It's Canada Day weekend, and many of us will be racing off to cottage country and camp sites around Ontario, eager to squeeze in as much fun in the sun as possible. For most of us, that means packing up the whole family including our smaller and fuzzier family members.
Bringing the dog up to the lake for the weekend can be a lot of fun, but it's not without its risks. Think about how much mischief your puppy can get up to in your own home. Now take them outside, miles away from the normal routine and surrounded by new and interesting people, scents, and sounds -- that's a lot of excitement for our canine friends! You'll want to take some extra precautions to keep your pup out of trouble.
Before you head out
Make sure your dog is up-to-date on its vaccinations, and anti-flea and tick treatments. While this is a good idea in general, it is especially essential if you plan on bringing your dog to a camp site or cottage. There is a high chance your dog will be exposed to pests, parasites, and other pets during a trip outdoors, and you don't want him catching anything nasty.
You'll also want to make sure you bring along your tags and collars. It’s easy to forget about ID tags when you’re at home, but you'll want to have them for a trip. If your dog gets separated from you (say by chasing a squirrel into the woods), those tags might be what helps reunite you! If you plan on taking your dog out a lot this summer, you may want to invest in a tracking microchip.
It's important to remember that dogs are more vulnerable to heatstroke than people generally are, so make sure to keep your pet cool while you're having fun! If leashed up, make sure they are in an area with plenty of shade so they can keep the sun off their back. Always keep them hydrated with a well supplied bowl of fresh water. If you're hiking or exploring with your pooch, bring along some bottled water and a dish you'll be able to fill mid-way to keep them cool (unless you’re up for using your hand as a cup!)
Always be wary of the early signs of heatstroke - heavy breathing, excessive drooling, a sudden loss of interest or lack of focus, and weakness. If your dog starts exhibiting any of these behaviors you need to bring their temperature down immediately. Don't just toss them in a tub of cold water. A sudden shock can make things worse. Instead, bring their temperature down gradually. Get them in the shade and give them ice cubes to lick, or wrap them in cool wet towels. Or better yet, turn on the air conditioning for a little while.
Plan ahead to avoid heatstroke in the first place. If you have a freezer in your trailer or cottage, bring along some frozen peanut butter popsicles or frozen veggies for the dog munch on. You should also remember that despite their fur coats, dogs are still susceptible to sun burns, just like people. When planning activities for the day, make sure you're not keeping your four-legged friend in the sun for extended periods. Plan on shade breaks and cool-down spots.
Stay aware of vacation hazards
Summer barbeques and fires are fantastic, but they can also pose a risk for your dog. Make sure the kids aren't slipping your dog big chunks of greasy hamburger all day, unless you want to spend your weekend dealing with a sick (and messy) puppy. This is especially important if you decide to make s'mores late at night. Not only is there a burn risk (dogs don't know enough to blow on hot marshmallow) but all that dark chocolate can pose a serious heart risk for a curious puppy. It might be best to leash your buddy up during mealtimes and around the campfire just to make sure they won't eat something that will harm them.
If you plan on taking your dog out on the lake, keep in mind, dogs might be famous for the doggy paddle but that doesn't mean they're safe on the water. Just like you wouldn't take your kids out on the water without a life jacket, any puppy out on a canoe or boat should have a jacket or flotation device in case they jump out of the boat for any reason.
Make your vacation great for you and your dog. Plan ahead, stay cool, be safe and have fun!