It’s generally agreed that Memorial Day is the unofficial beginning of summer. And who better to celebrate the start of the season with than your dog? When bringing your four-legged best friend along for some Memorial Day festivities, be sure to avoid any possible dog emergencies with the following summertime safety tips.
1. Fire, Barbecues, and Grills
One of the most common activities on Memorial Day is barbecuing, and one of the biggest things you need to focus on is keeping your dog away from the barbecue or grill. If your dog has been well-trained, you can teach him to stay away from the grill by using the “No” or “Off” command when he goes near it. But even the best-behaved dog might be drawn in by the delicious smells of food cooking on the grill (who wouldn’t be?) without realizing the potential danger it poses. Another option is to keep cooking areas closed off by using pet gates or baby gates so that your dog doesn’t have any access at all. These safety measures are also recommended for bonfires, fire pits, etc. when your dog is in the vicinity.
2. Food and Alcohol Safety
Memorial Day is a very casual, laid-back day. People tend to come and go from the table, leaving plates of food and/or alcoholic drinks unattended. To keep your dog from helping himself to unsafe foods or alcohol, always clean up quickly and put all the trash in a suitable container – a trash can with a lid is best because trash bags can easily spill, be knocked over, or get torn open. If you want to share a Memorial Day treat with your pet, make sure it is vet-approved for dogs (just ask us!).
Popular barbecue foods that your dog shouldn’t eat include avocados (guacamole), onions, any sort of alcohol, grapes, peaches, ice cream, chocolate, fat trimmings and bones, and raw meat or fish. (This is only a partial list; you should always check with your vet regarding dog nutrition.)
No matter how careful you are, your dog still might find and swallow something she shouldn't, so always keep the phone numbers of your local vet, the closest emergency vet clinic, and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center stored in your cell phone.
3. Water Safety
If you’re spending Memorial Day at the lake or beach, don’t just assume your dog will take to the water and be able to stay afloat. Not all dogs swim well or naturally, and they can drown just as fast as a person. Even dogs that swim well can tire very quickly, so when swimming with your dog, don't let them swim too far away from you. If you're out in a boat or raft, your dog should always wear a life preserver. And if your dog doesn't like the water, don't force him to go in!
4. Exposure to Sunscreen, Bug Spray, etc.
Of course, you will want to stay protected from the elements while enjoying your Memorial Day, but keep your dog at bay when applying sunscreen or bug spray. SPF protection for humans often contains chemicals that may be toxic to dogs, including the common ingredient zinc oxide. Many bug sprays contain DEET, which is also harmful to dogs. Look for dog-safe sunscreens and bug repellants (check with us for recommendations!), and make sure to thoroughly rub in any of your own sprays or creams before getting hands-on with your dog.
5. Heat Safety
It’s true that dogs’ fur coats provide built-in protection from the elements, but fur can’t block out the sun. Just 30 minutes of direct exposure can lead to sunburn or heatstroke for some dogs. Delicate, sparsely-coated parts of the body such as the nose, ears, belly, and any bare or shaved patches are more susceptible to sunburn, and white-coated dogs are more likely to burn than others.
There are several great dog-specific sunscreens available on the market, but you can also create an area where your dog can take solace from the sun. Set up a cool spot with a towel to lay on, some water to drink, and maybe even a new chew toy, and your dog should be more than happy to sit it out in the shade. Heat stroke is very common in dogs, so be sure to keep an eye out for early signs of overheating such as panting, rapid breathing, and increased heart rate with bounding pulses.
It’s natural for dogs to be afraid of loud noises, especially fireworks. Because running away from loud noises is their natural instinct, it’s important to keep your dog in a safe place if fireworks will be going off. Take them to a friend or relative’s house for the night, or if you can’t take your dog to a place away from fireworks, set up a travel kennel at home for them to feel safe in.
7. Loss Prevention
If you’re hosting or attending a party where doors and gates will be opening frequently, consider leaving Rover home for the day. Take your dog for a special walk or hike earlier in the day when it’s not as hot, and then let them stay home in a cool, well-ventilated area while you are out celebrating. Then you know you'll come home to your best friend, rather than searching for a pooch who has escaped through an open door or gate. And no matter what, we recommend current ID tags and an updated microchip!
It’s summertime! Time to start enjoying the sunshine and spending as much time as possible outdoors. Keep your dog safe, and he or she will enjoy summer, too!