Summertime and the livin’ is easy. Your dog agrees. Warm weather invites all of us to get outside and explore. Run, play, swim – your dog loves the action. But while you and your pup are enjoying the warm days, be on the alert for these three summer dangers to your dog that could put a damper on your summertime fun.

First though – don’t panic over these potential problems! And don’t stop your activities or live in fear. Knowledge is power. Now that you’re well-armed with info, you’ll know what to do.

Foxtails

Also known as grass seed awns, these nasty little buggers can be found everywhere and in almost every state.

Foxtail or grass awn
Image by Mabel Amber, still incognito… from Pixabay

Love those beautiful open fields with the waving, golden grass swaying in the breeze? You may think a bit differently about them when you realize that lovely grass could pose a summer danger to your dog.

Dog lying in a field of dried grass

Foxtails are so named as they resemble, well, a fox tail! The little awns are designed with a wicked barbed hook on the end. It’s great for helping the plant to spread and propagate – but can be devastating for your best friend. When the grass dries and turns brittle, the little seed awns are posed to break off and will catch on your dog’s fur and feet. If your dog gets in some sniffing time, they can enter the nasal passages or work their way into the ear canal.

The bad thing: these little awns are designed to burrow into wherever they land. That means they are designed to move forward. A foxtail that burrows between your dog’s toes can continue to move forward through his foot and leg. In the ears, they can work their way down the ear canal and pierce the eardrum. In the nose, these seed awns continue their forward motion.

Since it is nearly impossible to avoid them – even urban dogs can pick them up along their walks – being diligent about looking your dog over can go a long way in preventing potential (and costly) veterinarian care.

Signs to watch for…

  • Limping, excessive licking of paws or body parts, lump under skin
  • Shaking of head, head tilt or unwillingness to have head touched
  • Excessive sneezing or pawing at nose
  • Coughing, gagging, difficulty breathing
  • Squinting, eye discharge

Foxtails that have embedded and gone unnoticed may cause other physical symptoms if they have worked their way deeper into your dog’s body.

If you suspect your dog may have a foxtail embedded, contact your veterinarian immediately. Your vet will be able to sedate your dog and get that painful foxtail out. The sooner it is dealt with, the less likely it will cause serious problems.

If you’ll be in some extreme foxtail environments, there are actually some products designed to protect your dog’s eyes, ears and nose while spending time outdoors.

Booties may also be useful in preventing the awns from embedding in between toes or pads.

Hyponatremia (water intoxication)

Can too much of something fun be a bad thing? It can if you have a water-loving dog. Hyponatremia, also known as water intoxication, is relatively rare. It should still be on your radar so you keep an eye on your dog while playing in water.

Dog swimming in a outdoor pool.

Hyponatremia is when the sodium levels in your dog’s blood get excessively low due to extreme intake of water. That can happen while swimming, playing fetch in the water or from too much play with a pressurized garden hose.

(On the other hand, hypernatremia (salt poisoning) occurs when a dog takes on excess salt water. Important to be aware of if your dog is accompanying you to the beach.)

It’s actually amazing to me this summer danger to your dog doesn’t happen more often. Think about it: you throw your dog’s Wubba in the lake. She swims to retrieve it and has to open her mouth to grasp it. How much water goes in her mouth along with the Wubba?

Dog retrieving a toy while swimming.
Image by Katrin B. from Pixabay

Water intoxication can also occur when thirsty dogs drink too much water after a long swim session. Monitor your dog after swimming to make sure he has adequate hydration but doesn’t over-do.

If you have a dog that would stay in the pool or lake all day if he could, you’ll need to enforce some dry land time. Alternate swim sessions with time away from the water. Watch your dog while he’s in the water. If he likes to bite at the waves or gulps a lot of water while swimming, shorten your swim time.

Signs to watch for…

  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Staggering, loss of coordination
  • Dilated pupils
  • Light colored gums
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Drooling

These symptoms can progress quickly to a life-threatening situation. If you’ve spent a day playing in water and your dog experiences any of the above, don’t hesitate. Take your pup straight to the nearest veterinary clinic.

Heat Exhaustion/Heat Stroke (hyperthermia)

This is one summer danger to our dogs we can totally prevent – as long as we take precautions.

High temperatures can be brutal for our dogs. Dogs that are older, overweight, health-challenged or of the short-nosed breed (brachycephalic dogs) can especially suffer in high heat and humidity. While we humans have sweat glands, dogs cool off through their tongues. Panting is the method they use to dissipate extra heat.

If your dog cannot lower their heat level quickly enough, their temperatures can rise quickly and dramatically. This can lead to organ failure in a very short period of time.

Signs to watch for…

  • Excessive panting, labored breathing
  • Red gums
  • Lying down, refusal to continue walking
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle weakness/loss of coordination
  • Thick saliva

But let’s do our best to avoid those signs. It’s up to us as pet parents to make sure we keep our best four-legged friends safe during extreme heat.

German Shepherd looking out a car window.
Image by Evie Mancino from Pixabay

Best Practices for Hot Weather

  • Plan for walks/hikes or outdoor activities during the early morning/evening hours. If the heat index (the air temperature combined with the relative humidity) is above 90 degrees, plan some indoor exercise instead.
  • Stay off or away from sidewalks/paved roadways as much as possible. The heat that builds up on these surfaces can raise your dog’s temperature in a matter of minutes. Not to mention burn those cute little toe beans.
  • If your dog asks to stop while walking/hiking – let her rest.
  • ALWAYS bring a collapsible bowl and water for your dog. Offer water before your dog asks.
  • Utilize shade and ventilation while out. If your dog is in the yard, make sure she has access to water and shade at all times.
  • If you spend a lot of time outdoors with your dog during the summer, consider purchasing a cooling vest.

(Amazon affiliate links ahead…)

Don’t let these dangers scare you. You know what to look out for now. Use this as a jumping off point and have fun out there!

Pin this to your favorite Pinterest board to keep it handy.

Three Summer Dangers for Your Dog Pin

14 Comments

  1. Foxtails are the absolute worst! Even though you think you’ve kept your dog clear of them, they can show up in their fur. Heat stroke is also high in our watch list – because we love the Brachy dogs 😄We do the cooking pads and are wondering about a cooling vest… Have to keep an eye out for Jenna’s response.

    1. admin

      Rebecca – for a long time, I thought foxtails were only found out on the West coast. Was I wrong!

      I love Ruffwear gear but I have a bigger dog so I trust the fit. Not sure how well they fit on those little guys so I’d like to have some recommendation, too.

  2. Great reminder for all of the dog lovers out there! These things would be pretty easy to overlook on a fun day out in the summer sun. As an indoor cat owner, I never knew about foxtails! That sounds very unpleasant.

  3. Nancy Taylor

    Fox tails are the worst! They don’t bother the short haired breeds to much but watch out if you have a shaggy pal! I was unaware of water intoxication (my boxer would do anything to avoid even a drop of rain!).

  4. I haven’t had a problem with foxtails since they are mostly in agricultural areas and not the forest preserves in the Midwest. But I should check more often. Usually, it’s the burs that drive me nuts.
    I almost had a dog go into heat exhaustion when she was left in a car when it was cloudy and then the sun came out. Good thing we rescued her in time. Cars can be deadly.

    1. admin

      Burs are definitely a pain!

      We had a near-tragedy experience with one of our outdoor kitties years ago. Unbeknownst to us, he entered the van while we were unloading groceries. This was in the summer, during a 90 degree heat spell. The next morning, a neighbor came over to borrow something. I opened the van to get it out and there was the cat!!! He was completely soaked, the van smelled of cat urine but he was alive! We took him inside with wet blankets on to cool him down as quick as we could. Thankfully he recovered and was back to normal the next day. I will forever be thankful our neighbor needed to borrow something or we would never have found him in time!

  5. Hyperthermia is the highest risk in the summertime. So many dogs suffer or die. Foxtails are quite a menace too. Water intoxication doesn’t seem as common or at least not talked about as much. It would appear that unlike with heatstroke and grass awns, this one is fortunately relatively rare.

  6. Beth

    These are good reminders! Just over 12 years ago, our dog died of heatstroke due to the groomer’s neglect. When his air conditioning in the building broke on a 95-degree day, he kept her in the dryer. (I had no idea that there are dryers for dogs, until that day.

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