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Enjoying Your Dog in the Great Outdoors

Summer months are a special time to enjoy the great outdoors with your dog. Hiking, camping, boating, swimming or just taking a walk in the neighborhood are all enjoyable activities we like to share with our dogs.

Plan Ahead Before you Go

Before taking your dog along with you for an outdoor excursion, make certain he has had a complete check-up and is current on vaccinations, medications, flea and tick controls and de-worming, etc. Always check with your veterinarian about your specific outdoor plans because dogs all have different physical characteristics and needs. Some dogs may be too young or not developmentally ready for outdoor activities, while others might have orthopedic problems, health issues or other limitations.

When packing for yourself pack for your dog too! Be certain your dog’s collar and leash are in good condition and ID tags are

current. Bring along food, medications and a photo of your dog (in case he strays). You’ll also need plenty of plastic bags to clean up after your dog. Don’t forget to bring your veterinarian’s contact information, along with your dog’s medical history and insurance forms, in case of a medical emergency. In addition, consider having your dog microchipped before you leave.


A variety of outdoor products have been designed for dogs that travel and will spend time outdoors. Determine what your dog will need and don’t

Chocolate Lab on Boat

Photo courtesy of Sonia Cliffel

forget to pack canine sunblock and unbreakable bowls for food and water. Dogs who spend long hours in the sun have a higher risk of developing eye disease — canine sunglasses can help protect dogs and sensitive puppy eyes against sun damage, wind and airborne debris.

Before going on outdoor adventures, your dog should know and consistently respond to basic commands. His training, behavior and outdoor experience should help determine when to use a leash, versus allowing him to run freely. Keep in mind that using a leash helps keep dogs away from wildlife or from chasing predators.

Hiking, Camping and Boating

Summer heat is an important factor to keep in mind before you and your dog venture out. Some dogs can tolerate heat up to 80 degrees or more while others become hot at 65 degrees. Always bring along plenty of water (more than you think you will need) for you and your dog. Some owners use tricks to help keep their dogs cool while hiking or romping outside, such as hosing down the dog first or tying a frozen bandana around the dog’s neck (wet, roll, freeze and unroll the bandana first).

Avoid excessive exposure during the strongest hours of sunlight, usually between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Watch to see if your dog tires too easily or shows signs of exhaustion or heatstroke, such as panting, drooling, unsteadiness or a swollen tongue.

Hiking is a great way to enjoy being outdoors with your dog. Familiarize yourself with the terrain where you and your dog will be hiking to evaluate its conditions and possible hazards. If you use a canine backpack, it should be fitted to your dog’s frame and not be too tight, loose or heavy. A pack in a bright color will make your dog easier to spot if he begins to wander away. Don’t forget to pack plastic bags to clean up after your dog to help keep the trail clean and odor-free for others.

When camping, check the camp’s regulations about dogs in advance. Make certain your dog has his own blanket and something soft to sleep on. Even during summer months, some regions can become cold at night and your dog might need to come inside your tent with you. Never leave a dog alone at a camp site – he can wander away, become a victim of foul play, or be attacked by bears or other animals.

Dogs should be introduced to the water before going out on any kind of boat. Encourage them gently but don’t push them. Let them splash and paddle around in shallow water and experience being fully wet until they are comfortable. It’s best to let your dog become familiar with your kayak, canoe, powerboat or sailboat on dry land (or a dock) first and encourage them to practice jumping in and out.

If you are using a powerboat or sailboat, your dog will need to become used to its rocking motions before leaving the dock. Crank the engine slowly, since the sound may be unfamiliar or scary to your dog.

Your dog should wear a canine life vest at all times, in case he jumps or falls overboard. It can save their life if an accident occurs. The buoyancy of these vests helps enable dogs to swim faster and longer while also helping them reserve energy for other activities.

Always supervise your dog at the lake, pool or beach and provide him with drinking water and a shady spot to rest. Keep in mind that boat surfaces (especially fiberglass) and sand can become extremely hot in the sun — dog

After he has played in the water or sand be certain to rinse your dog off with fresh water. Remember to thoroughly dry his ears after water play, to avoid infections.

When you and your dog are out in warm weather, you might encounter armies of fleas, ticks, stinging insects, fire ants or snakes. They are all ready to attack us — and our pets — and cause itching, illness or even death. As the provider of the AKC Pet Healthcare Plan, we at PetPartners, Inc. see an increased number of claims regarding stings, bites and other issues related to warmer weather. The best way to combat these pests is to avoid them in the first place.

Discuss with your veterinarian the safest products or procedures to use toward preventing these unwanted guests. Some common preventive methods include:

  • Use flea, tick and heartworm prevention; some flea and tick preventives also contain a mosquito repellant.
  • Avoid standing pools of water and keep water bowls fresh, to avoid mosquitoes.
  • Don’t use ‘human’ mosquito repellants on animals, especially those containing the ingredient DEET, since they can cause neurological problems.
  • Watch for fire ant nests on the ground.
  • Don’t let your dog explore holes in the ground, logs or other objects where snakes or yellow jacket nests might be hidden.
  • After your dog has been in an area populated by ticks, thoroughly comb him within four to six hours to help prevent ticks from attaching.

Be on the Alert for Stings

If you suspect that your pet has been stung or bitten by an insect, it’s always best to call your veterinarian immediately for advice on what to do.

Dogs are often stung on their face or paws and these stings can be extremely painful — sometimes you can’t immediately tell what is wrong. A dog that has been stung will often become agitated and run around shaking his head or pawing at his collar. If stung in or around his mouth or throat, swelling can constrict his airway and be life-threatening. Multiple stings can also cause major problems, such as anaphylactic shock. Signs of shock can vary but may include depression, breathing problems, pale gums and a weak pulse.

If your dog is stung by fire ants, remove him from the area and brush off any ants remaining on him. Don’t spray them off with water, as that will cause them to hang on with their jaws and continue to sting.

Spider bites can be very dangerous to dogs. Although generally harmless, there are several varieties of spiders that can cause severe problems. Some spider venom contains digestive enzymes that can damage skin tissue, causing a wound to grow quickly with a secondary infection.

Ticks can also pose a threat to your dog’s health. If you suspect your dog has been exposed to ticks, inspect him thoroughly. Ticks can also carry and spread blood-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tick paralysis.

If your dog has been exposed to an area populated by ticks, thoroughly comb him within four to six hours to help prevent ticks from attaching. Ticks are most commonly found on the head, neck, ears, armpits and feet, although you should carefully check your dog’s entire body.

Your veterinarian can suggest proper tick removal methods. If you do find an attached tick, remove it promptly. Also, observe your dog for any lethargy, lack of appetite or other abnormal behavior. If you suspect your dog could have contracted a disease from a tick bite, ask your veterinarian for advice.

Things That Slither and Bite

Snakes are beneficial to our environment because they control the rodent population, among many other reasons. In general, they prefer to be left alone and avoid conflict.

If your dog is bitten by a snake, try to identify it — without getting bitten yourself — as identification is important in determining treatment. Keep your dog as still as possible, since movement spreads snake venom. If you’re outdoors, carry your dog to the car at a normal pace. Snakebites are very painful, so be careful — even the most loving dog may bite when he’s in pain.

To prevent snakebites, caution while outdoors is key. It’s a good idea to keep dogs from nosing around in holes in the ground, or under logs or near other objects where snakes might hide for shade. While snakes do not have good eyesight, they do react acutely to body heat and vibration. If your dog moves suddenly, a snake can mistake them for prey and strike quickly.

Fortunately, injuries from the bites and stings of summer are covered under the AKC Pet Healthcare Plan. The costs of treatment can quickly add up, especially if your pet experiences a life-threatening situation. One claim we paid was for over $2,200 for the hospitalization of a dog in California, after she was attacked by a swarm of bees. After several days of intensive care and blood transfusions, she amazed everyone and survived this potentially fatal attack.

The range of AKC Pet Healthcare Plans offer quality and affordable coverage for a surprisingly low price, especially compared to human health insurance plans. You can choose from our Accident or Essential plans that can cover unexpected illnesses or injuries, or plans that also offer Wellness coverage. The Wellness plans cover flea, tick and heartworm prevention, as well as an annual check-up, annual dental cleaning and vaccinations. The Wellness Plus Plan offers additional coverage for spaying and neutering, vaccine titers and emergency boarding (if you are hospitalized). For more details on our plans and a no-obligation quote, visit or call toll-free 1.866.725.2747. It’s time well spent when you consider the protection it provides for both you and your pets.

Summertime is an exciting, beautiful time of year we can enjoy outdoors with our pets but the unexpected can happen. Plan ahead for your dog’s unforeseen health emergencies. Be safe – not sorry!

The American Club (AKC) offers these additional tips for canine safety during summer months:

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