Protecting your pets during the summer months

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Dr. Gary Richter, a member of the Pet Panel at has some tips and information about taking care of your pets during the coming summer months. The summer heat especially can be a great danger for pets.

Depending on where you live and the climate, ticks can be a year-round issue or seasonal. Disease transmission, as it pertains to ticks, can be pretty variable, as well. For example, in the Bay Area, where I live, we certainly do have tick borne diseases, like Lyme, but it’s not overly common. Whereas up in the Northeast, it’s a disaster.

Tick control and transmission is a serious issue in some parts of the country – not only for animals, but for people, as well. As it pertains to avoidance, keep your dog away from areas where there are lots of ticks, like tall grasses and wooded areas. And, even with that, it’s still certainly possible they could get a tick. After being outside, check your dog.

There are also tick control methods. The most popular products these days are oral pills, which are very effective. Just keep in mind that a tick has to actually bite the dog for it to work. Topical and tick collars are better at repelling ticks, but don’t do as well at killing. All natural products, like sprays, are also an option, but I wouldn’t recommend relying solely on them. For pet parents that are looking for the best of both worlds (kill and repel), they can try a combination of an oral pill and a collar.

Depending on where you live and the prevalence of ticks, you should consider getting a Lyme vaccination. Even with the vaccination, ask your vet to check your dog for Lyme at its yearly checkup.

This topic is very near and dear to me, geographically speaking, because it’s very much a West Coast problem. In general, foxtail grass seeds can burrow anywhere on a dog – including noses, ears, and feet. High season is the summer and they can be very challenging to remove. Depending on where the foxtail is found, a dog may need to be sedated and brought into surgery. On rare occasions, an infected foxtail can even become life threatening.

Generally speaking, try to avoid places where foxtail grasses are growing. If your dog is out running around where you believe foxtail may be, check their feet, between their paw pads, and elsewhere. It takes a while for the seeds to burrow into the skin, but if your dog’s all of a sudden violently sneezing or squinting an eye, that could be a sign that your dog has a foxtail and should be looked at by a veterinarian immediately.

Besides avoidance of the plant itself, OutFox Field Guard, a protective netting that goes over a dog’s head, is another option.

Bees generally aren’t too big of an issue in the veterinary world. Every now and again, I’ll see a dog with a severe bee sting, but generally it’s as simple as some facial swelling or hives. People can give over-the-counter antihistamines, like Benadryl, but I would still recommend they contact their veterinarian for medical insights and tips. There are dogs out there, like people who can have a life-threatening reaction from bee stings, but this is rare.

I would recommend avoidance. Dogs are usually sticking their faces into places where it doesn’t belong, so limiting their exposure to bee hives is important. Most dogs will learn to avoid bees on their own, after a few stings.

Heat stroke is when a dog’s body temperature becomes very high, usually due to overexertion or being in an environment that’s too hot. And that certainly can be a life-threatening issue. Since dogs sweat mainly from their footpads, sweating is not an effective means of cooling for dogs. When the dog’s ability to keep pace with natural cooling mechanisms fail, heatstroke can occur.

Dogs that are panting excessively and/or breathing rapidly are a concern. In extreme circumstances, they may become disoriented and even pass out. If your dog is showing symptoms, immediate medical attention is absolutely necessary.

Reducing the core body temperature is essential. Owners should start cooling efforts prior to and on the way to the veterinary hospital or veterinary emergency facility. The dog should be sprayed with room temperature water, using a tub or garden hose, or you can run water over their feet. Do not use ice water as this causes the blood vessels to constrict and traps heat. A fan can also be used.

People should know by now not to leave their dog in a car. They should also be careful running with their dogs on hot days. At very high temperatures, keep pets indoors. If there is a heat advisory for people, then the same is true for pets. Prevention is the key, but immediate vet intervention is crucial, if your dog is overheating.

Snakes are a geographically dependent danger for your pet. As we know, some states have more poisonous critters than others. If you live in the Southwest or Southeast, snakes can be a real issue. The best thing you can do is avoidance. In general, if you’re living in an area with poisonous snakes, don’t allow your dog to run into the bush unattended.

Should your dog get bitten, that’s something that requires immediate medical attention. It is absolutely not a “wait and see” situation, but rather a life-or-death situation for your dog. Your dog will generally experience dramatic swelling, severe pain, and may even collapse. You may also see the actual bite wound. If possible, carry your dog to the car, so its heart rate and blood circulation doesn’t further spread the venom, and then get to a vet as soon as possible.

There is a rattlesnake vaccine. It doesn’t prevent a dog from being bitten, but what it’s intended to do, is lessen the effects of the venom – and buy you some time to get your dog to the veterinarian. Depending on where you live, pet parents should really consider the vaccination.

People with dogs that are frequently running around in snake-country can also work on rattlesnake avoidance training. You can train a dog, if they hear a rattlesnake, to go the other way. Basically, it’s a matter of conditioning your dog to realize that a rattle is a bad thing – and you don’t want to be anywhere near it.

Depending where you live, coyotes, bobcats, and other predators can be a danger for dogs. Small dogs, in particular, can be targeted, so don’t let them outside unattended.

Top photo of Chica by Tim Forkes