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It's all fun and games until someone ends up in a cone.....
Summertime brings so many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. From picnics and graduation parties, from walks at the park to back yard gardening, from swimming to strolls on the beach, most of us find ourselves enjoying the sunshine during these summer months. Many of our pets are spending more time outdoors, or laying in the sunshine through a window, as well. But, all of these activities present the opportunity for problems. Here are some of the risks and how to avoid them.
Heat stroke: this is probably the most serious on my list as heat stroke can kill your pet. Period. While relatively uncommon in cats, this is a common medical emergency in dogs. Dogs and cats don't sweat like we do and the vast majority of heat exchange/cooling is through panting. A little bit of heat is lost off the foot pads and less haired regions of the body (ears, limbs, lower belly) but the fur coat covering most of our pet's body traps in heat. Particularly when there is high humidity, temperatures above 90 degrees can easily cause a pets body temperature to soar. When their body temperature goes above 105 degrees Fahrenheit, they begin to experience heat stress. Circulation and respiration changes occur. If the temperature further rises above 107 degrees, tissue damage occurs in the kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, brain and central nervous system, and heart. Spontaneous bleeding, coma, seizures, and death can occur. Dogs who are overweight, heavily furred, or have short noses (pugs, bulldogs, shih tzu, etc.). Keep trips outdoors to less than 15 minutes when the temperatures are above 85 degrees. Take walks early or late in the day. Ensure that plenty of shade and cool water are available. And remember that even on an eighty day, the temperature inside a parked car in lot can rise to 100 degrees, even with the windows cracked.
Sunburn: particularly sensitive areas are the nose and ears, especially if they are white. There are sunscreens available for pets but you can use a human "baby" sunscreen. You do have to be careful about ingestion of some of the products so if your pet is a licker, read the label! We prefer the products that have a titanium dioxide base- NOT ZINC!
Insect bites and stings: Most of these go unnoticed but if your pet is sensitive or if a bug such as a horsefly or venomous spider is the offender, you pet, and you, will know it! Signs that you need to seek medical attention are swelling of the face (usually the eyelids and muzzle are most obvious), hives (the hair will stick up in patches all over the body), persistent licking or scratching at a specific area, or lethargy, decreased appetite or gastrointestinal upset.
Sports injuries; Whether your dog is a weekend warrior, and jogging companion, or simply an avid ball chaser, orthopedic injuries are more common in the summer. Any limping or lameness should be seen as soon as possible. Dogs are often quite subtle when it comes to telling their owners that they are painful. Often, the limp is minor if present at all. Excessive panting, restlessness/frequently changing positions, hesitation to perform the usual tasks of climbing the stairs or jumping off the bed, and having to pull forward to get up or "plopping" rather than sitting down are all indicators that your pet requires some assessment and pain management.
Meet-n-greet injuries: it's not just your dog or cat who's out! It's everyone's! Bite wounds are an unfortunate side effect of warm weather because while most pets enjoy the outdoors, many don't want to "share the experience" with neighbors! It is so important to ask if an approaching dog is "social" and watch for body cues from both your dog and the approaching one. A dog who is uncomfortable will often "say" so by dipping their head, lowering their ears and raising their eyes, rolling onto their backs, or repeatedly licking their lips. The dog who urinates when approached is saying, "Wow, I'm nervous!" It's time to move on..... If your dog or cat is bitten, it is very important to have appropriate medical care. Most bite wounds become abscesses in a day or two.
Fleas, ticks, mosquitoes: they are out en mass this year! Make sure your pet has an appropriate level of protection. In my humble opinion, there is no one, single perfect product.... and there are a lot of potentially toxic "options". Even something that seems innocent and natural, like black walnut extract, can be poisonous to your pet!
So, get out there and enjoy all that summer has to offer. Be mindful of the risks and recognize when you need some medical care. Hopefully, the bumps and bruises incurred in living well will be minor..... and won't necessitate an e-collar!
We wish all of you a safe and happy summer!