The dog days of summer provide lots of opportunities for fun with your dog (camping, hiking, swimming, kayaking and backpacking, to name a few) but also bring a unique set of health hazards and risks pet owners should be aware of; including, but not limited to: dehydration, burned pads, parasite infestation, heat stroke, leptospirosis, and seasonal allergies.
One of the best ways to keep your dog safe in the summer time is by providing lots of cool, clean, fresh water. Consider preparing low sodium chicken broth or yogurt ice cubes, and introducing canned dog foods (best when frozen in a Kong!) to increase the moisture content in your dog’s diet.
Under the summer sun, asphalt on sidewalks and streets can heat to a temperature which can burn a dog’s paws. To avoid scorched paws, walk your dog very early in the morning or in the late evening when the streets have cooled off. If you must walk your dog during the day, dog booties can protect his feet. Always put your hand down on the asphalt for about thirty seconds – if you must pull your hand away because the street is too hot, it is too hot for your dog to walk on without hurting his paws. If you don’t want your hand on the street for thirty seconds, your dog probably does not want his paws on it for thirty or more minutes of walking.
Summer is the season for fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes; pests which can prevent at a minimum minor discomfort to your dog and at worst may be life threatening or cause self-mutilating behaviors. Feeding your dog a high quality diet, without preservatives, chemicals, or large amounts of unnecessary grains will build his immune system, making him generally more resistant to parasite infestation. There are a wide variety of preventatives on the market, including chemical spot on treatments, repellant shampoos, essential oils, and flea/tick collars; talk to your vet to see what she recommends for your dog. Cleaning your house frequently and keeping your dog well groomed will also reduce the risk of parasite infestation.
Heat stroke is a serious risk to dog’s health which can be fatal. You can prevent heat stroke by restricting his exercise during the hottest hours of the day (early morning or late evening are the best times for exercise during the summer), by making sure he is well hydrated, providing air conditioned places for him to relax, providing opportunities to swim, cooling mats, and by never leaving your dog unattended in the car during summer heat.
Many dogs die annually in hot cars. Even if your windows are cracked or you park in the shade, heat can build quickly in a car in the summer, turning your car into an oven. Here is a great chart illustrating how quickly cars can heat up on summer days, even with cracked windows. If it’s 95 degrees at noon and you leave your windows cracked, the temperature in your car may still rise as high as 113 degrees. This is a recipe for disaster for your dog. If you must leave your dog in the car for any period of time, the air conditioning should stay on. Leaving a dog to die in a hot car is not just a health risk for your dog, but may be cause for animal cruelty charges in some area. The solution? Don’t leave your dog in a hot car.
Leptospirosis is contracted through bodily fluids or tissue and can be caught transmitted through direct (as in the case of a bite or ingestion of flesh) or indirect contact (through water sources, food, etc.) with an infected animal. Stagnant waters are a common source of leptospirosis bacteria. Lepto can cause permanent health problems or death if not treated quickly. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, trembling/shaking, lethargy, anorexia, tenderness of joints and muscles, and increased water intake. If you suspect your dog has lepto, get him to a vet right away, an emergency vet if need be.
There are vaccines for lepto but they do not prevent all strains and can cause significant adverse reactions. Talk to your vet about weighing the risk of infection with the risks associated with the lepto vaccine.
Your dog may be allergic to one or more seasonal allergies, which include fleas, grass and various plants, and mold allergies. If you suspect your dog may have seasonal allergies, is very itchy and perhaps losing fur, a visit to your vet is recommended. Here is a great website where you can learn more about the various kinds of allergies affecting dogs and treatments for canine allergies in any season. www.dogster.com