A Garden, a Barbecue, the Warmth of the Sun : Summer
and your dog's safety
Summer is an outdoors season. The entire family
wants to spend time in the sun, playing, gardening,
eating and soaking up the sun. We can choose to
protect ourselves from the dangers involved with
these activities, but our dogs cannot. This is our
responsibility. In order to protect our dogs,
however, we have to know the dangers.
One of the most obvious benefits of summer is also
among the deadliest. Heat can kill, but how can we
protect our dogs from summer itself?
First and foremost, the dogs need to keep cool.
Dogs perspire through their tongues. Compare that
to our ability to perspire through thousands of
pores. This means that dogs feel the heat more and
are more susceptible to heat-related dangers like
heat exhaustion or sun stroke. To keep your dog
safe from these dangers:
- NEVER leave your dog in the car, not even with the
window partially open. The effect is similar to
sitting in a metal garbage can on a hot day. Even
with the window cracked, or on an overcast day, your
dog still cannot sweat enough to compensate for the
extra heat in his body. You could easily come back
to the car (or truck, or van, or SUV) and find your
dog dead in the back seat.
- NEVER put a muzzle on your dog on a hot day. A
dog cannot open his mouth with a muzzle on, so he
cannot let of ANY heat by panting. He will quickly
succumb to heat exhaustion or, since vomitting often
accompanies heatstroke, he may choke to death on his
- If you want to jog or walk or run with your dog,
do it in the cooler hours of the early morning and
evening. Short-nosed breeds like boxers or many
small dogs are NOT meant to jog or run. They cannot
pant as well as their longer-nosed counterparts.
- Give your dog plenty of cool water. Always keep
his water dish filled. Any time he is outside, give
him access to deep, cool shade. A fan can help him
as much as it can help you -- but be sure it isn't
stirring up dirt or dust or anything that can get
into his eyes.
- If he is indoors, and it gets quite hot in there,
turn on the air conditioning or several fans.
Remember that if you are hot then he is probably
- REMEMBER: short-nosed breeds are most likely to
suffer from the effects of the heat. Their short
noses gives them considerable less tongue mass, and
they can sweat far less than a long-nosed,
long-tongued breed. Think how much less heat releaf
they get from sweating than you do!
- Don't forget the sunscreen. Yes, your dog can get
sunburn. Always cover any bare spots in your dog's
coat and around his nose with sunscreen. Sunburn
can lead to skin cancer, even in dogs. As dogs
often lick their coats and anything on them, you may
want to talk to your vet about sunscreens that are
safe for dogs -- especially if the dog suffers
Two other parts of summer actually create similar
dangers. Firecrackers and thunder can startle or
downright scare a dog. If you happen to be out of
doors when it is possible either of these events
could occur, keep your dog on a leash held tightly
by someone strong enough to hold the dog and keep
him from getting away. Of those that get loose,
many get lost, and many are injured or killed
because they run in blind terror in front of a car.
Fireworks can also injure or kill a dog if they are
set off too close to it, and can cause deafness if
set off too close to his ears. It is best to keep
your dog as far away from the fireworks as possible.
Even your garden, the safe haven you have created
for yourself, has its share of danger to your family
pet. Not the least of these is poisoning due to
herbicide, fungicide, pesticide, pest control and
fertilizer. The best ways to counter these dangers
- Try to use only non-toxic preparations -- such as
water or soap sprays of trees to kill insects in
them, or a safe mulch to keep down the weeds.
Always be careful using toxic preparations, even if
they tout themselves as 'safe for pets.' This may
only mean that the chemical doesn't stick around for
very long, or may only be safe to touch skin. They
may still be deadly if ingested. If you are unsure
if the preparations you have chosen are totally
safe, do some research -- ask a qualified nursery
specialist or check it up on the internet.
- ALWAYS READ THE LABELS. Be sure to follow all
directions faithfully. Memorize the antidotes and
assistance needed if the chemical is ingested or
touches skin. Keep any antidotes needed close at
hand. Use only according to label instructions.
ESPECIALLY read the cautions and safety measures.
- Stay away from products containing known dangerous
chemicals such as 2,4-D, which has been linked to
cancer in dogs.
- Keep your dog away from the area, preferably in
the house, while you are applying the chemicals
outside. Read the label to find out how long the
dog must be kept away from the area. If it doesn't
mention pets, use the recommendations for children.
- Do not apply on windy days -- you don't know where
the chemical will land, such as water, eating
surfaces, patios, dog toys... Always remove all dog
toys from the area before application.
- Clean up all spills immediately, and dilute the
area with water to nullify it as much as possible.
Keep your dog from that area.
- Beware of secondary poisoning. Keep watch for
dead animals, such as rats killed by the rat poison
you or a neighbour put down, or birds killed by
chemicals that have been sprayed onto trees and
their fruit. If your pet then feeds on these
animals, it can also be killed by the poison in the
dead animal's body.
- Do not let your dog eat plants, lick grass, or
drink water that may have come in contact with
chemicals. If your trees have been sprayed, do not
put your dog's bowl under them until you are sure
there is no longer any poison on the trees.
Chemically treated leaves may fall in the dish, and
poison your dog's water.
There are other types of poisons you need to be
- Poisonous animals, such as spiders and snakes.
Know what types of wildlife can be found in your
- Animals with rabies, such as skunks, opossums,
woodchucks, rabbits and bats. Always beware of any
animals that are acting strangely -- too friendly,
or too vicious -- and report them immediately to
- Wood ticks and other ticks may give you or your
dog diseases like Lyme disease. Mosquitos, too, can
spread disease, although a heavy-coated dog has less
to fear from these as thin or short haired dogs.
- Porcupine quills can injure dogs and cause
And there are other dangers in the garden:
- Cocoa shells, a very useful and pretty mulch, are
as dangerous to your dog as chocolate. It smells
chocolatey and irresistible to your dog. It also
contains the same dangerous chemicals as chocolate
-- caffeine and theobromine. There have been
reports of dogs dying from ingesting this mulch.
- Lawn mowers and grass trimmers can be as dangerous
to dogs as they are to you and me; maybe more so,
because they are closer to the ground. ALWAYS keep
your dog far away from the lawnmower, in another
yard or in a house. Not only can the dog be
seriously hurt if he runs too close to the sharp
blades or the filaments, but the side discharge
often shoots out rocks and twigs which could hurt
your dog -- especially if they hit his eyes.
- Rotten garbage -- which can include incomplete
compost -- can also kill a dog. Besides food-borne
diseases like salmonella (which occurs in meat and
poultry products, neither of which should EVER be
placed in your compost), molds can be deadly. Keep
all garbage and incomplete compost in tight
containers (this makes for better compost, anyway).
Make sure the compost you use is well-rotted, so it
looks more like dirt than garbage. This will be
better for your plants, too -- if the compost is
still green, too much can actually burn the roots.
- Acorns and pine cones can cause choking or
intestinal blockage if ingested. Don't place your
dog's water dish under an oak or pine tree, or any
other nut-bearing tree. If these things fall into
the water, the dog may inadvertently ingest them
- Water bowls can also attract mice, who will try to
drink the water, fall in, and drown because they
cannot climb the smooth sides to get out. Keep an
eye on your dog's water dish, not only to keep it
free of dead mice, but also to keep it filled with
fresh, cool water.
- Barbecues, with their great-smelling food and
relaxed atmospher, also hold doggy dangers. Beside
the obvious fire danger, there may be gas leaks
which your dog may inhale. Coals and lava rocks are
the right size for a larger dog to swallow. They
can cause obstruction of the windpipe and intestines
if cold -- can you imagine what they could do if
there were hot enough? They may also contain
harmful chemicals, especially if they have been
covered with starter fluid.
- Outdoor fires, too, are extremely dangerous. Keep a
dog far enough away so that sparks won't fall on his
coat and catch fire. If your dog loves chasing
sticks, NEVER throw sticks onto the fire --
especially if he had been playing with them before!
Dogs have been severely injured following a stick
into a fire pit.
If you keep your dog outside -- especially a small
dog -- you may be risking his life. Preying birds
and animals don't think of a smaller dog as a human,
they think of it as something they can kill, carry
off, and eat. This is especially true if you take
your dog camping. Always keep him safe in a shady
spot under a table or tree.
The food at barbecues can also cause a threat.
Never let your pet eat:
- Onions or garlic, which can cause a
life-threatening anemia in dogs.
- Bones of any kind: chicken and turkey bones can do
considerable damage to a dog's digestive tract -- if
they don't get caught in his throat, first. While
gnawing larger bones, dogs swallow tiny pieces of
bone, which can irritate the digestive tract, and
even cement together to cause intestinal blockage.
- Raw or undercooked meat, which can contain
salmonella, e.coli, or other food-borne bacteria.
If you wouldn't eat it, why should your dog?
- Greasy food. As well as causing obesity and its
health problems, even a single serving of greasy
food can cause a life threatening inflammation of
- Salt. Less than half a teaspoon per pound of body
weight can kill your dog.
And let us not forget that the garden plants
themselves can also be dangerous to your dog. Some
particularly harmful ones include: Amaryllis, Autumn
Crocus (leaves), Avocado, Azalea and other
Rhododendrons, Bird of Paradise, Cyclamen, Daffodil,
Dieffenbachia (aka Dumb Cane), Easter Lily,
Hibiscus, Holly, Hydrangea, Lily of the Valley,
Mistletoe, Morning Glory, the entire Nightshade
family (which includes tomato and potato plants),
Philodendron and Schefflera, Poinsettia, Rhubarb
(leaves and roots), Tobacco, certain vegetables like
eggplant, mushrooms, toadstools... , and most herbs,
if too much is eaten.
This sure seems like a lot of danger, doesn't it?
It hardly seems safe to take your dogs outside, but
remember, they want to be near you. They are social
animals, as are you. These dangers can all be
avoided by taking certain precautions, being
watchful, using your common sense, and above all,
keeping your dogs cool.
- What your dog is trying to tell you, by John M.
Simon, DVM. This book can help you to recognize the
signs of poisoning and other health problems.
- 277 secrets your dog wants you to know: a doggie
bag of unusual and useful information, by Paulette
Cooper and Paul Noble. This book is full of
interesting and useful information, including
possible dangers around the home and beyond.
Beverly Muntain and Koko (the Rescue Tzu)
Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
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