How To Keep Your Dog Safe In Summer: 10 Questions With Dr. Kurt Venator, DVM, PhD

Yellow labrador puppy contemplating jumping into a pool in Australia.

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Summer is officially here! That means barbecues, pool parties, and fun times outdoors are on the way, too. And of course, we want to include our dogs on as many of those activities as possible.

Our dogs are our family members, and they deserve to join us in all the summer fun. However, we also want to keep them safe. It’s our duty as pet parents to know about summer dangers and how to protect our pooches.

DogTime asked veterinarian Dr. Kurt Venator, DVM, PhD from Purina about how to keep dogs safe in summer. Here’s what he had to say!

1. Watch Out For Sunburns

dog in Kosula, Tuusniemi, Finland

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DOGTIME: What are some ways to protect dogs from sunburns on walks or when they spend a lot of time outside in summer?

DR. KURT: Pets, just like humans, can get sunburned, which can lead to skin cancer. If your pet has light colored fur on the nose or ears, then he or she may be more susceptible to skin cancer due to the light pigmentation of the skin.

If possible, it is recommended to keep pets with light colored noses, ears or eyelids inside during the hottest parts of the day (11am to 4pm).

Pet-approved sunscreens can be applied to a pet’s ears, nose, groin area, and belly if they do go outside, but do not use human sunscreen as it can be toxic to pets. Pet sunscreen needs to be re-applied regularly to maintain effectiveness: check the package directions.

Pet sunscreen is available from your local veterinary clinic and pet specialty stores.

2. Keep The Bugs Away

The dog is big, red's asleep on the doorstep of a village house. A dog's nose is bitten by a mosquito

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DOGTIME: Mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks come out more this time of year. How can we keep mosquitoes and other bugs away from our dogs?

DR: KURT: Two common veterinary-prescribed products are K-9 Advantix® and Vectra 3D®. K-9 Advantix® is a topical application that kills and repels mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks.

Vectra 3D® is a topical application that repels and kills mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, biting and sand flies, lice, and mites (excluding mange mites).

These products are not to be used on cats.

Note from DogTime: Some dog owners rely on natural solutions to repel bugs from their dogs. Whatever you choose, you should discuss prevention with your vet. Too many dangerous diseases are spread by bug bites to go without treatment.

3. Pool Safety

Dog in pool with ball in mouth

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DOGTIME: Summer is a great time to go for a swim. Any tips for keeping dogs safe around the pool?

DR. KURT: Make sure your dog wants to swim before encouraging or putting him/her in the water. Pet owners often assume their dogs know how to swim because swimming is considered instinctual, but never assume this is the case for your dog.

Believe it or not, you can give your dog swim lessons. Check to see if there is a place to take your pup in your local area. An introductory lesson or two will be a great indicator to see if your pup will be ready to take on the beach or your local pet-friendly pool.

Remember to offer clean, fresh water in a bowl to discourage your pet from drinking directly from the pool, as consumption of chlorinated pool water can potentially cause minor gastrointestinal irritation.

And, of course, never leave your pet unsupervised in the water.

4. Swimming In Natural Bodies Of Water

Dog Running In Lake Against Sky

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DOGTIME: Are there any things pet parents should watch out for if their dog swims in lakes, rivers, ponds, or other natural bodies of water?

DR. KURT: Be mindful of the water quality and permissions to swim. If you wouldn’t swim in that location, your dog should not swim there either.

Ensure that the water is shallow enough and that your dog can easily go in and come out of the body of water.

Do not let your pet swim in ponds or lakes with blue-green algae, as algal blooms produce toxins that can affect your dog’s liver and gastrointestinal tract.

5. When NOT To Bring Your Dog

Dog Sitting On Ottoman Seat While Looking Through Window At Home

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DOGTIME: We love to bring our dogs everywhere, but are there any summer events we should leave our dogs home for?

DR. KURT: Make sure if you’re heading to a pet-friendly bar or restaurant with outdoor seating, the location has plenty of shade, and remember to bring a portable bowl and water to give your pet a drink.

On a day that is over 80 degrees, it could reach over 100 degrees inside a vehicle within minutes. Even with cracked windows, your pet will still get overheated and could become ill or worse. On hot days, leave your pet at home or only go places where he or she is welcome.

Fireworks are a fun and exciting way to celebrate holidays like Independence Day. For dogs, though, those loud booms and flashing lights aren’t so fun. Dogs are often scared of fireworks because they are loud and unpredictable.

The noise and unpredictability of fireworks leads many dogs to perceive them as a threat. This triggers their fight-or-flight response. Your dog may bark at the noises or try to run away and hide.

They may show other signs of anxiety, too, like restlessness, panting, pacing and whining. Therefore, it’s best to keep your dog inside during firework displays.

6. Rules For Summer Guests

Young man feeding a dog with a piece of barbecue

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DOGTIME: Sometimes events with guests at our homes can be dangerous for dogs. What rules should we tell our guests about during summer get-togethers to keep our dogs safe?

DR. KURT: Everyone loves a good barbecue, but some of these foods that humans enjoy can be dangerous for dogs. Pancreatitis, a serious and sometimes fatal inflammation of the pancreas, can occur in dogs specifically from eating greasy, fatty foods — which are mainstays at barbecues.

Common BBQ items like bones, meat scraps, corncobs, aluminum foil, and plastic wrap should be properly discarded and kept out of reach as these can lead to digestive upset and intestinal blockage or obstruction.

Advise guests to not feed your pet human food and ask for their help in keeping your pooch away from the snack tables. Have dog treats available so your guests can treat your pooch appropriately. Purina Beggin’ Strips with Bacon could be a great treat so your pet doesn’t feel left out on the delicacies.

7. Be Careful With Summer Food And Heat

A Black Dog Looking Happy Into The Camera

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DOGTIME: What’s the most common reason dogs end up at the emergency vet in summer? How can we avoid this?

DR. KURT: Two very common reasons pets end up needing emergency pet care in the summer is due to eating something they shouldn’t have or overheating.

Watch guests and your pet so that he or she does not ingest any foods that can upset their stomach. A variety of common foods found at BBQs, such as grapes, garlic, onions, avocado skin and leaves, macadamia nuts, and alcohol can be toxic to pets.

Signs Of Overheating In Dogs

DR. KURT: Overheating can be avoided by keeping your pet indoors and hydrated on hot days. Avoid overheating by also knowing the signs in your pet.

Signs may include:

  • Excessive panting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Weakness
  • Bright red or blue gums and tongue

And keep in mind that some signs of heat-related illnesses can be more subtle, such as your dog being less responsive to normal commands or a loss of coordination.

If you see any of the signs in your pet you should consult your veterinarian.

8. Keep Paws Safe


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DOGTIME: Pavement can get hot fast in the summer. How do you recommend we keep paws safe on walks?

DR. KURT: Before heading outside for a walk or play time, be sure to touch the pavement with your hand to feel its temperature. If it feels way too hot to touch, then it’s way too hot for your pet’s paw pads. Stay in the grass or possibly try booties so his or her paws don’t burn.

On extremely hot and humid days, try to take walks during cooler parts of the day like early morning or late evening, or even avoid pavement and try to stay in the grass. And be sure to bring water for both of you.

9. Summer Diets

The Beagle dog sniffing in the summer garden freshly picked red strawberries in a wicker basket

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DOGTIME: Should we change our dogs’ diets in summer if they’re more active? Are there any summer human foods we can share with dogs?

DR. KURT: If your dog is on the active side and goes on runs or walks with you, make sure they are staying hydrated and you’re supplying them with plenty of water. On extremely warm days, opt out of bringing them with you as your running buddy and leave them at home in the A/C.

It is important for pet owners to know how to properly nourish a pet who is regularly active, especially those pets who serve as exercise companions or like to keep up with the kids running around the house. Active pets may require more energy-providing nutrition.

Your Dog’s Feeding Needs

DR. KURT: Take into consideration how frequently your pet is exercising with you.

If your dog is your running buddy several times a week, a standard dog food should be sufficient. However, if a dog is clocking more miles per day (five to ten), they’ll need more fat and protein than what a standard diet may provide.

Purina Pro Plan Sport, for example, offers 30 percent protein and 20 percent fat, which helps fuel metabolic needs and maintain lean muscle in dogs with an active lifestyle.

If you have a less active dog, you should try to feed the right number of calories for your dog’s activity level. If you dog is in ideal body condition and isn’t gaining weight, you’re feeding the right amount.

Reducing Your Dog’s Weight Safely

DR. KURT: But if your dog has become less active while their feeding has remained the same and they’re becoming overweight, you can try some of these tips:

  • Reduce treats or eliminate them completely from their diet.
  • Feed less of your dog’s regular pet food. Make sure to properly measure the amount of food that you put into your dog’s bowl to prevent overfeeding.
  • Consider putting your dog’s food in a treat/kibble dispensing toy. This provides both physical activity and mental stimulation for your dog.
  • Increase your dog’s exercise with additional walks or playtime each day.
  • Consider switching to a reduced-calorie food such as Purina Beneful Healthy Weight formula for adult dog food.
  • And remember, it’s always a good idea to consult with your veterinarian before changing your dog’s diet. Your veterinarian can help tailor a program for your dog, track progress, and help troubleshoot along the way.

Summer Human Foods To Share With Dogs

DR. KURT: Fruits and berries contain vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants and tend to be low in sugar, so when fed properly, they’re healthy for dogs in the same ways they’re healthy for humans.

That’s why Purina includes these healthy ingredients, like blueberries for instance, in our diets such as Beneful Playful Life and Beneful Grain Free formulas.

These fruits and berries are also comprised largely of water, which makes them safe to give and refreshing for your pet.

Strawberries are very low in sugar, despite their sweetness, so you can let your pets indulge in moderation. Leaves should be removed to avoid digestive upsets. Start with two strawberries sliced up to start and monitor your pet.

Blueberries are packed with antioxidants and vitamin C. If your dog craves them, they can have some in moderation as they are low in calories and sugar, too.

Mangoes contain vitamin A, which is good for eye, skin and immune health. It’s best to peel the mango to remove the skin.

And always make sure to keep your pet away from the pit. Fruits with pits are dangerous for dogs because the pit can cause them to choke or obstruct their digestive tract.

10. Dr. Kurt’s Top 3 Summer Safety Tips For Dogs

Older dog, lying on a rug, on grass, wearing sunglasses.

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DOGTIME: If you could give pet owners your top three bits of advice to keep dogs safe in summer, what would they be?

DR. KURT: First, provide plenty of shade, water, and cool treats.

Don’t leave your pet outside for long periods of time in hot weather. If he or she must be outside, make sure there is plenty of access to shade, preferably from trees, and lots of fresh, cool water.

Think about getting a kiddie pool or a sprinkler to help your pet cool off always under supervision in a fun way.

While the family enjoys a cold treat like ice cream or popsicles, try treating your pooch to Purina Frosty Paws®, a cool treat for dogs that is fortified with protein, vitamins, and minerals with no added sugar, artificial flavors, or colors.

For cats, if they don’t mind their food chilled, consider putting some wet food like Purina Pro Plan®, Fancy Feast®, or Friskies® in the fridge prior to feeding for a cool, refreshing meal. Wet cat food helps keep cats hydrated, which is particularly important on hot days.

Second, watch the exercise.

On extremely hot and humid days, try to take walks during cooler parts of the day like early morning or late evening. And be sure to bring water for both of you.

Third, never leave your pet in the car.

On a day that is over 80 degrees, it could reach over 100 degrees inside a vehicle within minutes. Even with cracked windows, your pet will still get overheated and could become ill or worse. On hot days, leave your pet at home or only go places where he or she is welcome.

Have A Great, Safe Summer With Your Dog!

DogTime would like to thank Dr. Kurt for his time, expertise, and advice for how to keep our dogs safe during summer.

This season can be one of the most fun for us and our pooches. It can also be dangerous. But so long as we’re responsible and informed, we can make sure our dogs stay in good health and enjoy the warm weather with us.

Do you have any fun summer plans with your dog? Are there any summer safety tips we missed? Let us know in the comments below!

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