Partying with Your Pooch? 6 things to watch out for this summer

It’s the season of backyard barbecues, hiking and camping. Warm weather means new sights, smells, and places to explore for you and your pupster. All of which, for the pup, means new trouble to get into.

Sure, with summer the living is easy, but your pup still needs you to protect her. There are some things just too interesting to leave well enough alone. When with your pooch this summer, be his protective eyes and ears. Especially important to be mindful of are the following six ‘Watch Out’ dangers.

Don’t Be Cuckoo for Cocoa Mulch

As the name suggests, coca bean shell mulch smells like chocolate, which is very attractive to dogs. The product, sold at many garden supply stores, contains theobromine and caffeine, which can be lethal to dogs and cats. The effects are similar to those of chocolate: stomach problems, restlessness, tremors and more seriously, seizures. The nose knows, so keep it tuned.

Mosquitoes Bug Dogs Too

While your pet’s coat will help protect him from mosquitoes’ piercing proboscis and other bug bites, bugs do get through, and so does potential for disease. Mosquitoes carry a virus which can cause heartworm in animals. The American Heartworm Society (AHS) and the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) recommend year-round preventative treatment for heartworm. In the past heartworm was a problem only in warm coastal areas, now it is in all 50 states. The drugs must be prescribed, and whether you choose to treat or not, it’s wise to talk to your vet about protecting your dog from this disease. 

Stay Away From Toxic Algae

We’ve issued ongoing warnings about the dangers of toxic algae already this year, but they bear repeating. Toxic concentrations of blue-green algae in local waterways and lakes have caused canine deaths in recent months. After contact with toxic algae, dogs can convulse and quickly die. Algae blooms on the water’s surface can be bright green, blue-green, white or brown in color, but you can’t tell by looking whether or not it’s harmful. If you find anything appearing to be algae, avoid swallowing or inhaling water droplets or any skin contact, by humans or animals. Algae alerts and location warnings are available through the Harmful Algae Bloom Surveillance (HABS) program at and 971-673-0440.

Green Grass, Sick Dog

Before applying lawn or garden chemicals, ask yourself if it’s really needed, or if organic products would work instead. If you must use a chemical, use caution, follow directions, and store remaining product in the original packaging away from pets. Remove outdoor food bowls, water dishes, pet toys and bird baths before applying chemicals, and allow plenty of time for them to dissipate before letting pets or kids resume their romping. 

Hot Hot Heat

The basics apply: provide plenty of cool water, avoid exercise during the hottest hours of the day, and use pads for your dog’s tender paws if you favor jogging on asphalt. Run errands when you won’t need to leave your dog in the car. And even with fur, pets need sunscreen just like people. Important: use pet-specific sunscreens; most human products are toxic to dogs and cats. 

Plants to Look Out For

Beautiful gardens are not always safe for pets. Common plants like rhododendron, azalea, oleander, lily and yew can be harmful or fatal to a curious dog. Review which plants pose a threat at If your dog exhibits symptoms such as skin or mouth irritation, stomach problems, seizures, lethargy, unconsciousness or vomiting, call your vet ASAP.

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Vanessa Salvia lives with her two kids, one very sweet, fluffy cat (named Fluffy), and a husband (also very sweet), in Eugene, Oregon. When not clickety-clacking on a computer, you can find her browsing the farmers markets or feeding ducks from her patio. A freelance writer for more than 10 years, Vanessa has written extensively about music and entertainment in the Northwest. As mom, wife and companion to countless animals over the years, she has vacuumed more than her share of pet fur.