Tips for a Safe Summer with Your Dog


EmmaLee in the Gunnison National Forest

Knowledge of basic first aid for your dog could easily make the difference between life and death this spring and summer as your outdoor activities rise with the warmer temperatures. Learn to recognize a medical emergency and familiarize yourself with at least the basics so that you will be prepared if something does happen to your dog.This knowledge will help you to remain calm and to be able to act quickly and effectively in case of an emergency.

Here are a few tips to remember that will help assure that you and your dogs have an enjoyable and safe summer:

  • Put together a basic first aid kit that includes items that you can use on your dog and keep it with you whenever you go out.
  • Keep the phone numbers of area veterinarians in your phone. If you travel, look up emergency vet offices as well as regular vet offices in the areas where you will be, just in case you may need them.
  • Train your dog to have a solid recall and familiarize him with many different areas and situations so that he won’t potentially spook in a new environment and become lost. (Read our blog Introduction to Clicker Training to learn how to develop a solid recall.)
  • If you do travel and you plan on being out in the country, make sure you are aware of any potential dangers such as poisonous snakes, bears or cougars, in those areas that you will be. When possible, train your dog to avoid them, or keep him leashed.
  • Be aware of hazards such as cliffs and ledges that the dog may chase a rabbit over.
  • Be aware of waterways that are swollen from heavy spring melt off. Also be aware of potential floods from summer rain storms, especially if you are in the canyon areas of the southwest.
  • During the hot, dry season, be aware of any forest fire danger if you are out in the back country. It is a good idea to be in the habit of checking the horizon for any smoke.

 

MOST COMMON RISKS TO BE AWARE OF

Heat Stress
A dog can easily become overheated while out hiking or during other strenuous exercise or work. Be aware of the various signs of heat stress and be prepared to act on them. The three heat stress health risks are heatstroke, heat cramps and heat exhaustion. Become familiar with them so that you can address any of them if they occur. Make sure your dog has access to shaded, well-ventilated areas and plenty of fresh, cool water. Be aware of any water resources in the area that you are hiking, camping, exercising/playing or working with your dog. Most dogs love a refreshing dip in a creek or pond, which will help them lower their body temperature and cool off. Avoid heavy activity on a hot day, especially when there is no wind. Encourage your dog to take short breaks with you or have him walk beside you and not run off to go exploring. In this way,  you can more easily watch for signs of heat stress as well as control his activity level.
Choking
Tennis balls are a very popular toy for dogs who love to retrieve. Unfortunately, these small balls can potentially suffocate your dog, as the ball is frequently too small for the larger dogs and could become lodged in the dog’s windpipe when he attempts to catch it. If this does occur, you may be able to save your dog by performing the Heimlich maneuver to dislodge the blockage. (This website will help with basics, as well as a discussion for CPR. There are numerous resources and pdfs available on the internet. You may also want to talk with your veterinarian so that he can show you the basic moves and answer any questions you may have.) Make sure that the toys that you are playing with are of a good size for the dogs that you have with you.
Be aware that sticks are also a very common and easily obtainable retrieve item, but can cause serious and life-threatening damage to your dog if he accidentally rams it down his throat. At the least, it can cause damage to his throat. Unfortunately, it can also be severe enough of an injury that he may bleed to death if the stick becomes lodged so deep down his throat that you can not stop the bleeding.
Insect bites

Be aware of possible insect bites and stings that may cause an allergic reaction.While Benadryl can be used for minor irritations, severe reactions need to be addressed by a veterinarian immediately.

 

Always be aware of your surroundings and the dangers they may have in store for your dog. Just like raising a small child, make sure that the toys and other items that the dog has access to are not potential choke hazards. Also, know your dog and what he may get into or play with that is not as obvious to you. Make it a point to learn artificial respiration, heart massage and cardiopulmonary resuscitation, especially if you are out in the country away from immediate assistance frequently. Be prepared for an emergency so that you can remain calm when your dog needs you the most. Knowledge will be a tremendous help for this. Even if you never have to use it, it is better to be prepared than to find yourself in a situation where your dog is relying on you and you do not know what to do.

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