Seven summer dangers for dog owners to watch out for from grass seeds to snail pellets

The longer days and warmer weather make summer a great time to get outdoors with your dog – but forests, parks and even gardens don’t come without risks.

Whether it’s beautiful flowers, common insects, or algae found in bodies of water, there are a lot of things out in nature that could cause harm to your pet over the next few months. As well as making sure they stay cool and hydrated when it’s hot, it’s also important to be aware of what to check for after a long walk in the grass, as well as what you must stop them from eating when they’re exploring.

Here are seven of the major risks to your pet that you should be watching out for this summer, according to the Kennel Club. If you suspect that your dog has fallen victim to any of them it’s important to get in touch with your vet straight away, as the consequences could be deadly for some of these hot weather dangers.

READ MORE: Vet warning to every dog owner over ‘dangerous’ toys you should never give your pet

Heat and dehydration

One of the biggest risk to your dog throughout summer is the hot weather itself, as dogs aren’t as well-equipped as us humans are to cool their bodies down. Any dog can develop heatstroke as a result of overheating, but some dogs are considered to be particularly at risk, such as flat-faced or thick-coated breeds.

Around 75% of heatstroke cases in dogs come from exercising on hot days, according to the Kennel Club, and it’s most common between May and August. Symptoms include heavy panting, lethargy, an upset stomach, dribbling and confusion, and it can be fatal, so it’s important to move them to a cooler spot and contact your vet straight away if you spot any of these warning signs.

Owners can help their dogs stay cool in the summer by walking them in the early morning or evening to avoid the hottest parts of the day, providing plenty of shady spots in outdoor spaces, and making sure they always have access to fresh water to avoid becoming dehydrated. You should also make sure to check pavements when it’s hot outside to make sure they don’t burn your dog’s paws – as a general rule, if it’s too hot to place the back of your hand on for seven seconds, then it’s too hot for your dog to walk on.

Remember – dogs should never be left unattended in a car, even when it’s only mildly warm, because the temperature in a parked car can climb rapidly to dangerous levels well above the temperature outside. When a dog is left in a car, even if they’re in the shade or the windows are open, deadly heatstroke can set in within a matter of minutes.

Summer flowers and plants

Gardens, parks and woodland are all busting into colour as the weather grows warmer; and while it’s a beautiful sight to behold, dog owners should be aware of which summer flowers can pose a threat to their four-legged friend’s health. Common plants that are toxic to dogs include bluebells, foxgloves, hyacinths, hydrangeas, rhododendrons and sweet peas – you can read a comprehensive list on the Blue Cross website.

Symptoms of poisoning can vary depending on the plant, but commonly include vomiting, diarrhoea, drooling, breathing difficulties, tiredness and seizures. Be sure to keep a close eye on your dog while they’re exploring outdoors, and contact your vet straight away if you see them eating something they shouldn’t or they display any of the tell-tale symptoms.

Grass seeds

Injuries from grass seeds are unfortunately a common problem for dogs throughout the summer. This is because the seeds resemble tiny arrowheads up close, meaning that they can easily get stuck into your pet’s fur and end up burrowing into their skin, with the feet and ear areas usually being the most affected.

The seeds can cause painful swelling and infection if they’re not treated, so contact your vet if you spot one. Signs that your dog might have a stuck grass seed include shaking its head or licking its paws – make sure to check your pooch over after they’ve been on a walk through any grassy areas, particularly their paws and ears.

It's important to keep your pup hydrated at all times, particularly in hot summer weather
It’s important to keep your pup hydrated at all times, particularly in hot summer weather

Blue-green algae

This dangerous algae can be found in many bodies of water throughout the UK, including ponds, lakes and streams, and it poses a threat because it can produce harmful toxins. Dogs are most commonly exposed to the algae when swimming, playing in or drinking contaminated water.

Water that contains blue-green algae may appear a different colour, and the algae itself can be red, brown or black as well as blue-green in colour. It’s most commonly found in water during hot and sunny periods, particularly after heat waves – if you think you have spotted any, it should be reported to the Environment Agency straight away.

The algae can lead to a wide range of symptoms in dogs, from vomiting and diarrhoea to twitching, breathing problems, and even effects on major organs including the heart, liver and kidneys, so it can quickly prove fatal. If you suspect that your dog has been poisoned by blue-green algae, you must take them to the vet urgently.


Toads are able to spread poisonous substances through their skin, meaning that it could spell trouble for your pup if they decide to lick or eat one Toads native to Britain are the common toad and the natterjack toad, which are largely found in forest areas and wet locations.

Exposure to toads is at its highest between June and August when they are spawning, so keep an eye out for them when out on walks and be sure to keep your dog away. Signs that your dog may have been poisoned by a toad can include vomiting, frothing and foaming at the mouth, shaking, and collapsing – you should speak to your vet if your dog has had an encounter with a toad.

Insect bites and stings

As with people, dogs can also be susceptible to some painful insect stings during the summer months with the likes of wasps and bees buzzing about. Unlike us, dogs sometimes don’t know to keep away from these winged garden helpers, so could end up being on the receiving end of a sting if they get a little too overly curious.

Most insect stings are minor and can be managed at home, with symptoms including minor pain, irritation and swelling. But if your dog is sting inside their mouth or throat, is stung lots of times, or has an allergic reaction to the sting, this is a more serious situation that requires urgent treatment from a vet.

Stings in the mouth or throat can cause swelling that can block your dog’s airway, while signs that your pet may be allergic to the sting include sickness and diarrhoea, a large amount of swelling, weakness, disorientation and wheezing. If you spot any of these symptoms, or the swelling has not gone down after several days, be sure to get in touch with your vet.

Owners should also watch out for ticks – small blood-sucking parasites most commonly found in woodland or grassland between the spring and autumn. Ticks will latch on to your dog’s skin, but it’s important to remove them as soon as possible as their bites can carry diseases, including the serious bacterial infection Lyme disease which can affect humans as well as pets.

Ticks will need to be twisted off the skin, and can be done using a tick removal tool to avoid squeezing the body or leaving the head in. If you’re unsure of the best way to remove a tick, speak to your vet for advice or read the RSPCA’s advice for more information.

Slug and snail pellets

If you’re hoping to keep pests away from your plants this summer, bear in mind that the ingredients of many pest control products are designed to kill and are therefore often unsafe for all animals. Chemicals and fertilisers are the main garden dangers to dogs, according to the Kennel Club, with slug and snail pellets that contain metaldehyde being the most dangerous and common.

Signs that your dog may have ingested some poisonous pellets include muscle spasms and rigidity, tremors and convulsions – take them to the vet immediately if you think your dog has eaten them. Ant powders can also be toxic to your pet, although the effects are not usually significant because of the low concentration of active ingredients, but it’s always best speak to your vet if you need advice or your dog seems unwell.


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