These Unlikely Hallmarks of Summer Could Harm Your Dog
Summer Pet Dangers: The ones you'd least expect are the most dangerous!
(The #1 thing Dr. Heather pulls out of dogs' stomachs in the summer? A corncob—closely followed by #2: peach pits!)
Plus: They're BAAAACK! Summer Allergies: How to deal with the itch factor
Did you know allergies are the #1 reason people go to the vet in the summer? Here’s what works—and what doesn't—when battling the itch
For most people, summer is the great unwind. It’s trips to the beach, backyard picnics, and enjoying outdoor time with friends, family, and our pets. But for emergency veterinarians like myself, there's little time to chill. This is the season my furry friends need me most. On any given day, my waiting room is packed with dogs suffering from mostly preventable illnesses and injuries. My job is twofold: to heal the pets and to educate their parents. Here are tips to keep you and your dog out of the ER this summer!
Barbeques Are No Picnic For Your Pet (Indiscriminate Eater Alert!)
Picnics and barbeques are summer's greatest pleasures, but they can pose serious threats for your dog. Believe it or not, my number one summer surgery is removing corncobs from dogs’ intestines! Peach pits rank a close second.
What to do: The trick is to keep your dog entertained while you're eating. If he’s outside with you, stuff a toy with his favourite treats and set it away from the table. Or better yet, do what I do: keep your dog indoors until you’ve cleaned up. If you think he’s swallowed a pit or a corncob, induce vomiting with hydrogen peroxide as soon as possible. Call your vet for the proper dose. And finally, be sure your trashcans—indoors and out—are tightly secured. I use bungee cords on mine!
Heat Stroke Isn’t Cool
Your dog can't tell you when he's too hot, but if you see him panting heavily, drooling or unable to walk, he may very well be suffering from heat stroke.
Many senior dogs, large dogs, and flat-faced (brachycephalic) breeds have compromised airways, making them prime candidates for heat stroke. People cool off by sweating. Dogs cool off by panting, and any deformity in the airway, such as the foreshortened muzzle or a weakening of the opening of the trachea (laryngeal paralysis) seen in many breeds, can hinder this process.
What to do: A common misconception is that you should drench the dog in cold water right away. This is exactly what NOT to do. A rapid decrease in body temperature can potentially cause life-threatening shock. Instead, your mission is to mimic evaporative cooling or “sweating.” Using a towel soaked in warm water, douse your dog’s body parts that have the least amount of fur: the belly, the inside of the ear flaps, the paw pads and the “armpits.” Afterwards, you can place him in front of a fan. However, even if he seems to be bouncing back, head straight to the vet for a complete examination. He may have suffered internal damage, which can be fatal if not detected. (To find a veterinary hospital in the U.S. and Canada accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association, use the AAHA Hospital Locator at aaha.org. Simply key in your zip or postal code and a list of accredited hospitals will pop up.)
To avoid heat stroke, exercise your dog in the cooler parts of the day and for short periods of time. And never leave your dog alone in a car. The temperature inside can be 40 degrees hotter than it is outside!
Enticing summer scents can cause even the most well-behaved dog to go AWOL. The best way to avoid this is by keeping doors leading to your porch, deck or balcony closed at all times. Small dogs are at risk of wriggling through rail slats and suffering a fall. “Highrise” syndrome is very real: I’ve treated many dogs who’ve fallen from outdoor structures. Dogs can also escape the yard if it’s not fenced in appropriately.
What to do: Worn around the neck, a Puppy Bumper (puppybumpers.net) will prevent a small dog from slipping through slats that are wider than he is. If your dog has the potential to jump a fence, plant tall bushes right inside the fence line, making it impossible for him to jump over it. Take extra precaution by having your dog microchipped and invest in a GPS tracking system so you can locate him should he escape. If your dog has a microchip implanted, make sure the information is up to date. If found, a veterinarian or shelter can use AAHA’s Universal Pet Microchip Lookup (petmicrochiplookup.org) to reunite you.
Your Dog Could Be Allergic To Summer
Often I work the overnight shift. There’s no rest for the weary in the summer… neither for me nor for my pet parents. Many of them drag themselves in, half asleep, having been woken to the sound of their dog scratching like crazy. Chances are this behaviour is caused by allergies to fleas or pollen from trees and grasses.
What to do: You need to determine the cause of the scratching and only your vet can tell you that. More times than not, it’s flea-related and pet owners are always surprised to learn that the bite of just ONE flea can cause an intense rash if your dog has a flea allergy. If your dog hasn’t been on a flea preventative for the past three to four weeks, your vet will recommend that you start your dog on one.
If the condition is not flea-related, your veterinarian may prescribe a medicated shampoo to soothe the skin and calm the itchiness. He may also recommend medications to decrease the allergic response from inside the dog’s body.
You Are Your Dog’s Paramedic
Knowing how to care for your dog in the event of an emergency is the best gift you can ever give him. It might even save his life. The American Red Cross Pet First Aid App, available for both Android and iPhone, is a handy reference for any emergency you might encounter. Download it today!