5 Common But Deadly Summer Dangers for Pets

We all know barbecues equal summer fun, but did you know corn cobs are big no-nos for dogs?

By: E.N.K.
Corn cobs can get stuck in a dog’s small intestine. By: E.N.K.

With the summer come countless outdoor hazards: Big people and little kids going in and out all the time, open doors, open gates, open windows, barbecues, swimming pools and more.

Be aware of the dangers, and please make your guests aware of them too.

1. Antifreeze/Radiator Coolant

When temperatures rise in the summer, cars (whether it’s yours or not!) can leak antifreeze. Or people may have spilled some liquid while topping it off.

The green fluid contains ethylene glycol, and its sweet taste is appealing to both dogs and cats. It is extremely toxic (read: deadly), even in very small amounts. Take your dog (cats are usually smarter) to the veterinarian immediately if you suspect your pet may have licked some antifreeze.

A safe alternative to ethylene glycol antifreeze is actually available: propylene glycol. Many wish ethylene glycol will be banned and propylene glycol will become mandatory. Please note that antifreeze/coolant is a year-round danger.

2. “Fly Strike”

You may want to skip this one, as we are going to talk about maggots.

Flies can lay eggs on bodily fluids or in diseased tissues: a wound, diarrhea, urine, eye drainage, pus, etc. It is more likely in pets with a thick or long hair coat, or who live outside. Prevention includes grooming, bathing, treating diarrhea and infections quickly, keeping pets indoors, and fly-control programs.

Flies lay eggs, which become larvae — aka maggots — in as little as 12 hours. Maggots feed off animal flesh. Maggots eventually become flies, and are soon ready to lay eggs on the next victim… And the wonderful circle of life continues.

3. Barbecue Dangers

While fun for people, barbecues can cause many problems in pets. Lighter fluid is toxic to them, trimmings can cause pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) and bones are potential foreign bodies.

A corn cob fed to a dog can get stuck in the small intestine. This is a serious (and potentially deadly) condition. It may stay in the GI for days before a diagnosis is made, which often means that part of the intestine will need to be removed during surgery.

The photo here shows a bullmastiff puppy who had to have surgery to remove a corn cob from his gut.

4. Water Safety

Even though most dogs are considered natural swimmers, they can get into trouble if they fall into a swimming pool or fall overboard from a boat. This is true especially if your dog gets hurt in the process, or has conditions such as obesity or heart disease.

On a boat, use a doggie life preserver (affiliate link). At the beach, rinse the salt off your dog with clear water after a bath in the ocean.

Most pool covers are not appropriate to prevent disasters, especially as pets can end up under the cover and suffocate or drown. If your pet falls into a pool, she may not be able to get out of it with high, vertical, slippery sides and an impractical ladder. If you don’t have stairs that are practical for dogs, some companies make ramps that are doggy friendly.

Various states and countries have different rules when it comes to swimming pools, such as requiring a locked gate.

5. Car Windows

Car restraints will prevent your pet from jumping out of the window (a classic) or bolting the minute a door opens.

I cringe every time I see a dog’s head sticking out of a car window: At best, the dog may get a severe case of conjunctivitis (eye inflammation). At worst, it may jump out the window and get road rash or skin lacerations, or wind up in the operating room with nasty fractures. Don’t simply assume that your pet has a special sense to avoid falling from a window.

Also, please don’t believe that because your pet has not done anything crazy 99 times, he won’t decide to jump the 100th time…

By the way, do not ever leave your pet unattended in a car, even with the window cracked open. Read this article on heat safety tips for pets.


This pet health content was written by a veterinarian.

Dr. Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ

View posts by Dr. Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ
Dr. Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, is a traveling, board-certified veterinary surgeon in the Allentown, Pennsylvania area. He is a certified veterinary journalist, an award-winning author and a prolific speaker. He co-wrote Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound, about weight loss in dogs and humans. He also writes a free weekly newsletter, available at DrPhilZeltzman.com.

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