By Dr. Katja Hermann
Summertime can mean more hazards for your dog. During the summer months, we veterinarians often see an increase in heatstroke, dehydration, foxtails, ticks and fleas, rattlesnake bites, waterborne bacteria, and lost dogs.
What can you do to decrease the chances you and your dog will be spending time in the emergency clinic this summer?
As with so many hazards and the resulting injuries or emergencies, identification of the symptoms, immediate medical attention, and prevention are key.
Heatstroke is not only caused by exposure to high ambient temperatures, but is often aggravated by other factors including obesity, a dark coat, vigorous exercise, having a “pushed-in face,” and being locked in a car without adequate ventilation. Excessive panting would be a mild symptom. Severe symptoms would be a collapsed dog who is possibly vomiting and/or has diarrhea or is even seizing. Immediately cool your dog with cold water, and take him to the emergency clinic without delay. To prevent heatstroke, avoid high temperatures and be aware of any conditions that put your dog at higher risk. Never leave your dog in a car even on a cooler day—and be aware of rapid temperature changes in areas where fog burns off and gives way to sunshine. When it is 72 degrees outside, the temperature inside a
car can reach 99 degrees in 10 minutes. Keeping the windows open a crack
hardly slows the rise at all.
Dehydration can occur if your dog is not drinking enough in hot weather. You can prevent dehydration by providing your dog with lots of opportunities to drink cool, clean water. Signs of a dehydrated dog might include decreased activity and responsiveness, lack of skin elasticity, dry gums, and too little urination. Decrease your dog’s activity in hot weather to prevent excessive panting. Panting can cause severe fluid losses.
Foxtails flourish in the summer months. They get in the nostrils, ears, and eyes; they lodge between the toes, burrow into the skin and sometimes continue to burrow through soft tissue and organs. Sneezing, scratching, and shaking the head may indicate a foxtail. Avoid areas with foxtails when possible, and clear them if they grow on your property. Keep your dog groomed, and don’t forget to look between the toes and under the arms—foxtails love to hide.
Rattlesnakes. . .yikes! Snakes are cold-blooded, so they are most active during warm months. Dogs are usually bitten on the muzzle, face, head, and front legs. You can prevent rattlesnake bites by avoiding rocky or dense brush or grassy areas. If you hear a rattle or see a snake on the ground, leash your dog and slowly and calmly back away. If your dog is bitten, keep her calm, and get to a veterinarian immediately. If you live in a high-risk area, immunization with the rattlesnake vaccine may lessen the severity of the symptoms.
Ticks and fleas are some of the worst enemies of dogs. Your dog can pick up fleas anywhere, indoors or out. Ticks usually hang out in trees and grasses. Symptoms of fleas can be mild irritation to severe scratching, which can lead to skin infection. Fleas can also transmit tapeworms. It is important to kill already existing fleas (vacuuming can be very helpful), and to treat your dog and his surroundings to prevent future infestation. Ticks can cause sudden paralysis, usually starting with the legs, but potentially affecting all muscles, and can lead to severe breathing difficulties and death. The Rocky Mountain wood tick, commonly known as the deer tick, can transmit Lyme disease. To prevent ticks, avoid letting your dog roam through dense brush and consider a tick prevention product.
Stagnant water can make your dog ill. To prevent exposure to a multitude of waterborne bacteria that can be life threatening to your dog, do not let your dog drink from still sources of water. Symptoms of bacterial infections such as Leptospirosis include lethargy, vomiting, loss of appetite, increased water intake, and diarrhea.
Getting lost is one of the most devastating experiences for both dog and guardian. Microchipping your dog (and cat) and having him wear an ID tag at all times are the best prevention and could save his life. Make getting your dog microchipped a priority, and don’t postpone it as a task for the future. Fortunately, every emergency clinic, animal shelter, and most veterinarians immediately scan dogs for microchips so they can be reunited with their families.
Take a few precautions to make your summer safe! Your dog will thank you for keeping him out of the emergency hospital.
Dr. Katja Herrmann founded the Monterey Peninsula Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Center (www.mpvesc.com) in 2004. Her passion and dedication include all aspects of emergency and critical care medicine. In her time away from clinic, Dr. Herrmann enjoys all types of outdoor activities, likes to ride her Harley, relaxes with cooking and friends, tries to learn watercolor painting, and of course loves all things involving her rescue dogs and cats.