The 9 Biggest Summer Hazards for Dogs—And How to Keep Them Safe · The Wildest

Skip to main content

9 Warm Weather Hazards for Dogs—And How to Keep Your Pup Safe All Summer

So you both can have the best time ever.

by Kenzie Bryant
June 3, 2024
Woman plays with her dog on the beach in the summer.
fesenko / Adobe Stock

There’s so much to look forward to now that we’ve marked Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer, off our calendars. Barbecues, beaches, lake hangs, hiking, and having a built-in excuse to order the piña colada (“It’s hot outside, and that looks delicious” is excuse enough).

These warm months can be an ideal time for pet parents who enjoy spending time with their pooch outdoors, but nothing can tank a day of summer fun faster than an emergency trip to the vet.

I’m not here to put a damper on any excitement you may feel for the upcoming season, but taking a moment to fully prepare for the biggest hazards of the warmer months will, in the end, help you and your dog maximize your summer fun.

Pets — they have allergies, too

Pollen spares no creatures on this great green earth of ours. It can come for us all whether we live in rural, suburban, or urban environments, and, yes, it also comes for dogs. Grasses and other airborne irritants tend to explode beginning in the spring and peak in April, May, or June depending on where in the Northern Hemisphere you live (mold and dust mites can be a factor in pet allergies as well, though these are also issues in the colder months).

Luckily, this hazard is almost never life-threatening. Dogs can experience discomfort, though, so look out for sneezing attacks, crusty eyes, and excessive itching, and consider taking the pup to your vet if they can’t stop scratching, it disrupts their sleep, or they look generally miserable. 

Veterinarian Dr. Stephanie Liff, the medical director and owner of Pure Paws Vet Care in Brooklyn and New York City, recommends a HEPA filter for your air conditioner to help mitigate a dog’s experience with allergies. If you live in an apartment building, ask your management to turn filters over. 

“I think people have a misconception that allergies are worse in the suburbs, but urban allergens are pretty prevalent,” Dr. Liff says. “And because people live in high rises where you don’t have full autonomy over your air, it can be even more problematic.”

She also notes that, no matter where you live, wiping down dogs or bathing them post-walk can help reduce the irritant, and adding fish oil to their diet to improve their skin barrier can make them more resilient to these particular elements. Plus, if your dog can tolerate it, putting vaseline on their nose can help catch the allergens before they settle into the nose canal. 

And, finally, some good news: One thing you don’t have to worry about on behalf of your outdoor-loving dog? Poison ivy; it just doesn’t affect them like it affects humans.

Gardeners beware

Plants — so pretty, so fun to grow, so soothing to the eye — can be toxic to your pup. Outdoor seasonal plants like azaleas and rhododendrons, among others, can be harmful if ingested, according to Dr. Lori Bierbrier, senior medical director of ASPCA Community Medicine. And be sure to store fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides in a safe, dog-free zone. 

Heat: Not just for the dog days of summer

This one is a no-brainer: The heat can be dangerous, much more dangerous for dogs than humans. “Dogs pant to dissipate heat,” Dr. Alex Schechter, founder of Burrwood Veterinary in Detroit, says. “They don't have the same sweat glands like humans do, and so they have more trouble getting rid of heat. They can overheat easier.”

Look for signs like increased heart rate, drooling, excessive panting or difficulty breathing, mild weakness, and seizures. Other signs of heat stroke include bright red gums, vomiting, and collapse. Any of these signs mean you should go to the vet immediately.

“Any illness after a long day in the sun should always be addressed as an emergency. So, if they’re vomiting or have diarrhea or they're really lethargic and weak, that’s an emergency,” Dr. Liff adds.

Heat is especially dangerous for dogs with smushed faces, the so-called brachycephalic breeds, such as French Bulldogs, Pugs, or Shih-Tzus, Dr. Schechter says. These breeds struggle more than most to pant, so extra care should be spent looking for the signs of heat exhaustion. 

“Getting them inside, getting them water, getting them relaxed is really important,” Dr. Schechter says. It should go without saying but never leave them alone in a parked car. As Dr. Bierbrier, of the ASPCA says, “On a hot day, even with the windows open, a parked automobile can become a furnace in no time, and heatstroke can develop.”

To mitigate heat issues, consider bringing a tent if there is no natural shade where you are going for the day; take your walk during the coolest hours of the day, usually the early morning; make sure fresh water is available to them; and choose paths with shade from above and earth below. 

Which brings us to our next hazard: asphalt. 

Asphalt and concrete

Asphalt (or concrete) and high temps can conspire to burn and blister your pup’s paw pads. And it’s not always the extreme heat days that can render the floor lava for our dogs.

“The outside air temperature can be 77 degrees Fahrenheit, but the asphalt temperature can be 125 degrees Fahrenheit,” Dr. Bierbrier says. Burns are an issue, and so is the heat these materials radiate. Since dogs are closer to that ground, walking on asphalt increases the risk of heat stroke.

There are the obvious strategies for avoiding burns, like, again, taking dogs out for their walk early in the morning and keeping walks shorter than usual. But, also, you can rub a balm on the pads of the dog's feet. Dr. Schechtor mentioned Musher’s Secret, and some pet parents prefer booties (just make sure to remove these when they’re inside, so they don’t trap heat).

When barbecuing goes to the dogs

“When you think about barbecue season, then you worry about ingestion hazards,” Dr. Liff says. “We think a lot about bones, corncobs, peach pits. Those are the big three.”

Besides the Big Three Choking Hazards, there are poking hazards. Kabob skewers are a rarer, but still dangerous, barbecue issue. Likewise, ingesting too much fatty meat happens easily in crowds.

“Onions and garlic can cause pets stomach upset,” Dr. Bierbrier says. “And grapes and raisins can cause kidney damage. Additionally, products containing xylitol, an artificial sweetener found in gum and other sugar-free foods, can cause low blood sugar, liver damage, and even death in dogs.” 

Shelby Semel, head of training and behavior at Animal Haven Shelter in New York City and founder of Shelby Semel Dog Training, always advocates getting ahead of any of these issues long before you come across them. She suggests working with a trainer on impulse control and the “ leave it” cue prior to the party.

If you don’t have enough time to get them ready for grilling season, you can always put them on a long leash far from the grill area or prepare a room in your space or the host’s space for them to hang out away from the heat and the hot dogs

Bright lights, big fireworks 

The best time to prepare for your dog’s noise phobias is as soon as possible, and there are three main approaches you can use to get ready for summer’s biggest noises, fireworks, and thunderstorms: the physical, the medical, and the behavioral. 

Keep them physically away from the fireworks to avoid mishaps and burns, and make sure they are in an enclosed environment. Never allow dogs to be unrestrained in an outdoor space when you expect fireworks or thunder; they can bolt at any moment. 

“Don’t underestimate a dog’s ability to escape even what seems to be a securely fenced area when spooked,” Dr. Dierbrier says.

Better to have them leashed. She recommends that you ensure all walking equipment — from the leash to the harness — fits well and is “not chewed, frayed, or damaged in any way, and that the ID tag is securely fastened to their collar in the event they do get loose.” 

Likewise, two hours before a fireworks event is a good time to administer any anxiety medication that you get from your vet. It’s more difficult to get the desired result (a calm dog) once the anxiety has already begun. This goes for thunderstorms as well, which are more prevalent in the summer. 

“I track the weather for my dog,” Dr. Schechtor says. “And if it looks like bad thunderstorms are coming, I'll give [anxiety meds].” 

And lastly, there are some training solutions to avail you and your dog of, though this strategy has quite a long tail, if you will. Semel starts training her client’s pets for loud noises when they’re young.

“What I like to do in my young puppy classes is actually have sound effects, and I suggest that young puppy owners play fireworks, play sirens, play loud sounds on low while the dog is doing something they enjoy,” Semel says. “So maybe playing fetch or doing some training to help desensitize them and counter condition them to these sounds.” 

Over time, parents can increase the noise, or when encountering loud noises outside, go hard on the praise and treats. Semel also recognizes that things happen, and sometimes dogs are not prepared. Her own dog developed a noise phobia late in life, which can be common as dogs age. A last-minute strategy is to exercise your dog prior to the event, like taking them for a long walk an hour before the firework show.

“You might have to change your schedule for the day, but it’s worth it,” she says.

There’s also the Thundershirt or the Anxiety Wrap, which both work like a swaddle (just make sure to get them used to wearing it before a major noise event happens, so they don’t associate it necessarily with The Bad Thing). You can also put them in a safe space in the house or apartment, preferably one with no windows, and stock it with all their favorite things.

Tick watch

East coasters are well aware of the growing tick problem and thus the growing tick-borne disease problem for humans and pets alike. Dr. Schechter, whose practice is in Michigan, expects an even worse tick crop this year due to a mild winter in the area this year. 

Summer is also hiking season, so be sure to check dogs after outdoor adventures and make sure to administer their tick medication as directed. 

Beach Days: Saltwater and sand 

Nothing is quite like a beach day with your dog, though both the land and the water at the beach can present some challenges to your pup if ingested. “Salt water can cause a metabolic toxicity with salt being too high,” Dr. Liff says. “Chlorine water is just irritating to the skin and the stomach and esophagus, so they can feel off from it, but it's not as toxic.” 

Dr. Liff will see dogs who are vomiting after a day at the beach. After she does blood work, she finds that their sodium is high, then she will have to “monitor for brain size or neurologic dysfunction or lethargy or progressive dehydration.”

Sand is almost as dangerous as saltwater, especially if you have a pup who loves to chase balls on the beach. “It’s more common in the South with beach-dwelling pets, versus beach-visiting pets, but sand impactions can definitely happen and be challenging,” Dr. Liff says. “I’ve only seen it once; I was working down by the shore, but it does happen and shore-based communities see it more.”

Make sure that whatever has gone in, comes out the other end. And, again, if the pup is exhibiting any issues after a beach day, go to the vet immediately. 

Sunscreen for dogs

Surprise! Dogs can burn, too, especially those without pigmented fur. “They can get pink, they can get blisters, they can develop sun-related tumors,” Dr. Liff says. “Think pets that like to sleep in the sun all day in the summer: They can be at higher risk, and especially if they’re rolling over and their belly is exposed.”

You can get sunscreen for dogs (do not use your own!). It’s similar to the human formulation, but lacks zinc, which can be toxic for dogs. Usually, they come in a spray for easy application. 


Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants List

Kenzie Bryant

Kenzie Bryant

Kenzie Bryant is a freelance writer who lives in Brooklyn with her dog, Bonnie. Her work has been featured in Vanity Fair and Racked.

Related articles