Summer is all about holidays, fun and adventures. We all love the extra hours of sunshine! Our furry friends do too! But just like us, dogs need to be protected from harmful rays and high temperatures. So we made a little summary of the most important summer tips for dog owners on how to keep your beloved pooch safe during summer. And by safe, we mean cool and hydrated while taking in all the benefits of sunshine.
The immense healing power of sunshine
The ancient Roman quote goes, “Sol est remediorum maximum” and indeed, many cultures and doctors advise that “Sun is the best remedy”. Sunbathing was used to treat a range of ailments even by Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine. So, make sure you and your pooch are protected but use all the healing benefits that are offered by nature so generously during summer months.
#1 Sun protection cream for dogs – yes, it exists!
Just like us, our beloved furry friends can get sunburns despite their layer of fur. Sunburns cause itchy and inflamed but most of all painful skin that your dog will be tempted to scratch – and again, make matters even worse. They can even lead to hair loss and skin problems. So the summer tips for dog owners begin with a canine sun protection cream.
Use ONLY sunscreens intended for dogs – those for human use can be toxic for your dog!
Zinc oxide, the most often found ingredient in human sunscreens, as well as para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) are highly toxic for dogs. This is why it is of utmost importance to use only canine-intended suncreams. If a cream suitable for dogs is not an option, you can consider using baby creams, but please make sure to read carefully the ingredients list and avoid the above substances. Your dog is likely to lick these areas and ingesting these two ingredients is very dangerous.
Reapply as often as needed!
If you take your dog out during the periods with the strongest sunshine, i.e. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., you need to reapply the sunscreen throughout the day. You need to include all the sun-sensitive areas of the body: around the lips, tips of the ears, the belly, etc.
Breeds that are more susceptible to sunburns
White dogs that have short hair such as Dalmatians but even French Bulldogs are more susceptible to sunburns than long-haired dogs with thicker coats. But nevertheless, here’s a shoutout to all the dog parents out there: please use sun protection creams.
#2 Keep your dog hydrated
In pretty much any list of summer tips for dog owners, you will encounter the same word over and over again: water, water, water. When outside, bring a bottle of water. If your dog is hesitant to drink it from the bowl, try giving it from your palms. If your dog is not a fan of water, he or she might be a fan of licking ice cubes! Also, you can add water to your dog’s food, i.e. by making a vegetable smoothie with water. Needless to say, no dairy or sugar, just mix water with spinach and apples for example. You can also add water to your dog’s kibbles.
Protection against fleas, ticks and mosquitos
Your vet will tell you what is best for your dog, but you need to make sure he or she stays protected at all times as these bites can cause a lot of trouble and lead to chronic health issues. Advantix and Frontline are effective spot-ons, but some dog owners mind that the fur at the places of application is affected by the chemicals. It just ‘disrupts’ the hair at those spots, i.e. you’ll have trouble combing it straight as it will go its separate ways. But that is only an ‘aesthetic’ issue as those chemicals go straight into your dog’s blood whichever method you opt for.
There are also chews like monthly Nexguard against fleas and ticks and 12-week Bravecto. And for heart-worm that is transmitted by mosquitoes, there’s also monthly protection in the form of Spectra, Interceptor and Milbemax. Besides using these medical aids, spray Geranium all over as it also does a great job in fighting off mosquitoes.
Dealing with the heat
Heatstroke – symptoms
Heatstroke is very dangerous for dogs, so you need to be checking if your dog is showing any symptoms such as: panting excessively, drooling, or through thick and sticky saliva. His or her gums will also get red instead of being pink. Perhaps the most important message of all summer tips for dog owners can be summarised in one advice: avoid heatstroke at all cost!
Besides offering your dog plenty of cool, fresh water at all times, you can use a cool towel to quickly cool off your dog. Put a cold compress around his or her neck and wet the ear pads and paws with a cool towel. You can also get your dog some accessories, such as a cooling vest or a cool pad.
If you have a long-haired dog, you can also give your pooch a little summer trim. But only a little – the fur in fact protects the skin, even during summer, and keeps your dog cool, just like it keeps your dog warm during winter. Nature thought of everything! So you only want to ‘improve circulation’ and with that said, frequent brushing and coat maintenance is a must. All that you need are a few grooming tools!
Summer tips for dog owners – preventing heatstroke checklist
- Never ever leave you dog alone in your car (cracking your window open won’t help!)
- When driving your dog, always keep your window open from time to time, despite air-conditioning, to get the air ‘moving around’
- Try to walk your dog only during coolest periods (early morning, late evening)
- Do not overexercise your dog
What about the lack of sun and the common characteristics of UK weather?
Deficiency in sunshine vitamin?
We all know (or at least are supposed to) how important Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, is important for overall health. The same goes for dogs as Vitamin D is essential to regulating the balance and retention of calcium and phosphorus. So, living in the UK can surely contribute to vitamin D deficiency.
A new study has even shown that dogs with lower vitamin D levels are more susceptible to cancer. Just like in the human population, lack of vitamin D is an epidemic since 75% of dogs are deficient in this vital nutrient. But here are the good news, unlike us, they aren’t affected as much by the lack of sunshine as they absorb the majority of their D3 from food.
Factors that do influence D vitamin in dogs
Yet, neutered dogs have 10-39% less Vitamin D than intact ones. Also, strong magnetic fields and certain drugs could decrease vitamin D. But there are some factors that can also indirectly influence vitamin D levels. For example, Fluoride depletes Magnesium reserves which are a prerequisite for Vitamin D. So don’t worry about the lack of sunshine, but make sure to check your dog’s blood tests from time to time, e.g. on a yearly basis.
What about light?
Now, that is something to think about. Making sure your dog is walking in sunshine can have a positive impact on his health and well-being. Although you cannot know if your dog is feeling blue during winter months, you can notice the positive effects of sunshine.
Giving your dog the opportunity to have his paws grounded to Mother Earth, get fresh air to his lungs and letting him bask in the sun can boost his mood, immune system, and his self-healing mechanism. For this reason, vet experts recommend 20 to 30 minutes of exposure (40 minutes for larger dogs) twice a day for most dogs. Being in the shade can also reap the same benefits!
There’s always a solution – summer tips for dog owners living in the UK (and other non-sunny countries)
A possible solution for grey days is full-spectrum lighting. It is available at the same stores where you get your regular light bulbs. Install them at the part of the household where your dog spends most of his or her time, i.e. naps. And of course, switch it off at night as you don’t want to mess up your dog’s circadian rhythm.
Now go for a walk with your best friend – and enjoy summer, whichever one :)
With the summer kit described above, you and your pooch are all set to enjoy summer to the fullest. We have already deprived dogs of nature by making them live indoors with us. We replaced grass with tiles and carpets so the least we can do is walk them regularly. Preferably, avoid walking on asphalt as much as you can to avoid burning your dog’s delicate paws. If you cannot avoid it, make sure to use paw balms. Your own feet will also thank you if you walk barefoot on grass. It will also do wonders for your stress levels. All of us can benefit from some grounding :)