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Summer Hazards in Dogs

By: Dr. Dawn Ruben

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As the cool weather slowly fades and the mercury rises, families begin preparing for another summer filled with outdoor fun. Children and adults will spend more time outside playing with their pets. Summer holidays are perfect for barbeques, picnics and pool parties. To make the summer more enjoyable, be aware of various summertime hazards that can result in injury or illness to your pet. Preventing these hazards can help maintain the carefree days of summer.

Outdoor Threats

Keep your pet leashed when you leave your yard. Taking your pet outdoors increases the likelihood of meeting other animals, so use a leash for his safety and theirs. A fight with another pet, or with any smaller animal, can result in cuts, lacerations or severe punctures. If left untreated, wounds can become complicated.

Protect your dog from insects. Flies are more prevalent in the warmer months, and any injury to the skin, even something as small as an abrasion, can be a perfect place for flies to lay eggs. In a short time, these eggs hatch and become maggots. Keeping your pet clean and treating any skin injuries is crucial in avoiding maggot infestations.

Another outdoor threat is antifreeze. As summer approaches, many people change their antifreeze/water mixture. Antifreeze tastes sweet to pets and is highly toxic.

And finally, summer heat speeds up decay and decomposition, especially in the trash. Keep your dog away from garbage areas. Pets that have access to garbage or compost can ingest molds that cause significant nervous system abnormalities including severe tremors or seizures.

Table Scraps

It may be tempting to give your pet all those picnic or barbeque leftovers, but try to resist his soulful begging. Instead of including him in your festivities, you may cause gastrointestinal upset, which can result in vomiting and diarrhea. Pets are not used to the high fat foods that are commonly associated with picnics and parties. Mayonnaise and other dairy based items can be particularly bad; dogs do not have the necessary enzymes to digest dairy products and spoilage can cause food poisoning.

Even if you feed your pet non-dairy items like fried chicken or hamburgers, their pancreas may not be prepared for those foods. The pancreas can become inflamed, leading to pancreatitis and abdominal pain, anorexia and vomiting.

Not only do table scraps pose a threat but so does the charcoal and lighter fluid used to barbeque. Ingesting ash or charcoal can result in significant stomach irritation.

Gastrointestinal Foreign Bodies

At picnics and parties we use a variety of disposable items, such as styrofoam and plastic utensils. Unfortunately, pets may ingest some of these items, leading to gastrointestinal obstruction. Another concern is playing with small balls such as SuperBalls or racquetballs. Many dogs love to play fetch with these but if they are too small, the ball can become lodged in the throat and obstruct the airway. Make sure the toys you use are too big to be swallowed or stuck in the throat.

Heat Illness

The ideal weather for picnics and outdoor parties is a warm sunny day. Keep in mind that your pet may not be able to dissipate heat as well as you. Avoid exercise in the mid afternoon heat and always have plenty of water available. Stop all play and exercise if your pet seems weak or disoriented.

In addition to heat related illness, dogs can develop sunburn. Thin haired dogs and recently shaved dogs are more at risk. Consult your veterinarian regarding the use of sunscreen to help your dog.

Another summer concern is hot pavement. Your dog may need extra protection for his feet. Prolonged running on hot pavement can result in severe burns to the bottom of the pads.

Water Safety

Water is often a major part of outdoor family activities. Usually water activities are fun, relaxing and entertaining, but tragedy can occur without proper caution. Pets can drown in lakes and pools just like people. Even if your pet seems to want to keep playing fetch in the water, at some point you will need to take a break. Older dogs weaken more quickly, even if they are excellent swimmers, and when he is exhausted swimming and keeping his head above water more becomes more difficult.

Be on the lookout for stagnant pools of water. At certain times of the year, algae forms along the edges of stagnant or infrequently used bodies of water. Some forms of this algae, particularly blue-green algae, are very dangerous. Ingesting some of the algae can cause serious, rapid illness and can kill pets. Don't allow your pet near stagnant water or algae, and make sure he doesn't drink from these water sources.

Dangers of Fireworks

Evening sets and soon the sky is filled with a brilliant display of fireworks. This display can be quite distracting and you may not remember to think of your pet, who may be nearby trembling and looking for a safe place to hide. Loud noises and bright lights can easily frighten your pet, which can cause him to run away. If the display is set off near your pet, he may be hurt by impact injury and burns. Then afterward, the area may be filled with hot ashes and remnants of the fireworks, which can burn your pets feet and noses. Be very careful when combining pets and fireworks. Keep your pet on a leash and confined, and don't let him investigate. If he becomes frantic, take him somewhere safe and quiet or even go home.

Fishhooks

Fishing is a popular spring and summer activity. Be aware that the bait you use to catch fish is also tempting to your pet. Many dogs and cats have eaten bait – along with the hook and line. Your pet might also step on a hook, which will result in embedding of the hook in the skin.

The most important thing to remember regarding swallowing a hook is NOT TO PULL THE LINE. This will result in setting of the hook and increasing the chance that your pet will require surgery to remove it. Tie the line to your pet's collar to prevent him from swallowing more of the line and contact your vet. Removing hooks in the skin can be challenging but may be possible. Cut off the barb end and pull it through. Consult your veterinarian if you are unable to remove the hook.

With a little extra caution, summertime can be an enjoyable time of the year for both you and your dog.

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