Veterinarian Dr. Stephen Samson tells us what we need to know about playing with our pets during the dog days of summer.

By Marisa Spyker
June 20, 2012
Photo: Mark Lewis

Staying cool in the summer sun can be tough—even for Fido. Veterinarian Dr. Stephen Samson of Coastal Animal Hospital in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, shares his tips for keeping your dog safe.

Coastal Living: How can you protect your pooch from sun exposure?
Dr. Stephen Samson: The best idea is to keep your dog out of direct sunlight between 10am and 4pm, when temperatures are the hottest.

CL: But Fido loves the beach ...
SS: Find a shady spot for him to escape to, like under and umbrella or tree. Swimming or wading in the water is also a great way to help him stay cool.

CL: What about drinking water?
SS: A dog should be drinking approximately 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight every day—even more if she's playing in the heat. When you travel, bring a portable water bowl (We like the Guyot Design Squishy Collapsible Pet Bowl for $15) and make sure the water is fresh and kept around room temperature. Dogs have sensitive stomachs, so water that is too cool or too hot can irritate them.

CL: Can a dog get sunburned?
SS: Dogs can and do get sunburned, most commonly on hairless areas or exposed skin, like the nose or ears, or the abdomen—near the hind legs, where fur is thinner. We recommend applying waterproof sunscreen to those areas.

CL: Sunscreen? Is that safe?
SS: Yes, as long as you avoid products that contain zinc, which can be toxic if ingested by dogs. There are dog-specific sunscreens, but the over-the-counter brands—such as waterproof sunscreens formulated for babies—are just as effective when you follow product directions. (Try Coppertone Water Babies Sunscreen SPF 50, $9)

CL: Are dogs hot underneath all that fur?
SS: Actually a dog's fur has an insulating effect, meaning it keeps the temperature lower on the skin than it is on the fur that's baking in the sun. That's why we don't suggest shaving off a dog's long hair in the summer.