Thursday, July 21, 2011

Summer Tips for Your Pet

Summertime is a special time of year. The living is slower and the heat makes us all slow down a bit. Here are some safety and comfort tips for your pet, be them a dog or a cat. Most of these tips have been heard before and all of us know them because we all have common sense. Never the less, it pays to remind ourselves of the things we already know. It may save the life of your pet this summer.

The headings are grouped by subject interest. You can skip subjects that do not apply to you or pay attention to them if the subject describes what you do in the summer months. For example, if you don’t go to the beach or jog with your pet, then skip the advice.
General Heat Hazards
If your dog is outside on a hot day, make sure he has a shady spot to rest in. Doghouses are not good shelter during the summer as they can trap heat. You may want to fill a child's wading pool with fresh water for your dog to cool off in.
Never leave your dog in a closed vehicle on a hot day. The temperature inside a car can rise to over 125 degrees in a matter of minutes.
Always provide plenty of cool, fresh water.
Avoid strenuous exercise on extremely hot days. Take walks in the early mornings or evenings, when the sun's heat is less intense.
Try to avoid prolonged exposure to hot asphalt or sand, which can burn your dog's paws.
Dogs that are brachycephalic (short-faced), such as Bulldogs, Boxers, Japanese Chins, and Pekingese, have an especially hard time in the heat because they do not pant as efficiently as longer-faced dogs. Keep your brachycephalic dog inside with air-conditioning. Yes, they are special.
Heatstroke can be the serious and often fatal result of a dog's prolonged exposure to excessive heat. Below are the signs of heatstroke and the actions you should take if your dog is overcome.
Early Stages:
  • Heavy panting.
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Excessive drooling.
  • Bright red gums and tongue.
  • Standing 4-square, posting or spreading out in an attempt to maintain balance.
Advanced Stages:
  • White or blue gums.
  • Lethargy, unwillingness to move.
  • Uncontrollable urination or defecation.
  • Labored, noisy breathing.
  • Shock.
If your dog begins to exhibit signs of heatstroke, you should immediately try to cool the dog down:
  • Apply rubbing alcohol to the dog's paw pads.
  • Apply ice packs to the groin area.
  • Hose down with water.
  • Allow the dog to lick ice chips or drink a small amount of water.
  • Offer Pedialyte to restore electrolytes.
Check your dog's temperature regularly during this process. Once the dog's temperature has stabilized at between 100 to 102 degrees, you can stop the cool-down process.
If you cannot get the dog cooled down and you begin to see signs of advanced heatstroke, take the dog to the veterinarian immediately.
Even with emergency treatment, heatstroke can be fatal. The best cure is prevention, and Fido and Fluffy are relying on you to keep them out of harm’s way. Summer does not have to be fraught with peril--with ample precaution, both you and your furry friends can enjoy those long, hot dog-days of summer.
General Health
Make sure your dog's vaccinations are up to date, especially since dogs tend to stay outdoors longer and come into contact with other animals more during the summer months.
Keep dogs off of lawns that have been chemically treated or fertilized for 24 hours (or according to package instructions), and away from potentially toxic plants and flowers.
Keep your dog well-brushed and clean.
Fleas and ticks, and the mosquitoes which carry heartworm disease, are more prevalent in warmer months.
Beach Tips
Make sure your dog has a shady spot to rest in and plenty of fresh water.
Dogs, especially those with short hair, white fur, and pink skin, can sunburn. Limit your dog's exposure during the day and apply sunblock to his ears and nose 30 minutes before going outside.
Check with a lifeguard for daily water conditions. Dogs are easy targets for sea lice and jellyfish.
Running on the sand is strenuous exercise. A dog that is out of shape can easily pull a tendon or ligament, so keep a check on your dog's activity.
Do not let your dog drink seawater; the salt will make him sick.
Salt and other minerals in ocean water can damage your dog's coat, so rinse him off at the end of the day.
Not all beaches permit dogs; check local ordinances before heading out.
Jogging is also dangerous this time of year. So your dog jogs everyday with you and is in excellent shape - why alter the routine? As the weather warms, humans alter the type and amount of clothing worn, and we sweat more. Dogs are still jogging in their winter coat (or a slightly lighter version) and can only cool themselves by panting and a small amount of sweating through the foot pads. Not enough! Many dogs, especially the 'athletes' will keep running, no matter what, to stay up with their owner. Change the routine to early morning or late evening to prevent heat stroke.
Water Safety
Most dogs enjoy swimming, but some cannot swim, and others may hate the water. Be conscious of your dog's preferences and skills before trying to make him swim.
If you're swimming for the first time with your dog, start in shallow water and coax him in by calling his name. Encourage him with toys or treats. Or, let him follow another experienced dog he is friendly with.
Never throw your dog into the water.
If your dog begins to paddle with his front legs, lift his hind legs and help him float. He should quickly catch on and keep his back end up.
Don't let your dog overdo it; swimming is very hard work and he may tire quickly.
If swimming at the ocean, be careful of strong tides.
If you have your own pool, make sure your dog knows where the stairs or ladder are located. Be sure that pool covers are firmly in place; dogs have been known to slip in under openings in the covers and drown.
Never leave your dog unattended in water.
By Air – Many airlines will not ship animals during summer months due to dangers caused by hot weather. Some will only allow dogs to fly in the early morning or in the evening. Check with your airlines for specific rules.
If you do ship a dog, put icepacks or an ice blanket in the dog's crate. (Two-liter soft drink bottles filled with water and frozen work well.) Provide a container of fresh water, as well as a container of frozen water that will thaw over the course of the trip.
By Car – Keep your dog cool in the car by putting icepacks in his crate. Make sure the crate is well ventilated.
Put a sunshade on your car windows.
Bring along fresh water and a bowl, and a tarp or tent so you can set up a shady spot when you stop. Keep a spray bottle filled with water to spay on your dog to cool him down.
By RV – A dog's safety should not depend on the air conditioning and generator systems in an RV or motor home. These devices can malfunction, with tragic results.
If you leave your dog in an RV with the generator running, check it often or have a neighbor monitor it. Some manufacturers have devices that will notify you if the generator should malfunction.
Never leave an RV or motor home completely shut up, even if the generator and AC are running. Crack a window or door or run the exhaust fan.
Never, ever leave a dog unattended in a vehicle in the summer months. Heatstroke and death can occur within minutes in warm temperatures.
Patio Summer Safety
Charcoal briquettes, which dogs seem to love to lap up or steal from the grill, can easily get stuck in the stomach, causing vomiting and requiring surgery.
Barbecue scraps and fatty leftovers can give your pup pancreatitis, causing severe abdominal pain or death.
Corn on the cob and peach pits are also a huge no-no because they can lodge in a dog's intestines.

Garden Summer Safety
Backyard lilies (like a daylily or Asiatic, Easter, or Stargazer lily) and their pollen can cause acute kidney failure in cats. Ingestion of as little as two to three leaves can be fatal, so remove these plants from your yard if you let your cat out.

Rose and garden plant food containing insecticides can contain potentially fatal compounds. If your dog tries to eat a bag of it (or soil that's been treated with it), he could suffer diarrhea, profuse vomiting, shock, seizures, and even death.

Azaleas are common backyard shrubs that can be toxic for dogs and cats if ingested, resulting in drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, heart arrhythmias, or an abnormal heart rate.
Garage Summer Safety
Fireworks are a threat to curious dogs that might try to eat them. Made with chemicals like potassium nitrate, and parts (like a fuse) that could get stuck in the stomach, they can cause vomiting, bloody diarrhea, seizures, and shallow breathing. Keep yours out of reach, and clear your yard of debris after you set off your display.
Veterinary Concerns During Summer (See my other blogs)
Heartworm disease:
Heartworms (Dirofilaria immitis) are parasites transmitted by mosquitoes that can potentially be fatal to your dog or cat. Many people are familiar with heartworm disease in dogs, but are unaware that cats may also contract the parasite (heartworm disease was reported in cats in 38 states by the American Heartworm Society); in fact, cats infested with heartworms often have more severe clinical signs than dogs and a poorer prognosis. Have your dog or cat tested for the presence of heartworms by your veterinarian, and ask about heartworm preventatives. Treatment for this disease can be expensive and risky for your pet prevention is easy and inexpensive. Because your dog only goes outside to urinate and defecate, and because your cat does not go outside at all, this does not eliminate the risk of disease. Mosquitoes are everywhere! Please use prevention medication!
Normally only adult fleas live on pets, and often they remain there only long enough to feed. Eggs may be laid on the pet, but usually fall off the pet into the environment where conditions are right for them to develop (through a multistage life cycle) into adult fleas. As a result, it is possible to have a substantial flea problem although you have only identified a few or no fleas on your pet. Egg and larval stages can survive in your home all year and in your yard from spring through late fall (all year in warmer climates). Biting and scratching on the lower back, tail, and abdomen are the most common signs of flea infestation and dermatitis will often flare up in these areas. Flea control involves treatment of the pet and the environment by means of shampoos, sprays, dips, "spot-ons," powders, oral medications, and collars. Your veterinarian can recommend the most appropriate flea prevention/treatment program for your pet. Fleas carry tapeworms, so be sure to have your veterinarian check your pet for these intestinal parasites as well.
Yet another parasite that is a common problem during the warmer months. Ticks are not only an irritant and nuisance to your pet, but may transmit several debilitating diseases, such as Lyme disease, Babesiosis, Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichiosis. Many flea prevention/treatment products will also help with control of ticks. Your veterinarian can help you recognize ticks and show you the proper way to remove them from your pet (if you simply try to remove the tick by pulling, you may leave its mouthparts embedded within your pet's skin). Owners whose dogs have substantial exposure to ticks (eg, sporting dogs, dogs that go camping, and those spending time in forest preserves or woods) should also ask their veterinarian's advice about the appropriateness of a vaccination for Lyme disease.

The Providence Veterinary Hospital Blog is a publication of Peter Herman, VMD, at the Providence Veterinary Hospital, 2400 Providence Ave. in Chester, PA. Contact Dr. Herman at 610-872-4000 or visit us at