Dogs in the Summer
By: Lizzy Lereet, AAS, CVT
Summer is a great time to get out of the house, enjoy time with friends, and spend your days in the great outdoors. Nothing is more fun than bringing your four-legged friends along for a wide range of activities like hiking, biking, swimming, and the dog park. In the veterinary community, summer is also recognized as the “busy” season, especially at your local ER. While there is much fun to be had, it’s important to make sure our fur-babies are safe and healthy while they enjoy all of the fun the season has to offer. Let’s talk about some common issues we see and ways to avoid trouble and have the best time with your dog this summer.
What is a Heatstroke, and how do they get it?
We all know that it can get hot during the summertime, but what does that mean for our furry companions? When a pet’s internal temperatures spike to dangerous levels due to environmental sources, we call this a heatstroke. This is a very dangerous condition that can lead to trouble breathing, fluid build-up in the lungs, shock, multi-organ failure, clotting problems, sepsis, seizure and even death. The after-effects of heat stroke are dangerous and very costly to treat, making prevention the best way to avoid tragedy. Make sure that your dog gets plenty of shelter, water and rest while exercising outside this summer, and never, ever leave your pet unattended in the car, accidents can happen even with the AC on!
What causes a Heatstroke?
- Getting left in the car, even for short periods of time
- Strenuous exercise, especially during the hottest parts of the day – Hiking, Jogging, playing fetch, etc.
- Brachycephalic breeds- due to elongated soft palates and short snouts, breeds like pugs and bulldogs have difficulty removing heat through the respiratory tract(panting). They have a much higher likelihood of heatstroke, particularly during exercise.
Nibbler. A pug (brachycephalic) receiving oxygen supplementation through nasal cannulas.
What does heat stroke look like?
- Excessive panting, even after a long rest
- Trouble breathing- panting, gasping, blue/purple tongue
- Lethargy, seizures, coma, etc.
- Diarrhea and/or vomiting
What do I do if I think my pet is having a heat stroke?
GO TO THE VET ASAP! On the way, you can use the following to help:
- Offer clean, tepid water to drink
- Wet your pet to the skin with room temperature water and use a fan/window to evaporate heat
- DO NOT use ice/ice water on your pet, cooling down too quickly can be dangerous as well
Occasionally while exploring the great outdoors, pets may find a way to sustain an injury: a fall during a hike, a tussle with another animal (other pets or wildlife), running on rocky terrain. This could lead to small/large lacerations, broken bones, and soft tissue injuries (sprains/strains). Sometimes we can see more severe injuries related to wildlife attacks, major dog fights, or vehicular trauma. Injuries associated with these events tend to be much more severe, and potentially life threatening.
How can I avoid injury?
The most important tool you can use to prevent injury to your pet is a solid, non-retractable leash. Keeping them close to you will give you a better ability to supervise them, and prevents them from exploring too far and potentially aggravating other dogs, wildlife or encountering treacherous terrain. Additionally, there are leash laws in Colorado, and therefore pet owners are liable for incidents that occur while a pet is off leash. If your pet is hit by a car while off-leash, you would not only be liable for your pet, but also for any damage to the car.
Pets should always be supervised while interacting with pets from another household. This is especially true in places with many dogs, like a dog park. While we cannot prevent our pups from having a disagreement every now and then, we can be ready to intervene at any second, which could end up saving a life. Monitor your pet’s behavior closely and make sure they are having fun, and not becoming overwhelmed, or bothering dogs who look uncomfortable.
What should I do if my pet is injured?
- Avoid injury yourself- pets who are in pain don’t always understand where that pain is coming from. They may lash out if you attempt to move them or pick them up. Protect yourself by using a buddy system, and you can try covering the head with a towel or
blanket while moving them as a layer of protection. If you sustain a bite wound, clean well and potentially seek medical care.
- First Aid- If your pet is too painful for you to apply any first aid, DON’T!
- If your pet is bleeding, use a clean cloth/paper towel to apply firm digital (fingers) pressure to the area. Do this for at least 2-5 minutes without peeking. If the bleeding is excessive, do this while going to the nearest vet.
- Small wounds can be cleaned using mild antibacterial soap as a cleanser. Do not use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol. Not only does it hurt, it causes more damage to the affected tissue
- Avoid placing any topical ointment or creams on your pet, these are often toxic when ingested.
- DO NOT put a tourniquet on your pet- this can cause long lasting damage and loss of limb if done incorrectly or for too long.
- DO NOT give your pet any human medications. There are no human OTC painrelievers that are safe for dogs. If you believe your pet is painful, go to the vet
Take them to a vet!
Small lacerations and puncture wounds may not seem like a big deal, but are easily infected and may form abscesses. A veterinarian can help you determine if a pet needs wound care or antibiotics
Some injuries are more serious on the inside than they look on the outside. If, after an incident, your dog displays any of the following signs, they should be treated by a vet emergently
- Excessive bleeding or bleeding that won’t stop
- Difficulty breathing, pale or blue/purple tongue
- Lethargy, unconsciousness
- Different pupil sizes, difficulty walking
- Moderate to severe pain
- Obvious or suspected broken bones
A creative bandage for a pet with bite wounds on the neck after a dog fight.
When the weather gets warmer, the insects come out! The increase in flea, tick and mosquito populations can spread blood-borne pathogens to our pets through bites. Heartworm disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Ehrlichiosis are all potentially fatal diseases that are spread to our pets via insect vectors. Though the dry climate in Colorado has made these diseases more rare historically, clinics have noticed a rise in cases during the last decade. This is likely due to our population growth from other
states, as well as an increase in transported rescue animals from states like Oklahoma and Texas, whose shelter populations have been overwhelmed.
How do I prevent these diseases?
While treatment can be expensive, prevention is typically inexpensive and easy to administer. There are monthly tablets, injections, and topical treatments that all work to protect your dog. Most veterinarians are well versed in the various preventative medications, and can assist you with picking the perfect one for your pet. Many of these products are also effective against common intestinal
parasites as well.
A communicable disease is a disease that can be passed to another pet by direct contact with infected materials from that pet (feces, vomit, respiratory droplets). When our pets spend more time with other animals, or in areas where many other animals have been, the risk of contracting a communicable disease is much higher. The most common communicable diseases we encounter in
Colorado are parvovirus, distemper virus, kennel cough, and leptospirosis. All of which can have potentially fatal consequences if untreated. Some of these diseases can lead to life-long damage even if they are survivable.
A family of raccoons living in a busy apartment complex in suburban CO
How do I prevent my pet from getting sick?
- Avoid contact with wildlife, or pets you know to be ill or unvaccinated
- Don’t let pets drink from pools of standing water
- Keep unvaccinated puppies and dogs away from other animals
- Work with your Vet to get your pet vaccinated appropriately for these diseases.
- In the case of kennel cough and Lepto, the vaccine is helpful against the most virulent strains of disease, but is unable to protect against all possible strains because there are too many. In these cases, a vaccination is a great deterrent, but not a guarantee.
Many parts of the Colorado front range are home to snakes. While we don’t have many venomous snakes in Colorado, the ones we have are more than enough to pack a serious punch, especially when it comes to our pets. Rattlesnakes are a common find along many of the sunny, rocky hikes on the front range, and pose a significant danger. In addition to being insanely painful, rattlesnake
venom can cause extreme swelling and tissue necrosis at the bite, and can lead to cardiovascular collapse as well as severe clotting disorders. A negative interaction with a rattlesnake can be extremely costly to treat with antivenin, or even fatal despite treatment. If you suspect your pet has been bitten by a snake, they should be taken to the vet as soon as possible.
How do I avoid Rattlesnakes/bites?
- Keep your pet on a leash and close to you while hiking
- Avoid exploring off the path, especially near rocky outcroppings
- If spotted or heard, move away from the animal, do not allow your dog to confront wildlife
- Keep a close eye on your surroundings! These snakes are generally not aggressive, and if you avoid entering their territory, they are unlikely to bother you.
Summer can be a great time to enjoy life with our furry friend, but it is also the “busy season in veterinary medicine. Keep you and your pets safe from the potential dangers of summer by following the guidelines in this article. Remember to keep your pets properly leashed at all times, closely supervise any play dates or dog park trips, keep them away from wildlife, and work with your veterinary team to keep them up to date on preventatives and vaccines so they stay in optimal health. If you feel like there
is something wrong with your pet, don’t hesitate to call your veterinary team or bring them to an urgent care/emergency facility. Safe is always better than sorry!