Pet Summer Safety Tips
Our pets love summer just as much as we do! For many, it’s the best time of year to be out, about, and enjoying all that the season has to offer.
Can’t Beat the Heat:
Dogs and cats are not capable of cooling down the same way we can. As you probably know, they more commonly cool themselves down through panting. When there is only hot air to breathe, it’s a lot harder for them to keep cool.
Heat and humidity from summer weather can be deadly to pets. Most pets don’t perspire like humans. They use their lungs to get rid of excess heat. As the temperature and humidity rise, their ability to cool fails and they suffer from heat stroke. Hyperthermia in dogs occurs when a body temperature becomes greater than 103.5°F. This is different than a fever. Fevers are caused by an internal response. It is the body’s response secondary to cells or signals that create an elevated body temperature; this is designed to create an environment in your body that is unsuitable for viruses and bacteria to survive. Hyperthermia is different; it’s often due to environmental factors or secondary accidental causes. Hyperthermia is an emergency. Immediate and aggressive therapy is necessary! If the body temperature exceeds 105-106°F, it can result in cellular injury to the body.
There are several causes of hyperthermia in dogs. Not being able to pant efficiently to blow off heat. This may be seen secondary to airway problems like laryngeal paralysis or brachycephalic syndrome (pets with pushed in noses- Pugs, Boston Terriers, Bulldogs). Dogs can sweat, but not very much. There are some factors that can predispose pets to heat stroke. They include obesity, airway breathing problems (ex: laryngeal paralysis), inappropriate exercise- too much in excess hot/humid weather conditions, dark-colored fur, etc. Certain toxins can also cause tremors that result in secondary hyperthermia such as compost, moldy food, snail and slug bait, antidepressants, ADD/ADHD medications, chocolate, etc. Other types of toxins cause the body to develop inappropriate hyperthermia without the tremors – this can be seen with used hops poisoning (from homemade brewing kits).
Clinical signs of hyperthermia include: Excessive or heavy panting, dark red gums, excessive drooling, warm to the touch, red flushed skin, increased/racing heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea, black tarry stool, collapse, coma, death. Untreated, hyperthermia can result in secondary complications such as bleeding disorders and organ failure. Prompt treatment is necessary to ensure survival.
On the hot summer days, your pet should be kept indoors. When they do go outside, it should be for shorter lengths of time. Be sure that there are shaded areas available for your pets to escape from the sun. Water should always be available as well. Pets should not be exercised on hot days; they should go for walks early in the day or late when it is not as warm. Do not allow them to stand or walk on concrete areas either, they can blister their paw pads if too hot.
Pets and Cars:
It can take minutes for a pet to suffer from heat stroke if left in a hot car. Most people don’t realize how hot it gets in parked cars. On a 78 degree day, for instance, temperatures in a car can reach 90 degrees in the shade and top 160 degrees if parked directly in the sun!
Alternatives for these situations are doggie daycares. This way they can stay and play while you are free to do your errands or appointments. You can also ask a friend or family member if they are available to pet sit while you are out and about.
The warmer months are prime weather for bugs! These include fleas, ticks, mosquitoes and black flies. It is ideal to protect your pet year round, but they are most active during the spring/summer/fall months.
Before taking your pets outside, be sure they are being protected against fleas and ticks. Fleas can jump 10,000 times in a row to find your pet, and believe me they will. Even indoor pets are susceptible to flea bites and infestations. Fleas are small enough to fit through screen doors, can even come in your house without you noticing or even on your shoes or pants. Remember all it takes is 1 bite for a flea reaction to occur (typically signs include your pet intensely itching at their back ends or back legs)!
Ticks are everywhere this year (and have been for the past few years!). Erie County is at HIGH risk for Lyme disease. Ticks are being found not only on pets but on people this year too. It takes just 24 hours of attachment for Lyme Disease to transmit. Ticks are also not being just found in wooded or brushy areas anymore. They can be found in tall grass, dog parks, fields or bushes.
Be sure your pets are tested for heartworm and that they are on a monthly preventative. Heartworm is transmitted by mosquitoes and they live in the heart, lung and surrounding vessels. These worms can eventually cause congestive heart failure and other organ failure. We are currently treating a dog that is heartworm positive!
Be sure to have your pets up to date on fecal tests and deworming. This is especially important for outdoor cats that have higher exposure. Parasites can be very good at hiding. A parasite may try to hide, but they cannot hide from treatment. We recommend deworming therapy even in cases where we don’t see parasite eggs in appropriate cases. This means depending on the life stage they are in, we may not see any parasite eggs, which is what we are looking for under the microscope. You are not always going to see the “spaghetti” like structures (a small worm burden, may be difficult to detect), for example, which is the adult stage (even after deworming). Adult worms are rarely passed unless in heavy worm burdens. We also analyze a sample of a very large sample from your pet, parasites can hide from us too, we might not have hit the “parasite jackpot” today. In this case, prevention or prophylaxis is best. Pets have parasites they can potentially be passed along to humans. Hookworms and roundworms can both be given to us!
There are several options (oral or topical) for your dog and cat to protect them against fleas, ticks, heartworm and intestinal parasites. In order to get a safe and appropriate product, call the clinic.
Watch the Paws:
When the sun is cooking, surfaces like asphalt or metal can get really hot! Try to keep your pet off the hot asphalt; not only can it burn paws but it can also increase body temperature and lead to overheating. If the pavement feels hot on your bare feet then it’s too hot for your dog or cat’s feet. Dark colored asphalt absorbs a tremendous amount of heat from the sun; walking on this surface can cause painful injury to your pet’s paw pads.
If you are planning a walk for your dog, plan your outings for the early morning or late evening when the sun’s rays are less intense, and consider a walking path that offers some shade from trees and buildings if possible. They also make booties that your pet can wear (if they allow themselves to wear!) You should also decrease the intensity and duration of walks during the summer.
If you have an outdoor cat, it might be best to try to keep them indoors on these hot days where you can keep the temperature in the house cooler. If you let them outdoors, you cannot be sure they are able to find shelter, shade or water.
It’s also not a good idea to drive around with your dog in the bed of a truck – the hot metal can burn paws quickly (and they can fall out and be injured).
Our pets get much thirstier than we do when they get hot and other than panting and drinking, they really have no way to cool themselves down. Keep your pet in the shade as often as possible. While dogs and cats like to sunbathe, direct sunlight can overheat them (especially dogs) and cause heat stroke.
*While it is true pets do drink more in the warmer weather, always monitor closely for other signs such as weight loss, changes in eating habits, urinating habits, etc. These can be early and general signs of a disease.
You can provide your dog its very own kiddie pool as a way to cool off.
Always have fresh water available so your pets do not get dehydrated in the hot sun. Do not allow them to drink out of free standing water. This can lead a life threatening disease such as leptospirosis, which is transmittable to humans!
Can my pet swim?:
Just because dogs instinctively know how to swim, doesn’t mean they’re good swimmers. Most dogs do enjoy swimming. They can help burn off energy and can also help with aging joints. You need to be cautious when having a pool, not every dog knows how to swim. If your dog jumps in your swimming pool, he might not be able to get out without help and could easily drown. Make sure your dog cannot get into your swimming pool without you around.
Some dog breeds are known as natural-born swimmers but not all dogs enjoy swimming and some dogs such as barrel-chested breeds may not stay afloat very easily. Some dogs might greatly prefer to skip the swim entirely but might really enjoy wading in a kiddie pool in the backyard.
If your pet is caught off guard when swimming or being near water, they can panic and struggle to swim. Just like having kids, it is best to keep your pet away from water unless you are there to supervise. If you are taking your dogs in the pool or lake, we would recommend a life vest.
Pools contain salt or chlorine. While swimming, dogs easily get excess amounts of these materials in their hair coat. Be sure to rinse off your pets after they exit the pool. If they ingest too much of the water while swimming it could harm them too.
If swimming in a pond or lake be aware that public parks may treat with chemicals to control algae. You should also be cautious of the algae itself, some can be toxic if ingested.
They can also contain “runoff” from pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers from lawn areas. Lakes that allow boats can have high concentrations of motor oil in the water.
If swimming in the ocean beware of tides and undercurrents. Dogs can swim out too far, in pursuit of a thrown ball for example and then be too tired to swim back to shore. A life vest is a must for this activity! There is an increase in dangerous animals in the water too, the ones that people avoid are the ones your dogs should avoid (sharks, jellyfish, etc). Ocean water also contains salt. Large ingestions of salt can be toxic to your dog, do not let them ingest too much of this water. We recommend you rinse them thoroughly after swimming.
Don’t’ forget to clean and thoroughly dry ears after any water activity. We recommend the Vetoquinol Ear Cleaning Solution, it contains a drying agent.
Believe it or not, dogs and cats can sunburn, especially those with short or light-colored coats. And just like with people, sunburns can be painful for a dog or cat. Overexposure to the sun can also lead to skin cancer.
Usually a pet’s coat and skin pigment provide sufficient sun protection. But sunscreen may be helpful in protecting delicate skin, such as the ears or nose. If your dog has a pink or light colored nose or short, thin hair they can be more susceptible to sunburn. Give us a call about which sunscreen is appropriate to use (not all human sunscreens are appropriate for your pet!).
Out and About:
Summertime means all sorts of exciting sights, scents, critters, running around and exciting places to explore. You never want to lose your dog because they get distracted in an unfamiliar environment and run away. Make sure you understand your dog’s tendencies and err on the side of being overly-cautious, we recommend you always keep your pet on a leash. You do not know what your dog is going to run to (the street) or what your dog could run into (wildlife that could be harboring a transmittable disease such as rabies or an aggressive or unvaccinated dog).
Keep your windows screened:
You may want your house to be ventilated, but you definitely do not want your dog or cat jumping out! Keep the screens on the windows and be sure they are placed securely. Know what your pet’s tendencies are as well to outside and unfamiliar noises. Having the windows open can bring about a whole new world and not every pet is okay with this. Watch for signs of anxiety or distress. Cats especially may become stressed with the sight or scent of unfamiliar neighborhood cats.
Your dog may take another approach to unfamiliar sights and sounds, they may become overly protective of their house. You do not want them going through the screens trying to guard the house.
Black flies are common during the summer months. There is not much you can do to keep these pesky flies from biting your pet. According to veterinary dermatologists- Advantix II (which is safe for dogs only), is labeled to repel black flies. Avon skin so soft can be utilized. The OFF brand products also have wipes that contain DEET. These can be rubbed on the abdomen of your dog before they go outside (don’t use the spray that can get in their eyes or allow them to inhale). Ideally, you do not want them licking this off. Could potentially cause GI upset if too much is ingested. The best course of action is to keep your pets out of the yard when the flies are out during the day. Mosquito repellants can be harmful to dogs and cats if they lick or ingest the product as well and should not be used. You should also be cautious with “natural” mosquito sprays. They often contain garlic or tea tree oil, both ingredients are toxic to your pet if ingested or licked.
Dogs seem to love to steal from the grill. Charcoal briquettes can easily get stuck in the stomach, causing vomiting, diarrhea or obstructions.
You NEED to resist sharing your food with your pets. Barbecue scraps and fatty leftovers can give your dog pancreatitis, causing severe abdominal pain or death. Corn on the cob and peach pits are also a huge no-no because they can get stuck in your dog’s intestines causing an obstruction.
Compost Bins or Piles:
These are piles of decomposing and decaying organic matter. It can contain mycotoxins, which are toxic to both pets and wildlife. Keep these out of reach for your pets and other wildlife.
Slug and Snail Baits:
Available in a variety of forms (pellets, granular, powder, and liquid). The active ingredient is typically metaldehyde, which is severely toxic to all species.
Mole and Gopher Baits:
These baits have one of the two active ingredients (depending on the product you buy). They typically contain zinc phosphide or an ingredient called bromethalin. There are no antidotes for either of these if your pet is exposed. Treatment is needed immediately if you suspect your pet has been exposed.
Pesticides typically have wide margins of safety and are relatively low risk to pets. If these products are applied appropriately and according to the label directions, these are minimal concern to pets.
Organophosphates and carbamates are two dangerous pesticides. Carbamates and organophosphates (OP) are insecticides that can result in severe poisoning to dogs and cats, luckily there has been a decrease in these products with EPA regulation.
Most are non-toxic but many type of mushrooms can have a variety of symptoms such as gastric irritation, hallucinogenic, or hepatotoxic (liver toxic. It can be nearly impossible to determine if a mushroom is poisonous or not. It is always best to cautious and contact the VVC if your pet has ingested one.
Tomato plants contain solanine. Solanine is found in concentrations of up to 5% in the leafy greens, the fruit blossoms, and in small green tomatoes; this concentration rapidly decreases as the tomato ripens. Do not let your pet ingest the stems, vines and green fruit. Rhubarb leaves contain oxalic acid, calcium oxalate and potassium oxalate which is all toxic. Tulips (bulbs), Lily of the Valley, Oleander, Kalanchoe, and Azaleas are spring and summer plants that can be potentially deadly to pets if ingested.
There are four common active ingredients in mouse and rat poisons: long-acting anticoagulants, cholecalciferol, bromethalin, and phosphide rodenticides. There are many different types of mouse and rat poisons available in a wide variety of colors (green, blue, tan, red, etc.) and formulations (pellets, bait blocks, grain-based baits, etc). Products which look similar and have similar names may contain very different types of poison. Each poison has different treatments and many have no antidote. It is extremely important your pet gets treatment immediately if they are exposed.
There are many products and product formulations, most contain nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in various concentrations. Typically, limited ingestions of these ingredients generally do not result in significant concerns and are a relatively low level toxicity risk. Most fertilizer ingestion causes gastrointestinal irritation.
Herbicides rarely result in concerns when used and applied according to the label directions, provided pets have been kept off the treated surfaces until the applied product has dried completely. If applied inappropriately, or when pets chew containers of concentrated product, there is a significant increase in the likelihood of potential toxicity.
Grass Seed and Mulch:
Most grass seed and mulch products are generally not associated with toxic problems in pets. Cocoa bean mulch is the only product currently known to cause occasional poisoning in dogs. This mulch is made from the hulls of cocoa beans. It can potentially contain very small amounts of theobromine (the toxic part of chocolate). Very frequent exposure would be needed in order to cause the toxicities.
We want everyone to have a happy and safe summer!
We are available emergencies if you have any questions! 716-646-4023!