Summer Safety Tips for Main Line Dogs & Their Parents

Photo of a dog in vacation mode, with hat and sunglasses on

5 Summer Weather Risks & Safety Tips for Protecting Your Best Bud Against Them

Whether you and your pup are looking forward to endless games of fetch at the beach; long, shaded walks on trails all across the Main Line; or just lounging around the pool and occasionally taking a dip together, Wagsworth has no doubt that summer is a favorite time of year for the two of you. But all this fun in the sun also comes with a few seasonal risks for your pup, like sunburns, allergies, and waterlogged ears. Wagsworth wants to help you protect your fur-baby against some of these potential issues so you can enjoy your summer together worry-free. We hope the following five summer safety tips for dogs and their parents makes the “dog days of summer” a little safer and even more enjoyable for you and your best buddy.

Tip #1: Did you know your dog’s belly could be at risk for a sunburn?

You may already know that you and your dog share some of the same highly sun-sensitive areas, like noses, ears, lips, and even the skin around the eyes. In addition, there is another part of your dog’s body that may be at high risk for a sunburn: their belly. This might seem strange since your dog isn’t generally sunbathing on their back like you. However, the sun doesn’t need to be shining directly on your dog’s belly to cause harm. The surfaces the two of you commonly walk on, like paved sidewalks, sandy beaches, and pool decks, not only get blazing hot in the summer, but also often reflect the sun’s rays upward—right onto your pup’s tummy. Because your dog’s belly is low to the ground and typically has a thinner layer of fur, a sunburn can happen quickly. If you notice that your dog’s skin is red, inflamed, dry, or cracked, or if their belly or other areas of their body are tender to the touch, they may have had too much sun and it’s important to contact your vet.

Protect Your Pup: While all dogs can get a burn if they’re exposed to the sun too long, it’s extra important for parents of dogs with white or lighter-colored fur and those with short or no hair to think about how they can take measures to protect their pup from the sun. Just as you shield your own skin from sunburn by applying sunscreen, you can do the same for your bestie. In fact, there are sunscreen products specially formulated for dogs, made without zinc oxide or other ingredients that are toxic to pups if ingested. While applying sunscreen—to both your dog and you—before you head out in the summer sun can be safe and effective protection, it is also recommended that you avoid being out in the peak hours for sunshine and heat. So, if possible, plan your outdoor activities earlier in the morning or later in the evening. Also, when taking a walk, try to stick to cooler, grassy areas rather than the sizzling pavement.

Tip #2: Did you know that some surfaces get so hot in summer they can burn your pup’s paws?

The same outdoor surfaces that reflect the sun’s rays upward toward your dog’s belly can also absorb so much heat on a hot summer day that they become far too hot for your pup to walk on safely. For example, pavement can be 40 to 60 degrees hotter than the air temperature. That means if the air temperature is 77 degrees, your driveway’s surface temp could top 135 degrees. If you’re out and about on a summer’s day, you might not even realize just how hot an outdoor surface has gotten, especially since your feet are probably safe inside some sort of shoe. Some of the telltale signs your dog’s paws might have gotten burned or otherwise damaged from walking on a hot surface include if they are licking or chewing their feet or limping a lot, or if their paw pads have blisters or are darker in color than usual. If you notice any of these signs, take your dog to the vet right away.

Protect Your Pup: When you’re not sure of the exact temperature outside, one simple way to tell whether or not a surface may be too hot for your dog to walk on is to test it with your hand. If you can’t hold your own hand there for at least 10 seconds, the surface is not fit for your fur-baby’s paws. In addition, just as walking your pup early in the morning, later in the evening, and on grass instead of pavement can lower the risk of a tummy burn, these same steps may help your pup avoid hot, dangerous surfaces that can burn their paws. As an added preventive measure, some pet parents have their dogs wear shoes, socks, or booties, which can create a barrier between a pup’s paws and the pavement. However, if your bestie isn’t interested in making a fashion statement, another easy option is to apply a nontoxic protectant or wax like Musher’s Secret to their paws.

Tip #3: Did you know that dogs don’t sweat the way you do?

While you may work up a crazy sweat playing outside with your dog in the summer, your pup doesn’t ever appear to have a drop of perspiration on them. There’s an interesting reason for this. While you have sweat glands all over your body, your best buddy has them primarily on their paws. So, instead of sweating to cool down their bodies the way you do, dogs must pant. Unfortunately for your pup, panting is much less efficient at regulating body temperature than sweating. And, if you happen to have a Pug, Bulldog, or similar flatter-faced dog, you may have noticed they have an especially tough time in the heat. While their shorter muzzle is adorable, it also makes it very hard for these types of dogs to breathe out of their mouth and to get a good pant going.

Protect Your Pup: Because your pooch has a more difficult time regulating their body temperature than you do, they will probably welcome a little help from you in hot weather. Whether you’re at the beach or in your backyard, helping your dog beat the heat can be as easy as making sure they have a shady, cool spot where they can take a break from the sun, as well as a consistent supply of fresh, cold water. In addition, some vets suggest that pet parents may want to try putting cooling collars or vests on their fur-babies. Because this “clothing” mimics sweating, it can help regulate your pup’s body temperature. Finally, it’s critically important to know the symptoms of a dog that is suffering from heatstroke. Call your vet immediately if your pup exhibits warning signs such as excessive panting or lethargy.

Tip #4: Did you know summer is when seasonal allergies are often the worst for dogs?

If you have seasonal allergies that are triggered by spring’s pollen, grasses, flowering plants, trees, and weeds, you probably cannot wait to get on with summer. But if your pup is an allergy sufferer, the worst of their symptoms may be yet to come. That’s because many of the plants that contribute most to dogs’ allergies, such as ragweed, Bermuda grass, and sagebrush, release most of their pollen in mid- to late summer. The cues that your dog may have summer allergies are nearly identical to the symptoms that you probably experience—red, watery eyes, a nose that’s constantly runny, and frequent scratching behind their ears. (Well, that last one is likely just a dog thing.)

Protect Your Pup: Having a stuffy head, scratchy throat, and constantly itchy skin is no fun—for you or your dog! So, if your pooch starts to exhibit these symptoms this summer, it would be a good idea to take them to the vet to get checked out. If allergies are the culprit, your vet may be able to identify what your dog is allergic to, and then you can do your best to limit exposure. Other ways you might be able to help manage your dog’s allergies and keep allergens away from their skin include thoroughly wiping their paws after being outside, giving them frequent baths, regularly cleaning their bedding and toys, and using allergen-reducing air filters or a dehumidifier in your home.

Tip #5: Did you know that dogs get more ear infections in the summer?

Spending time in the water with your dog is always a blast, not to mention a great way for you both to stay cool. But there can be a downside to all that splashing around—an ear infection for your pup. Because of the unique shape of your pup’s ear canal, moisture can easily get in and collect there, which in turn can lead to a buildup of yeast and bacteria. According to veterinarians, if your water-loving dog also has floppy ears, they may be at an even greater risk for an ear infection.

Protect Your Pup: Certainly, drying your dog’s ears thoroughly with a towel after every swim—and after bath time, too—is a good first step to keeping ear infections at bay this summer. Another common suggestion from vets is to keep your dog’s ears clean, so summer can be a good time to schedule regular grooming sessions for your pup. A professional groomer will not only do a thorough ear cleaning but will also make sure the hair around your dog’s ears is trimmed back, reducing the chances that moisture and debris will get trapped in there. If despite your best efforts to keep your dog’s ears clean and dry, they exhibit signs of an ear infection, like scratching their ear or tilting their head a lot, it’s time to take them to the vet so they can receive proper treatment.

It’s going to be another fun, safe, and cool summer at Wagsworth!

Since most dog parents can’t take the whole summer off just to pal around with their four-legged besties, why not do the next best thing? Drop your pup off for the day at Wagsworth. Or, for even more excitement, leave them overnight.

What might a day at Wagsworth this summer look like for your dog? Of course, there will be lots of outdoor time with other furry friends on our spacious, clean, and grassy six-acre property. If your pup needs a break from the sun and fun, there are several spaces where they can chill and rest up, including in the special bone-shaped pool of fresh water or cooling misters that we have set up especially for the summertime. Wagsworth’s Activity Counselors are always attentive to your dog’s and their friends’ needs, making sure everyone is safe, having fun, and playing nicely.

When lunch and nap time arrive, the whole gang will go inside to our state-of-the art, climate-controlled facility, where each pup can conk out in their private area and recharge for the rest of the afternoon, which of course will include more time in the play yards. In fact, since our guests are outside quite a bit during their stay, if a dog parent gives us approval, our Counselors are happy to apply sunscreen throughout the day.

Summer is also a great time to treat your pup to a Wagsworth spa service, like a bath, nail trim, or brush-out, all of which can be added to your dog’s day or overnight stay or scheduled separately. Regular grooming over the summer may help wash away allergens, keep your dog’s ears cleaner, and get rid of all the tangles from hours at the beach or pool or on the trail. In addition, your pup will come home looking and smelling amazing.

With all the good times your dog is going to have staying at Wagsworth this summer, don’t be surprised at pick-up time if your dog is not quite ready to go home yet!