Who doesn’t love summer? It seems like we wait all year in Cleveland for the very short few months of warm temperatures. Unfortunately, there is a disproportionate amount of hazards for dogs in that limited time. We have put together a guide to help you make informed decisions about summer fun for your dog.
While the dangers of leaving dogs in hot cars are well known, a few misconceptions remain. Some owners believe that leaving a dog in a hot car for “a few minutes” is okay. Often, the time stretches longer than a few minutes. Also, the temperature rises in a car so quickly that every minute counts.
Leaving a car window “cracked” has been shown to make little difference: studies show it lowers the temperature by two to three degrees an hour. (Not much when the increase is typically 45 degrees.) Having water in the car also doesn’t help- the problem is the dog’s temperature, not whether she is hydrated or not.
Many of us have felt the burn of walking on hot asphalt. While dogs have pads on their feet, they do not provide protection for heat. Like cars, asphalt is deceptively dangerous; on a mild 77-degree day, asphalt registers at 125 degrees. On an 86-degree day, the temperature increases to 145 degrees. If the ground is too hot for you to walk on in your bare feet, it is too hot for your dog.
Here is something surprising: skin cancer is the most common cancer found in dogs. Pink-skinned dogs are especially susceptible. Fur does provide some protection from the sun, but it is a good idea to apply sunscreen to areas such as bellies, ears, noses and around eyes. There are sunscreens especially geared for pets available.
Hazards in your yard
Plant food can be poisonous to dogs. Make sure it is sealed up and put away. Certain plants, such as azaleas and lilies, are poisonous to pets and should be avoided.
Also, fireworks can be deadly if ingested by dogs. They are made with chemicals such as potassium nitrate, and parts (like a fuse) that could get stuck in the stomach, which can cause vomiting, bloody diarrhea, seizures, and shallow breathing. Keep yours out of reach, and clear your yard of debris after you set off your display.
Who doesn’t love a cookout? Most dogs LOVE being a part of one… many set up camp near the grill in the hopes that something will fall their way. Owners need to be wary about using charcoal briquettes, which can get stuck in a dog’s stomach resulting in vomiting. Also, tempting as it may be to give your dog a few treats, barbecue scraps and fatty leftovers can give your dog pancreatitis, causing severe abdominal pain or death. Hot dogs should be cut into pieces, since they are often swallowed whole by enthusiastic dogs. Meat on a bone, such as ribs, should never be given to dogs. They can choke on the bone, and it can cause an obstruction in the stomach. Cooked bones become brittle, sharp pieces of bone can cause injury if swallowed. The same warning applies to corn on the cob and peach pits.
Summer is when they all come back; fleas, mosquitoes, hookworms and heartworms, and ticks. Medications for fleas and worms can be purchased through a veterinarian or at a pet store, and are effective as deterrents.
An unusually large number of ticks have been noted in northeast Ohio this summer. They are commonly found in wooded and grassy areas. Diseases that can be spread by ticks include anaplasmosis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, Lyme Disease, spotted fever rickettsiosis, tularemia and POW (powassan virus.) Dogs are particulary susceptible to tick bites and diseases. The Ohio Department of Health suggests the following to reduce chances that a tick will transmit a disease to you or your dog:
• Check your pets for ticks daily, especially after they spend time outdoors.
• If you find a tick on your dog, remove it right away.
• Ask your veterinarian to perform a tick check at each exam.
• Reduce the tick habitat in your yard.
Talk to your veterinarian about using tick preventatives on your dog.
Bee stings should be bothersome only temporarily. If a stinger is still present, try to remove it by scraping it with a fingernail or a rigid piece of cardboard. Avoid using tweezers or forceps to remove it unless absolutely necessary as this may force more venom out of the stinger.
Applying a weak mixture of water and baking soda to the affected area will help reduce the pain. You can also wrap ice or an icepack in a towel and apply it to the wound to reduce swelling and pain.
Stings in the mouth or nose area could be more serious. Observe your dog closely after the sting incident to ensure an allergic reaction doesn’t develop. If several days pass and the swelling doesn’t go down, notify your veterinarian.
Some dogs, such as labradors, love water. Most dogs jump right into any opportunity to swim, without much regard for whether the water is clean or how they are going to get out of the water. Their owners must be vigilant to keep them safe.
If your dog is swimming in a lake or pond, make sure the water is safe to swim in. Bacteria counts of area lakes can be found online, or kits to test the water can be purchased. The most common bacteria found in water is e coli, which can cause a innumerable problems for humans and pets alike. Several beaches in the Cleveland area have been closed this summer due to high e coli counts. Dog owners should also be wary of submerged hazards, which can trap or cut your dog. If you decide to let your dog swim in a lake, river or pond (or she takes matters into her own hands and just jumps in!) here are a few suggestions:
• Don’t go in after heavy rains, as that’s when stormwater runoff makes high bacteria counts most likely.
• Don’t swim or wade near or downstream of storm drains.
• Don’t let your dogs swim if they have open wounds or scrapes.
• Rinse them off when they are done swimming.
• Beware of currents and riptides. If a dog gets in trouble in one of these in the ocean, whether swimming or caught in a wave while fetching a ball, she can be swept out to sea in minutes. The same goes for rivers: You need to watch out for currents, even if they’re not readily visible, as your dog can be easily carried downstream.
• Be on the lookout in lakes. If your dog steps in a sinkhole, which may cause her to panic, you need to help her swim to where she can touch ground again. Avoid lakes and ponds with blue-green algae, signified by scummy water and a foul odor. Algae can produce a toxin that may cause severe sickness or seizures quickly if your pet ingests the water, by either drinking from the lake or licking tainted fur.
Pools are slightly less hazardous but have their own issues. If you have a pool, it is a good idea to show your dog where the steps are, so she can climb out if he is under duress. Also, never let your dog swim unattended…the same rules that apply for small children also apply for dogs.
Finally, if you are boating with your dog, she should always wear a life jacket.
General Heat Advice
A few things can be done to avoid overheating your dog. First, keep the air conditioning on if you are gone. What is a comfortable temperature for you is also appropriate for your dog. Second, never walk a dog when temperatures and humidity are high. Early in the morning or in the evening is the best policy. If you notice that your dog seems to be struggling on a walk, it is time to head home. This is especially important for dogs with short muzzles, such as bulldogs, who can’t pant as efficiently in warm weather.
If your dog shows signs of heat stress—heavy panting, dry or bright red gums, thick drool, vomiting or wobbly legs—don’t place her in ice cold water, which can put her into shock. Instead, move her to a cool place, place a damp towel over her exposed areas such as the belly or groin area. Rewetting the cloth frequently will cool her faster, and it is a good idea to get her to the vet as soon as you possibly can. A dog’s normal temperature is between 100° and 103°F, so once she hits 104°F, she’s in dangerous territory (106°F or higher can be fatal).
Keeping Water Balance
Water intoxication is a lesser-known problem that occurs in the summer. It happens when dogs drink from the hose, swim or ingest large amounts of water from a bucket or pool. It can also occur when dogs swim in the ocean, as they may swallow large amounts of salt water. Sodium levels become unbalanced, causing cells to swell. Symptoms include bloating, lack of coordination, pale gums and increased salivation. Treatment is necessary from a veterinarian, and may include intravenous administration of electrolytes, diuretics and drugs to reduce swelling.
While most of us think fireworks displays are fun, they can be downright oppressive for dogs. The loud noises can cause your dog to bolt out of fear. The best idea is to keep them home, with the windows closed, on the Fourth of July.