BEMIDJI, Minn. -- As lengthier days tempt us with sunny skies and warm temperatures, the urge to get out and stretch our legs is upon us, and there’s no doubt our canine friends are feeling the itch to tag along as we resume enjoying all sorts of outdoor activities.
With temperate summers in the upper Midwest, the chance to get outside with your dog is abundant and enjoyed by many. Whether strenuously hiking in a state park or simply walking around the block, it's an opportunity that provides both exercise and companionship for you and your pet.
Yet with fun in the sun comes potential dangers for our furry friends. From increased exposure to ticks and other insects to sunburn and even heatstroke, all sorts of issues can arise for our dogs in the summertime, the American Kennel Club said.
Nevertheless, you can avoid a potentially bad situation for your dog by staying vigilant and keeping the following tips from the AKC and American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in mind. With some awareness and preparedness, you can keep your furry best friend safe and healthy while enjoying time outside together this summer.
Avoid hot pavement
Soaring summer temperatures mean hot pavement outdoors, which, in turn, means the possibility of burnt doggy paws when out for a stroll.
In fact, asphalt temperatures can be significantly hotter than air temperatures. For example, if it’s 77 degrees out, pavement that’s been baking in the sun can potentially be up to 125 degrees.
At that temperature, skin damage can occur in just one minute, so it’s important for owners to check the asphalt prior to allowing their pet to walk on it. Remember, if it’s too hot for your bare feet, it’s too hot for their paws.
According to the AKC, owners should avoid letting their dogs walk on pavement in the heat, and instead, stick to grass or a mulched greenway or trail. If there are no natural areas -- excluding sand -- to walk on, owners should consider investing in lightweight pet booties (not made of rubber or silicone, which can make feet hotter).
Annoying critters -- like ticks, fleas and mosquitoes -- are plentiful this time of year and cause issues with humans and canines alike.
Yet for dogs, mosquitoes can transmit heartworms to them through a bite, which can later cause heart damage. According to the ASPCA, owners should try to avoid areas that tend to be infested with mosquitos, like bodies of stagnant water; and they should also talk to their veterinarian about heartworm prevention options.
While at the vet, owners should also discuss options for preventing fleas and ticks. Fleas cause itchy skin that can become irritated or damaged from constant biting and scratching. Ticks, on the other hand, can cause Lyme disease, which can create serious health problems if not caught and treated early.
The AKC recommends that owners regularly check their dogs -- including on the ears, belly, armpits and tail -- for fleas and ticks after spending time outside.
Be vigilant of overheating
Another hot weather concern in dogs is the potential to become overheated, which, without immediate treatment, can lead to heat exhaustion, heatstroke or death.
Dogs aim to please their owners; so that hot weather walk or run they’re joining you on might be harder than they’re letting on as they attempt to keep pace.
According to the AKC, if your dog’s panting grows excessively heavy and is followed by disorientation or fast, noisy breathing, they may be overheated. Other possible signs include collapsing or convulsing, bright red or blue gums, vomiting and diarrhea.
To prevent overheating in dogs, owners should avoid taking them outdoors for long periods of time on especially hot days. According to pet tip website DogTipper, pets are at risk for heatstroke once the outside temperature hits at least 80 degrees and a humidity of at least 90%.
Regardless of temperature, however, owners should encourage their dogs to drink water often and offer them occasional rest when performing any activity outside.
However, if your dog shows signs of being overheated, the Humane Society suggests moving them to a shady or air-conditioned spot, applying ice packs and cold towels, and encouraging them to lick ice cubes or drink water. They should then be taken directly to a veterinarian.
Watch out for toxic flora, fauna
When outdoors, it’s important to keep your dog leashed to ensure they’re away from predators and aren’t poking their noses in and around things they shouldn’t, such as plants, fungi and animals that are poisonous to them.
According to the AKC, many shrubs, trees, and flowers -- like azaleas, tulips, lilies, daffodils, and hydrangea -- commonly found in the garden and in the wild are dangerous if consumed by dogs. While some can cause discomfort, others can be fatal if ingested. Additionally, the ASPCA adds that certain kinds of frogs, toads, snakes, and spiders can be poisonous to dogs.
It’s helpful for pet owners to have a general idea of what plants and animals in their area are toxic to canines so that they can be avoided. The ASPCA has an extensive list of both toxic and nontoxic plants on its website.
Limit play in some waters
According to the ASPCA, stagnant bodies of water, like ponds, lakes, and trickling streams, can contain harmful parasites and waterborne pathogens. Some of these, when ingested, can then cause gastrointestinal distress, among other issues.
In Minnesota in 2019, dog owners were told to beware of blue-green algae after a dog’s death was suspected to be linked to exposure, a report from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said. The agency recommended that owners check water conditions before their dogs played near lakes or slow-flowing streams, and keep them away from algae-laden water entirely.
“Blue-green algae ‘blooms’ have a thick, cloudy appearance that can look like green paint, pea soup or floating mats of scum,” the report said. “Some, but not all, species of blue-green algae contain potent toxins that can be deadly to dogs, livestock and other animals within hours of contact.”
If a dog goes into water bodies with heavy algae growth, the agency recommended hosing them off immediately, before they have a chance to lick clean. If exposure to the algae is suspected, animals should be taken to a veterinarian immediately.
Preventing dogs from drinking affected water or licking toxins from their coat is key to preventing illness, the report said. Additionally, in general, the ASPCA recommends avoiding letting your dog splash around in or drink water from an outdoor source, especially if it looks brackish. It is suggested that owners bring along their own water for their dogs to drink.
It may come as a surprise, but dogs can get a sunburn -- and experience sun exposure complications, like skin cancer -- just as people do. But, according to the AKC, by taking certain precautions, like using sunscreen, your dog's risk of developing sun-related medical issues can be decreased.
Typically, short-haired (and hairless) or light-colored dogs are more at risk for sunburn. Dogs with light-pigmented noses and eyelids, such as bulldogs, collies and Australian sheepdogs, are at risk as well.
The AKC said it is best to use sunscreen designed for canines, so it is recommended to consult with a veterinarian for options. Additionally, to minimize a dog’s risk of sunburn, it is recommended to limit their sun exposure during peak hours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Tips for hiking with your pup
Interested in hiking with your pup in Minnesota? Sidewalk Dog Media, an online company that provides dog-friendly travel guides, took a poll of Dog-Friendly Minneapolis-St Paul Facebook group’s favorite dog-friendly hikes in Minnesota. These were the results:
Whitetail Woods Regional Park in Farmington
Quarry Park and Nature Preserve in St. Cloud
Ely’s Peak in Duluth
Louisville Swamp in Louisville Township
Tettegouche State Park in Silver Bay
Grand Portage State Park in Grand Portage
Glacial Lakes State Park in Starbuck
Montissippi Regional Park in Monticello
Fort Snelling State Park in St Paul
Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan