Pet Care Tips
We are in the annual transition from a relatively cool winter season to what will likely be our usual hot and humid summer season. As we approach this change in seasons, there are several things that pet owners should keep in mind regarding the safety of their pets during the summer months. Many of these things would appear to be obvious, but, unfortunately, in my business, we have to deal with these problems frequently, because many folks do not think about or really are not aware of some of these things.
One problem that most people are aware of is the prevention of internal parasites. This especially includes heartworm disease. Most dog owners in this region are aware of this and have their dogs on monthly heartworm preventive. However, many people are not aware of the prevalence of other internal parasites (i.e – “worms”). Most of the monthly heartworm preventives do protect against most intestinal parasites, but I am always surprised at the number of dogs that are not kept on these medications all year round. This is not only a hazard for the dog, but also for humans, especially children. Additionally, many cat owners are not aware that cats are also susceptible to heartworms and, in fact, are possibly more at risk for fatal disease than dogs. This is a “hot topic” in veterinary medicine at this point. If you need more information or have questions, please contact your veterinarian.
The heat of the summer sun is also a cause of frequent pet problems in this area. Dogs, especially “short-nose breeds”, older dogs, and dogs with compromised lung function are especially susceptible to heat-stroke. Typical signs are excessive panting or breathing difficulty, weakness and collapse, “purple tongue or mucous membranes”, disorientation, and seizures. I have personally seen dogs come in with temperatures over 107 degrees; they usually do not survive. Under no circumstances, unless you are willing to leave your car running with the A/C on, should you leave your pet in your car. If your dog is confined outdoors, it should have good access to shelter, shade and plenty of fresh water. If you take your dog to the beach and allow it to exercise hard, be sure to bring fresh water too (some dogs will drink salt water which can cause very serious diarrhea and dehydration). If you suspect your pet is overheated, try to soak it down with cool water immediately, especially on the lower abdomen, and call your vet ASAP.
The summer sun also can cause some significant skin lesions in animal with light colored skin and coats or thin hair coats. White and light orange cats are especially susceptible to solar dermatitis on their ears and nose. With time, this will often turn into skin cancer. Some light colored dogs can be susceptible to sun damage as well. If you light colored pet needs to be outdoors a lot in the summer, you can apply sunblock products on the ears and nose once or twice a week. Cats might try to groom it off, but I have never seen any kind of toxic reaction. Signs of solar dermatitis and pre-cancerous lesions are redness, crusts, and sloughing of skin, especially on the eartips or nose.
The warm weather also brings an increase in the activity of external parasites, fleas and ticks. Although the summer is a “hot season” for these pests, also be aware that neither parasite likes direct sunlight, low humidity, or excessive heat. In addition to treatment in or on your pets, environmental control is also helpful and necessary to be successful. When treating environmentally outdoors, concentrate on shaded areas, mulched beds in the shade, under houses or stairways, and in low-hanging shrubbery, palmettos, and such to give the best results. There are many very effective topical and systemic flea products for both dogs and cats. Ticks can more difficult to control on your pet with a limited number of effective options. Please talk to your veterinarian about treatment options, and do not believe everything you read on the internet.
There are a few other miscellaneous things to keep in mind during the summer months here. The summer brings an increase in access to some poisonous plants. The number of poisonous plants are too numerous to list, but you can review a list of plants poisonous to pets at http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control/plants/. One special thing to watch out for is wild mushrooms. One type, Amanita sp., are not uncommon in the South and are exceptionally toxic causing liver failure. Ingestion of a small amount can be fatal. Another potential source of toxicity in pets is associated with the increase in pesticide and fertilizer use on lawns in the summer. Please talk to your landscaper or closely read the label warnings when these products are used on your lawn or landscaping. There is also something that is not realized by many pet owners. If you have a pet that has any type of open wound, is older and incontinent, or debilitated in any way, it should not be left outdoors in hot weather. Bot flies are easily attracted to this type of problem and can, in a very short time, lay eggs in the area which rapidly become maggots which will literally “eat their way” into the animal’s tissue resulting in serious systemic problems.
Summer is a great season in our area with much to do, and many like to have their pets participate as well. Just please be aware of some of the risks associated with hot weather and use common sense, no different than you would with your own child. Nearly all of the situations that I have described above can be easily avoided. Please talk with your veterinarian if you have any questions or situations about which you are not sure before it has a chance to become a life or death situation for you pet.
Additional Helpful Sources Regarding Pet Care
These websites are great resources for information regarding care for your pet(s):