Our pets look forward to summertime as much as we do. Warm weather, green grass, ample sunshine and, of course, vacation days spent entertaining our four-legged friends. It’s a canine dream come true.

These hot summer days mean lots of outdoor time. So we asked Dr. Wysocki to share his best tips to keep your pets happy, healthy and safe this summer.

Fleas and Ticks

Bugs flourish in the warm weather, including fleas and ticks. Fleas can lead to skin irritation, dermatitis and tapeworms, while ticks can carry serious diseases like Lyme disease. Flea and tick preventative is recommended all year, but especially during the summer. It’s also important to check your pet after outdoor fun, particularly when hiking or adventuring in the woods.


Just like humans, a dog’s body is made up of 80 percent water. So it’s essential to keep your dog hydrated, especially during the heat of summer. Dogs need around one ounce of water for every pound of weight each day, but that amount can increase with exercise, warm weather and medication. When travelling or going for a hike, always keep a collapsible water bowl and fresh water. Signs of dehydration in dogs include a loss of skin elasticity (when pulled lightly, skin does not readily come back to its original place) and dry gums with thick saliva. Dogs suffering from dehydration will often need more than oral fluids and may require intravenous fluids and vet care.

Sun Exposure

Dogs love to sun and who can blame them! But just like us, they are susceptible to sunburn and even skin cancer. Dogs with short coats or white coats are more at risk. You can protect your pets by keeping them inside (or under shade) during the hottest part of the day, applying a pet approved sunscreen or clothing to cover the most sensitive skin. You will also want to avoid trimming your pet’s coat too closely during the summer months.


You might be surprised by what’s living in your yard. Parasites are released through animal feces and eggs can live in the environment for months. Sandboxes, dirt and grass are all ideal environments for parasites, like hookworms and tape worms. Here are a few ways to protect your pets and family from parasites:

  • Remove pet feces from your yard as often as possible.
  • Avoid areas that have been soiled with animal stool.
  • Avoid allowing your pet to lick your family on the mouth.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after playing with pets.
  • Give your pet a monthly heartworm preventative to treat and prevent common intestinal parasites.

Skin Irritations

Every dog has the occasional itch, which is completely normal. But when this occasional itch turns into incessant licking, scratching or biting, an underlying medical problem may be present and a trip to the vet is recommended. Allergies are a common cause and can spawn from the environment or food. Flea dermatitis may also be to blame, especially for dogs with sensitive skin. Either way, your vet can diagnose and help your pet find relief.

Snake Bites

Snakes enjoy the summer and it’s important to live in harmony, but some dogs are just too inquisitive and their nose leads the way. Timber rattlesnakes and copperheads are both common in the south eastern United States, but there are ways to protect your dog. Keeping your dog on a short leash (6 feet or less) on hikes will prevent them from wondering out of sight. There is also a rattlesnake vaccine which delays reaction to the snakebite and allows more time for you to get your dog to the vet for anti-venom. While it’s not a cure for snakebites, it does provide precious time to get your dog treated.


Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that is caused when animals come in contact with fresh urine from infected carrier animals, and is more prevalent is the warm, wet months of summer. Common carriers include raccoons, skunks, opossums, squirrels and rats, but livestock can also carry the disease. Signs that your dog has leptospirosis include fever, vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea or lethargy – and early recognition is important for a full recovery. If your dog displays any of these signs it is important to consult your vet.

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About the Author

Dr. Wysocki

Dr. Wysocki grew up in Michigan in a family surrounded by four-legged (and two-legged) friends, including Boxers, Saint Bernards, an English Bulldog, a rabbit, a parrot and several parakeets. His grandfather started the first pet ambulance service in the U.S. with the Michigan Humane Society in the 1950’s, so his love for animals is genetic. He combined this love with his knack for math and science, and graduated with a doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Michigan State University in 1983. Before starting his own practice in Arden, North Carolina, he practiced in Springfield, Massachusetts, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Baltimore, Maryland, and Greenville, South Carolina. He is a regular contributor to Ask the Vet on WLOS, the ABC affiliate in Western North Carolina.