Informational Articles & Resources
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Summer Dangers for your Dog
Summer can also be a nightmare for pet owners, with bee stings and bug bites, shore hazards and sunburn — and those are just a few of the seasonal dangers dogs encounter. Here’s a veterinarian’s-eye view of the things to watch for and how to handle problems, so that summer is fun not frantic. And keep in mind: If your dog encounters any of these summer hazards, be sure to have him checked out by a vet as soon as possible.
Don’t Be Bugged
Bees, wasps, fire ants, mosquitoes, fleas and ticks are just a few of the painful pests of summer. Dogs who take a curious or aggressive interest in bees or wasps are likely to receive payback in the form of a painful sting on the nose or head area. Fire ants will march onto your dog without hesitation if he’s in their path and then sting in unison. Ouch! And mosquitoes, ticks and fleas can spread disease and cause other problems for your best friend.
Reactions to insect bites and stings can range from slight swelling and pain to anaphylaxis, a sudden, severe allergic reaction that can be fatal if not treated immediately. Mosquito bites can transmit heartworm disease. Tick-borne diseases include Lyme disease and ehrlichiosis, and fleas can pass on tapeworms.
If a bee or wasp stings your dog, look for the stinger and brush it out of the skin using the edge of your fingernail, a credit card or a butter knife. Try to avoid grasping the stinger with tweezers; doing so may release more venom into the wound.
Some stings are life threatening! A sting on the head or neck, especially one in the mouth, can cause dangerous swelling that affects the dog’s ability to breathe. That’s an emergency, and your dog needs immediate veterinary help.
If the sting is not on your dog’s head or neck, treat the painful area with a soothing paste made of baking soda and water, or moisten a washcloth or gauze pad with cold water and apply it to the injury. Depending on the severity of the reaction, an antihistamine, such as Benadryl, can also help. Ask your veterinarian beforehand what the appropriate dose would be for your dog and write it down so you don’t have to guess. (And be sure to bring it with you if you go camping or on an RV trip.)
If fire ants overrun your dog, get him away from where they are attacking and carefully brush them off (you don’t want to make them angrier). Be sure to put on gloves before you do so — fire ant stings are extremely painful for you and for your pet. If there are only a few bites, you can treat them with a baking soda paste, a cold compress or Benadryl. If there is a bunch, you will need to get him to the veterinarian for treatment.
Finally, plan ahead for encounters with fleas, ticks and mosquitoes with preventives available from your veterinarian. Effective products come in lots of forms, including oral products, topicals and collars. The one you choose depends on your lifestyle, as well as the types of parasites in your area. Your veterinarian can help you choose the best one for your dog.
Be Sun Smart
A dog’s fur helps to protect him from the sun’s rays, but dogs with light-colored or thin coats are susceptible to sunburn and skin cancer. Protect them with an application of dog-safe sunscreen, either a product made specifically for dogs or a human formulation made without PABA or zinc oxide.
When applying sunscreen, be sure you get the face and ears (being careful not to get it in his eyes), as well as the belly if your dog likes to sunbathe on his back. And if you’re going to be outside all day, reapply frequently. The rule for people is every two hours, and that’s about right for pets, too.
Plenty of shade and cool water are also important to help prevent heatstroke. The dogs at greatest risk include those with short snouts, such as Bulldogs, Pugs and Boxers, as well as dogs who are overweight or have pre-existing respiratory problems. But any dog can be affected if he is too active in the heat of the day. Be sure your dog has a shady place to rest during daytime outings. And when temperatures are extreme, your dog should stay comfortably indoors.
Did you know that one of the most common problems seen by veterinarians who practice near the ocean is dogs who eat too much sand? They aren’t chowing down on it, but they can ingest it when they’re playing fetch and repeatedly picking up a tennis ball or flying disc from the beach. If they take in too much, it can cause a serious intestinal obstruction. To reduce the risk, play on hard-packed sand.
Your dog can also wind up with a face full of sand, and if it gets in his eyes, it can hurt. Relieve the pain with an eye rinse from the drugstore. If you notice squinting or redness, head to the vet to make sure the sand hasn’t scratched your dog’s cornea. If you’ll be spending a lot of time at the beach, or if this is a common problem for your dog, think about getting him a pair of dog goggles to protect his peepers.
While your dog is frolicking in the sand, pay attention to what he finds on the beach. It’s not unheard of for them to run across marijuana, syringes or used condoms (yuck!). You also want to make sure they don’t disturb the nests of any shorebirds or turtles.
Whether you and your dog spend time at the lake, river, ocean or simply your backyard pool, you’ll want to take some precautions to help prevent diarrhea, skin problems, toxic algae reactions and ear infections.
Diarrhea? Yep. A dog who takes in a lot of salt water while playing in the ocean can have a reaction that will be unpleasant for him and for you. Think pipe-stream diarrhea out the back end, vomiting out the front end — or both.
At the lake, check the water first to make sure it doesn’t look or smell swampy. If it looks like pea soup or has a sheen like a paint slick on the surface, the cause may be a blue-green algae bloom. If your dog drinks the water or gets it on his fur, it can cause nausea, skin irritation or, more seriously, convulsions and death.
Always give your dog a freshwater rinse after he’s been swimming in salt water or in a chlorinated pool to help prevent the chemicals and salt from drying out his fur. Then towel him off thoroughly. That’s really important if he has wrinkly skin or a jowly face — you don’t want a mildewed dog. Moisture in the skin, especially in the folds, can cause hot spots or skin infections.
Finally, keep those ears dry! After your dog goes swimming, apply an ear cleaner with a drying agent, massage the ear to get it in there good and then let the dog shake to remove any water, wax or debris that might have collected.
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Our resources and articles originate from other sources such as VetStreet and PetMD, and are meant for general pet care information. Please contact our office directly for specific questions concerning your pets or any other animals you may come into contact with.