Dog Days of Summer – Common Summer Dog Emergencies

Longer days, fun in the sun and water, trails to hike and beaches to comb – our furry four-legged friends love summer as much as we do. But with summer also comes more hazards, and our emergency department always sees a corresponding increase in visits.

One of our board-certified critical care specialists, Dr. Marley Wipond, shared some of these summer hazards and some tips on how to avoid the emergency room this summer.

We hope you never need an emergency vet, but if you do, we are open 24/7, walk-ins welcome. We are VECCS Level 1 certified and capable of handling even the most critical, life-threatening emergencies and trauma.

Dr. Marley Wipond, Board-certified Criticalist



Heatstroke happens when your dog is unable to cool itself down. This can lead to neurologic issues, irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), respiratory distress, bleeding, and death if not treated quickly.

Signs and symptoms

  • Inability to catch breath.
  • Heavy panting that doesn’t resolve with taking them inside and stopping activity.
  • Vomiting and/or severe diarrhea.

Risk factors

  • Breed (large breeds, retrievers, anything brachycephalic or”squish-faced”, like French and English bulldogs, pugs, etc.)*
  • High temperature and/or humidity outside, or in the space they are in (like being left in a hot car.)
  • Poor fitness.
  • Lack of acclimation (dog goes to a new place that is hotter than it is used to.)

Preventing heatstroke

  • Walk your dog in the morning or evening when it isn’t as hot, especially if you have an at-risk dog.
  • Do not encourage strenuous exercise when it is hot (running hard, playing with other dogs.)
  • Always bring water with you on hikes and outdoor activities.

Care and treatment

If you are worried that your dog is experiencing heat stroke, immediately cool them by pouring cool water over them, then seek immediate veterinary attention.

* Brachycephalics like bulldogs have an anatomy which prevents them from cooling effectively when they pant. When they get hot and pant heavily, they can very quickly develop severe respiratory distress and airway obstruction alongside heat stroke, which is life-threatening.


Sand Impaction

  • Playing fetch at the beach, nosing around in the sand, etc., can lead to dogs ingesting enough sand that it obstructs their intestines.
  • If playing at the beach, play fetch on the grass or somewhere that the dog can’t ingest sand.
  • Clinical signs include: vomiting or not eating. If a dog starts vomiting after being at the beach, it should be evaluated at emergency.

Salt Toxicity

  • Ingesting a lot of salty seawater (or saline pool water) can happen when swimming and playing fetch in the water.
  • Don’t allow your dog to drink seawater or pool water; sodium levels in the blood can rise quickly which can cause neurologic signs such as seizures.
  • Signs that warrant evaluation at Emergency include: vomiting, dull mental activity or weakness, tremors, and seizures.


With the increase in bugs in the summer, hiking or playing outside makes insect bites more likely.

Rarely are allergic reactions life-threatening. If a dog develops sudden facial swelling or swelling/redness around the eyes, or hives (sudden appearance of bumps all over the skin), they should be evaluated right away for treatment of an allergic reaction.

If a dog experiences anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction) their symptoms could include sudden vomiting or diarrhea followed by collapse, sometimes difficulty breathing. This is LIFE-THREATENING and should be treated immediately and aggressively at a veterinary emergency hospital.


Pets can fall into a pool easily and if unsupervised, can drown. Even if a dog can swim, they may not be able to get out, and can drown due to exhaustion. The best way to avoid a drowning incident is to not allow your dog unsupervised access to the pool.

If your dog has fallen into the water unsupervised and they seem normal, they should still be evaluated immediately in the emergency room, as drowning events and lack of oxygen can lead to lung injury, brain injury, and arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat.)

What to do for Pet Emergencies

Boundary Bay Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Hospital is open 24/7, 365 days a year. We are especially equipped to handle the most severe trauma and emergencies – if your pet is experiencing a life-threatening emergency, please bring them directly to our hospital, no referral is required.

You can call us at (604) 514-8383, or for more information visit our emergencies page:


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