Watch your pets for summertime dangers
Dr. Laura Kiehnbaum
Warm weather is here, and with it comes the season for cabin time, weekends at the lake and summer vacations.
As pet owners, many of us want to experience all that summer has to offer with our animals. After all, they’re part of our families. But a few basic tips, as well as the constant need to think ahead — just as we would when vacationing with children or other family travelers — can make the difference between an outing of summer fun and a more difficult vacation experience. Here are some suggestions for successfully enjoying all that summer has to offer with our pets.
Fleas and ticks: When in the woods — or really anywhere in our region — keep your pet protected against fleas and ticks that can carry illnesses such as Lyme disease by using flea and tick preventatives or repellents during the summer. Products include collars, which can be left on for several months, as well as monthly topical treatments and oral chews.
On and around water: If your dog isn’t a swimmer, and even if he or she is, consider using a doggie personal floatation device, or life jacket. These are available at most pet stores, as well as at outdoor and general retailers. In addition to supporting your pet in the water should he or she fall overboard, pet life jackets provide an added layer of insulation against cold water and even cold air, and most dogs don’t seem to mind them. Many of these devices also have a handle on the back to easily lift your dog back into the boat or onto the dock.
Other water dangers: Lake, pond and river water can contain parasites such as Giardia and blue-green algae, which is a photosynthetic bacteria. If dogs ingest parasites such as Giardia, they can experience digestive ailments, usually first noticeable in loose stools. Blue-green algae contain toxins that can affect the liver and the neurological system. Toxins can enter the dog either from drinking water containing blue-green algae or from licking fur and skin following a swim in contaminated water.
To avoid waterborne parasites and toxins, keep your pet out of water that looks stagnant or discolored, and rinse your animal with clean water if you have any question about whether it has come in contact with contaminated water.
Watch the sun and heat: Sun and heat affect dogs and cats just as they affect people. Prolonged exposure to heat and high humidity can cause heat exhaustion, also called heat stroke. Long-haired, older and short-faced dog breeds such as pugs, as well as obese animals, are more likely to be affected by heat. Long periods of exercise also can pose a risk for heat exhaustion.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include panting, drooling, rapid heart rate, vomiting and diarrhea, muscle tremors or seizures, dehydration and sudden lethargy. Heat exhaustion is an emergency. If you suspect this problem, seek veterinary treatment immediately.
The best way to prevent heat-related problems is to make sure your dog or cat has plenty of water and access to shade when it’s warm and humid, even on days when he or she is simply spending time in the back yard. Also remember to never leave your pet in a hot car. And consider dabbing a bit of sunscreen on the ears and snout of your dog if he or she is going along on a sunny outing. Dogs’ skin, especially in more exposed areas not fully covered by fur, can burn just like ours.
Cabin concerns: Do you use mouse or rat bait? Do your neighbors? It’s easy to forget about these products when you visit the cabin every few weeks. Mouse and rat bait causes internal bleeding, kidney failure or neurological problems. If you know or even suspect that you’re your pet has ingested mouse or rat bait, seek veterinary care for your animal as soon as possible.
Boarding during vacations: Most dog kennels require updated vaccinations for rabies and Bordetella, more commonly known as kennel cough. Talk to your boarding facility for requirements before heading out of town. Your vet usually can provide quick vaccinations if your pet is not up to date.
Summer is a fun time, and those of us with pets need to factor our animals into our travel plans, whether they are going along or staying behind in the care of others. The best advice is to think ahead about the needs of your pet, just as you would any other family member, and then take precautions to ensure the travel experience is enjoyable for everyone.