Summer Safety Tips for Dogs
Posted by Dr. Susan O'Dell, DVM on 15th July 2015
Summer time brings sun, outdoor play, gardening and family gatherings. With all that fun comes a lengthy list of possible perils for your furry best friend. Here are some tips to keep dogs out of harm's way this summer.
Skin and Coat Care
Many people think that shaving your dog will keep them cooler over the summer. However, clipping the coat will actually make it more difficult for them to cope with temperature changes. Overly thick or matted coats do inhibit temperature regulation, so remove any dead undercoat and brush them out regularly to allow for good air circulation.
If Rex enjoys sunbathing, remember to protect his delicate skin with sunscreen. Skin cancers are relatively common in both dogs and cats, and UV exposure can increase his risk. Areas like the nose, tips of the ears, and hairless bellies are particularly sensitive. Hairless dog breeds, or those with medical conditions causing hair loss should also be protected. Apply a pet specific sunscreen every 3-4 hours while outdoors. Do not use human sunscreen – ingredients like zinc oxide are toxic to dogs!
If Spot has large areas of hair loss, or if he was shaved for surgery, consider protective clothing to block the sun's rays. You can use a small child's T-shirt customized to fit. If his hair loss is a long term issue or you plan to be out in the water, you may want to invest in a quick drying shirt or rash guard made specifically for dogs.
Even with the best laid plans, your dog can get a sunburn. To soothe a burn safely, apply a small amount of pure aloe vera to the area twice a day. Keep him out of the sun for several days until the worst of the skin irritation subsides.
During the warmer months, we also see a huge increase in the number of skin and ear infections. After Buddy has been out in the water, make sure he gets thoroughly dry (here is another time that it is important to have a well brushed out coat!). Keep his ears clean and dry with a maintenance cleaning product. You can also use an ear-drying astringent solution to protect your dog from swimmer's ear.
Guard the Garden
When planning your garden oasis, there are some plants that should be banned from your yard to keep Chewy safe. Some of the more popular ones that you should avoid include azaleas, rhododendron, lilies, sago palm, morning glory and foxglove. These can cause a variety of severe problems which can even be deadly.
Fertilizers, insecticides and lawn care products can also have adverse effects on your pup. If he ingests these chemicals or treated soil or plants, he can suffer diarrhea, vomiting, allergic reactions, seizures, or even death. The most dangerous pesticides are snail and slug baits containing metaldehyde, fly baits with methomyl and various rodenticides. Always keep these products stored in a place that isn't accessible to Bowser.
Another garden hazard is cocoa bean mulch. This product is composed of the shells or hulls of cocoa beans which are recycled into an aromatic mulch. It is an attractive snack to dogs, but it contains theobromine and caffeine – the same two toxins that cause illness after chocolate ingestion. Cocoa bean mulch ingestion can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, increased heart rate, arrhythmias, seizures, and even death. Traditional wood chip mulches are better choices for pet friendly homes.
Avoid Barbecue Pitfalls
Keep Fido away from the grill. Period! Charcoal briquettes, lighter fluid and matches are all highly dangerous if ingested, inhaled, or if they make contact with the skin or eyes. The smell of cooking meat is so enticing that your dog may be tempted to steal a quick snack right off the grill, unaware of the high temperatures or open flames.
Inform your guests that your barbecued delights are for human consumption only! Greasy human food can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain from pancreatitis or gastroenteritis. Corn cobs, bones and pitted fruits can block the GI tract, leading to obstruction and ending with surgery. Also, avoid toxic foods like onions, garlic, grapes and raisins. You can put out a bowl of dog friendly snacks if you are worried that Uncle Joe will have trouble refraining from sharing.
At the end of the party, clean up quickly and keep the trash in a bin with a lid. This will prevent Lady from helping herself after the guests have gone home.
Fireworks can be problematic for several different reasons. Curious critters may try to eat them, causing obstruction or toxicity from chemicals like potassium nitrate and heavy metals. Lit fireworks may cause serious burns or trauma when lit or when they explode. Don't forget to clean up the debris after setting off your display.
Fireworks can also cause emotional distress. Many dogs are fearful and anxious with these loud sounds. Some do better at home with you, and some may require medication to prevent a full blown panic attack. This is a common time for dogs to run away, as they can become disoriented and nervous. Keep Ginger in an escape proof area of your home, and make sure she has a properly fitting collar and ID tags to get her home quickly in the event of a Houdini-style escape.
Summer temperatures can soar well above Baxter's comfort level. Take precautions to avoid heatstroke by walking during the early morning or at dusk when temperatures are lower. Avoid mid-day heat and humidity. This is particularly important for the squash faced breeds like Bulldogs, Pugs, and Boston Terriers. Don't forget to keep it cool in your house even when you are out.
Of course, dogs should never be left in the car. Even with the windows cracked, temperatures inside an automobile can rise at an alarming speed. Excessive heat can cause problems ranging from dehydration to death. Oh yeah, leaving an unattended pet in a car is also illegal in many states!
So how do you recognize heatstroke? Watch for these signs: heavy panting, redness around the eyes, bright red gums, weak or wobbly legs, thick drool, vomiting, diarrhea or collapse. If you notice of these signs, move him into a cool area. If your local vet hospital is more than a few minutes away, begin cooling him down before attempting transport.
Immerse him in cool water or use a cool garden hose. Do not use ice water; this is less effective because it causes blood vessels to constrict. Monitor his temperature – anything over 106F is defined as heatstroke. Body temperatures over 110F can cause death. If you are cooling at home, stop when his temperature reaches 103 to prevent over-cooling. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Keep the Bugs Off
External and internal parasites are more common during the summer. There are many different products available to keep fleas and ticks from biting, stop intestinal parasites, and prevent heartworm disease. Discuss which products might be best for your dog with your vet.
Check for blue-green algae before allowing your dog to swim or drink from a pond or lake. Algae infected water may be foamy, have blue-green mats floating in it, or may have a scummy pea soup appearance. The algae produce several different toxins that can cause severe liver disease, seizures, or rapid death. When in doubt, no swimming allowed!
If you determine the water is safe, Princess should wear a brightly colored life vest to ensure visibility and safety in and around the water. Even great swimmers could be impaired by an injury or exhaustion, so all dogs should have flotation. The vest should be comfortable, easy to adjust, and have a lift handle to help her out of the water if necessary.
With a little preparation, summer perils can be avoided. This will keep the focus on sunshine and fun, not an untimely trip to the veterinarian!
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