on to develop kidney failure, which is often fatal," they explain.

Read more: The gadget all anxious pet owners need as lockdown eases

While it is not yet known what causes Alabama rot, researchers believe that wet, muddy conditions may somehow be linked to what triggers this condition.

Signs of Alabama rot in dogs include marks, sores or ulcers on the skin (usually on the legs or paws) and kidney failure (vomiting, being hungry or tired)

"If you’re concerned that your dog might have Alabama rot, it’s very important that you speak to your vet as soon as possible," The Kennel Club adds.

Blue-green algae

Blue-green algae can occur in ponds and lakes during hot weather and droughts and, unfortunately, can produce toxins which are dangerous to dogs, cats and even people. 

"Exposure to these toxins can cause serious health problems for dogs and can even prove fatal," explains Dr Samantha Gaines, RSPCA dog welfare expert.

She recommends dog walkers and owners try to keep their pets away from any body of water they suspect may contain blue-green algae. 

"Don’t let them paddle or swim in the water and don’t let them drink from it," she says. "If you’re concerned your dog may have been exposed to blue-green algae or your dog is vomiting, disorientated, excessively drooling, having difficulty breathing, suffering diarrhoea, collapses or seizures, please contact your vet immediately."

Poisonous plants in the garden

According to the RSPCA there are a number of plants that can be dangerous for dogs, including the following plants that are commonly seen in gardens that can be toxic:

  • Cycads

  • Daffodil

  • Laburnum

  • Lilies

  • Pieris and Rhododendron

Some of the following plants can also cause some gastrointestinal signs, such as vomiting and diarrhoea:

  • Ivy (Hedera species)

  • Cotoneaster

  • Fuchsia

  • Rose

  • Tulips

  • Crocus

  • Honeysuckle

  • Chrysanthemum

  • Hyacinth

For more information on protecting your pooch from poisonous plants, please visit the Veterinary Poisons Information Service: www.vpisglobal.com.

Read more: What you need to know before buying a dog

Ensure your dog remains hydrated to help prevent over heating. (Getty Images)
Ensure your dog remains hydrated to help prevent over heating. (Getty Images)

Be mindful of the heat

As Britain continues to bask in balmy temperatures, it's not just humans feeling the heat.

Last year, a study by researchers at Nottingham Trent University and the Royal Veterinary College found that the main reason for canine heatstroke is dogs overexerting in the sun.

The Dog's Trust has put together some tips to help keep your dog happy and safe during hot weather:

  • Avoid walking or doing activities either indoors or outdoors with your dog at the hottest times of the day, so early morning or later in the evening is often best.

  • Always take plenty of water with you when out with your dog and make sure they have access to fresh water at home at all times.

  • Tarmac can get very hot in the sun – check it with your hand before letting your dog walk on it so they don’t burn their paws. Try the ‘seven-second test’ – if it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws

  • Don’t let your pet get sunburnt - use pet-safe sun cream.

  • Know the early signs of heatstroke which include panting, difficulty breathing, tiredness, less keen to play, drooling and vomiting and take immediate action. If you spot these signs, stop exercising your dog, bring them inside into a cool area, give your dog a drink and seek veterinary advice immediately. Severe heatstroke can cause multiple seizures, complete loss of consciousness, loss of coordination, confusion and vomiting and diarrhoea with blood. If untreated it can prove fatal.

  • If you need to take your dog out in the car, even if travelling a short distance, avoid travelling during the hottest times of the day.

  • Use a cooling mat or wrap an ice pack or frozen water bottle in a tea towel for your pet to lie on.

  • Use cold treats from the fridge for added moisture or make an ice lolly from pet-friendly ingredients.

Watch: Can dogs get sunburnt? 

Don't forget indoor heat dangers

As well as outdoor hot weather risks, dog owners should always be aware that their pets need to stay cool indoors too. 

Dogs Trust recommends choosing the coolest room in the house, staying out of direct sunlight, always having fresh water available and making sure your dog has somewhere cool to relax and sleep.

“There are so many things we can do to make sure our dogs stay happy and healthy in hot weather, but it is crucial we keep a close eye on them, even if playing indoors," explains Dogs Trust veterinary director, Paula Boyden.

And don't forget the risk to dogs of travelling in a hot car. 

“If you do need to head out in the car with your dog, please be very careful," Boyden warns. "As little as twenty minutes can prove fatal if a dog is left alone in a car on a warm day.

“Many people still believe it's OK if the windows are left open or they're parked in the shade, but the truth is, it's not and we strongly advise that dog owners never leave their dog in a car on a warm day, even if it feels cool outside.”

If you see a dog in a car in distress, Dogs Trust advises that members of the public call 999. Signs of a dog suffering from heatstroke include excessive panting, heavy salivation, vomiting or diarrhoea, lack of co-ordination or loss of consciousness.

For more information and advice, see www.dogstrust.org.uk/advice

Beware the risk of open water swimming. (Getty Images)
Beware the risk of open water swimming. (Getty Images)

Read more: Can I take my dog on holiday to EU countries?

Open water risks

If you’re heading out to your local park, for a walk along the river or to the seaside, then you may want to take your four-legged friend with you, but while water dangers for humans are well-documented it is worth keeping an eye out for your pooch too.  

"Lots of dogs enjoy paddling in the cool water or taking a swim while others may be nervous around the water," explains Dr Gaines. "It’s important not to force your pet into the water if they’re nervous."

Gaines suggests supervising dogs closely when near water even if they are really good swimmers and keep dogs on the lead around deep, fast-flowing, rough water, or water with strong tides, currents or steep cliffs or drops. 

"If swimming, check tides, water temperature and other local information to ensure your pet will be safe and won’t be swept away," she adds.  

"Some bodies of water, especially those that are really deep, can be very cold and may be too cold for your dog. If your pet begins to struggle please do not put yourself at risk to help them but call for help from the RNLI or Coastguard immediately."

Adders

Ok so snakes might not be something you'd expect to see on your daily dog walk, but while it is relatively uncommon for dogs to be bitten by adders, with only around 100 cases reported each year in the UK, it is worth being aware, particularly in the summer months. 

"Adders prefer open habitats such as heathland, moorland and woodland where they will hunt small mammals and lizards," explains Gaines. 

"They avoid humans where possible but if you do come across one don’t try to touch it and keep children and dogs away. The majority of adder bites occur when a snake is disturbed or deliberately antagonised."

Adder bites can be very dangerous to pets, particularly if the animal is bitten on the face. 

"The bites can cause swelling, bleeding or fever, and dogs walked in adder habitats during spring and summer are more at risk," Dr Gaines adds. 

"Animals with suspected adder bites should be kept as quiet and calm as possible, and examined urgently by a vet. If an owner suspects their dog has been bitten by an adder, they should call a vet straight away and follow their advice."

Dogs are naturally very curious but if you see your dog near an adder, Dr Gaines advises distracting your dog away from the snake and put them on a lead to avoid any injuries. 

"We advise anyone worried about dogs being bitten to avoid the areas that adders commonly prefer particularly during summer months, to minimise risk of bites," she adds. 

Wildlife and livestock

You may be more likely to come into contact with wildlife and livestock while out enjoying the countryside during the summer months, and many animals are likely to have young with them. 

"Please keep your dogs on the lead and under close control to avoid any incidents," suggests Dr Gaines. 

"Every year our officers are sadly called out to incidents in which dogs have attacked wild animals, such as rabbits, deer, swans, geese and ducks, or livestock, such as sheep. 

"Dogs can inflict potentially fatal injuries and also leave baby wild animals orphaned, or can cause sheep to miscarry."

Watch: Dog falls into water after desperately trying to retrieve tennis ball from pool

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