Outdoor activities like taking a long walk, going on an adventurous hike, or romping around the dog park are all fantastic ways to get your dog some exercise and strengthen the bond you share. However, there are some things that are not so great for your dog in the great outdoors. Help keep your dog safe outside by understanding potential dangers.
1. Protect against parasites
Heartworms are transmitted to dogs through a mosquito bite, and they can cause serious damage to the heart and lungs. Try to avoid areas that tend to be infested with mosquitos, like bodies of stagnant water, and talk to your veterinarian about heartworm prevention options.
You should also talk to your veterinarian about preventing fleas and ticks. Some animals are allergic to the saliva from flea bites, and the accompanying scratching can result in skin irritation and infections. Ticks can spread illnesses, like Lyme disease. Be sure to check your dog carefully for ticks after spending time outside.
2. Beware of poison dangers
Curious noses tend to poke around in places they shouldn’t, which can cause problems if they come across something toxic. Here are some of the most common outdoor poison hazards.
Bodies of water, like ponds, lakes, and trickling streams, can be breeding grounds for mosquitos and can transmit heartworm larvae. They can also contain harmful parasites, like giardia, which affects the gastrointestinal system and can cause symptoms including vomiting and diarrhea.
To help prevent exposure to these hazards, avoid letting your dog splash around in or drink water from an outdoor source, especially if it looks brackish. Bring along plenty of fresh water to offer your dog instead.
Pesticides and rodenticides can help keep unwanted bugs and critters out of your garden, but they can be harmful to your dog. Choose products that are safe for dogs when possible and follow the instructions carefully. Swimming pool and hot tub chemicals can also poison your dog if ingested, so be sure to store them out of paw’s reach.
Learn more about chemicals and other common household items that can harm your pet at our pet safety guide.
Certain kinds of frogs, toads, snakes, and spiders can be poisonous to your dog. Some of these animals, such as the cane toad, secrete toxins through their skin. Other ones, like the cottonmouth snake and black widow spider, inject poison with a bite. It’s helpful to know what kinds of poisonous creatures are prevalent in your area and take precautions to avoid them.
Other insects, like bees, wasps, and fire ants aren’t poisonous, but they can injure your dog with painful stings or bites. Make sure you and your dog steer clear of the area if you notice that telltale buzzing sound or see a fire ant mound.
Azaleas, tulips, lilies, daffodils, and hydrangea are just a handful of the plants that can harm your dog. It’s helpful to know which plants are toxic so you can keep your dog away from them when you’re outside. Also, be sure to choose non-toxic plants when landscaping your yard.
Other outdoor toxins
Compost bins are another potential problem for dogs. If your dog gets into a compost bin, they can ingest spoiled foods, harmful molds, and bacteria. Place compost bins out of your dog’s reach and secure them tightly.
Cocoa mulch is also an issue for our four-legged friends. It’s made from cocoa beans and, like chocolate, it can be harmful if ingested. In addition, cocoa mulch has a chocolate scent, which can attract wildlife that can carry rabies or other dangerous diseases. Ask your gardening store for help selecting a type of mulch that is safe for dogs.
3. Consider the weather
Very high or low temperatures can cause issues for your dog, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go outside on days like these. It just means you have to take some extra precautions to help keep your pooch safe.
If it’s hot out, you’ll need to make sure your dog doesn’t get overheated. Avoid staying out too long if the temperature is soaring and provide your dog with plenty of cold water to drink. If you notice signs of heatstroke, such as heavy panting or increased drooling, you should get your dog to a shady or air-conditioned area to cool down. You should also call your veterinarian immediately since your dog may need medical treatment.
Keep in mind that any dog can suffer from heatstroke. However, dogs with short muzzles like Pugs and Bulldogs, older or obese dogs, and dogs with existing health conditions can be more susceptible to this condition.
Should I use sunscreen on my dog?
You might think their furry coat protects them from the sun, but dogs can still get sunburn on areas without fur, such as their nose, ears, or bald spots caused by an illness or skin issue. They can also get burned if they have a short or closely cropped coat. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations about using sunscreen on your pooch and be sure to use sunscreen specially made for dogs.
How cold is too cold to go outside with your dog? That honestly depends on your dog. Smaller breeds with short hair, such as Chihuahuas and Boston Terriers, might not tolerate the cold as well as larger dogs with heavy coats, like Labrador Retrievers. In any case, you should dress your dog appropriately for colder temperatures. That means a sweater or jacket, especially for dogs with thin or short fur.
It’s also a good idea for your pup to wear dog booties, which can help keep those paws warm, prevent slipping, and avoid cuts and burns from rock salt. Remember too that rock salt is harmful if ingested. Choose a dog-safe ice melt product for your home and be sure to wipe your dog’s fur and clean their paws when you come back inside so they won’t lick off any residual rock salt.
4. Microchip your pooch
Nobody wants to think about their dog getting lost, but it happens. Your dog should wear a collar with an ID tag so they can be identified. It’s also important to microchip your dog in case the ID tag falls off or your dog gets outside without it on. Make sure you keep your contact information up-to-date with your microchip service, or they may not be able to locate you.
5. Be careful around other animals
Wildlife can carry parasites or contagious diseases, like rabies. It can be tough to keep some dogs from chasing squirrels around the backyard, but you should do your best to keep them from interacting with wild animals, especially ones that are acting aggressive or erratic.
Your dog can also get hurt by other dogs while you’re out walking or at the local dog park. In fact, bite wounds are one of the most common dog injuries. Keep an eye on your dog while they play and get to know the other dogs who are there regularly. In addition, you should also have a plan to get your dog out safely in case a skirmish breaks out.
6. Vaccinate your dog
One of the best things you can do to protect your dog’s health is to keep vaccines for diseases like rabies up-to-date. Vaccines are usually given during wellness check-ups, so it’s important to make those appointments. You should also talk to your veterinarian about which vaccines would benefit your dog. For instance, dogs who spend a lot of time around other dogs at dog parks or doggie daycare might benefit from vaccinations to protect against kennel cough and influenza.
7. Supervise your dog
One of the most important things you can do to keep your dog safe outside is to supervise them. It can be tempting to let your dog run freely at the dog park while you catch up with friends, but you should know where your dog is at all times and be aware of their surroundings. Use a sturdy leash when you walk your dog and don’t let your dog stray out of sight if you let them off the leash.
8. Be prepared
Before you head out for a fun outdoor activity with your dog, make sure you have everything you need, such as a sturdy leash, collar with ID tag, plenty of water, a bowl for drinking (collapsible bowls travel well), and snacks if you’ll be out for a while. In addition, you should have a pet first-aid kit handy either in a backpack or your car if it’s parked nearby.
It is also important to have a plan in case your dog gets hurt and needs medical attention. Is your veterinary clinic open and close enough to drive to? If not, where will you take your dog in an emergency? Do you know how to do doggie CPR if needed?
You should also consider pet insurance, which can reimburse you for your veterinary costs. Get a free quote to see what’s available for your dog.