With the temperatures already climbing into the 90s, summertime is in full swing in Ohio. I am thankful for the air conditioned, controlled environment in which I work each day — and I have the pale skin to prove it. An afternoon outdoors knocks every last ounce of energy out of me! So I have to think of my furry patients exposed to the elements on a daily basis … how much more exhausting, dehydrating and dangerous is the heat for them?
I hope we all know not to leave a dog locked in a car on a hot day. In 93 degree weather, a car with the windows cracked can heat up to 120 degrees in 15 minutes. However, consider that on a cooler day (71 degrees), the same car can heat up to 116 degrees in an hour! Whether in a hot car, hot yard, or hot house, heat stroke can occur and be deadly. Dogs thermoregulate mostly by panting, but also by sweating through the footpads, and finding a cool place to lie down (such as the hole Fido dug in your mulch).
Heat stroke occurs when a pet’s body loses the ability to thermoregulate due to high temperatures. This results in a high fever, which may lead to brain or other organ damage, unless rapid cooling is performed. If you are concerned about possible heat stroke, especially if your pet has collapsed or is not responding well, he should be seen by a veterinarian immediately. Other tips for avoiding heat stroke include: providing access to fresh drinking water at all times, waiting until the cooler times of day for exercise, and making sure shade is available if your pet must be outdoors.
Hot weather also means stormy weather and summer festivals with fireworks. If your pet is frightened by the loud sounds associated with these events, he does not have to “silently suffer.” Ask your veterinarian for tips to calm your pet in these situations. Signs of noise anxiety include: trembling, hiding, acting “clingy” to the owner, eliminating in the house, or destroying objects in an attempt to escape. Make sure your pets are in a safe place during times of loud noise, and do not pay extra special attention to them — this will just reinforce the anxious behavior, and make your pet more likely to behave the same way during the next event.
Summertime comes with its own array of toxic substances: lawn chemicals and fertilizers, insect repellants and sprays, weed control products, antifreeze, slug bait, rat poison and pool chemicals. Those are just a few potentially deadly poisons your pet may encounter on your property. Check your house and all outdoor buildings, and make sure any questionable chemicals are secured. Some plants that flower in the summer can also be toxic. Daisies, dahlias, lilies and chrysanthemums are just a few examples. You can find information about toxic chemicals and plants on the ASPCA Animal Poison Control website.
Although parasites are year-round concerns, they are especially prevalent in the warmer months. Hopefully, your pet is already protected with a heartworm, flea and tick preventative program. Checking for intestinal parasites yearly by examining a fecal sample is important for every pet, but especially those who hunt or eat unknown “things” in the yard.
Insects and spiders can also pose threats to your pets. Allergic reactions to bee or wasp stings, or spider bites, are fairly common and often need treatment by a veterinarian to reverse symptoms of facial, tongue and throat swelling, hives and itching — as the symptoms can become life-threatening.
My least favorite summertime bugs are flies — they like to find nice, warm, moist, smelly places to lay eggs (such as an old, fluffy, outdoor dog that just doesn’t get around like he used to) — and those eggs hatch into flesh eating maggots. I have seen pets paralyzed because of maggot infestations, and recovery from an infestation is difficult at best. Don’t let your pet be a victim. Simple observation is enough to know whether flies are a problem for your pet, and you can ask your veterinarian for tips on fly control.
Encounters with strange animals are more common in the summer, so keeping your pet up to date on vaccinations (especially rabies) is of utmost importance. Coyotes are becoming more problematic, even around urban areas, and they like to lure domestic dogs into their packs in order to attack them. To avoid a faceoff, keep your pet inside if possible, and do not let him have free roam when he goes outside. A little planning can go a long way to ensure that you and your pet have a happy, relaxing summer.
Dr. Sara Smith is an associate veterinarian at Delphos Animal Hospital.