Stories

Taking Care of Pups This Summer

July 18, 2019 Zay Satchu, Bond Vet

We’re halfway through summertime, which means the dog days are just beginning. While the hottest months may bring to mind beach vacations, rooftop happy hours, and sunbathing with your pup, it’s also peak season for some seriously high temps and biting bugs that can cast a long shadow on your fun. 

To ensure that “hot dog” strictly applies to backyard barbeques and not your actual pet, it’s important to be aware of special care that your pup may need during the summer.

So, put up an out of pawfice, and let’s dive into some of the most common summer issues for canines so you and your dog can make the most of the sunshine season.

Dehydration

Summer heat can work up a thirst, and your dog is no exception. Dehydration happens when your dog’s internal water level is too low, and their body reacts by drawing water out of its cells, depleting essential electrolytes.

Dehydration can impair your dog’s muscle function, appetite, focus, and energy levels. It can also be the result, or the beginning, of a more serious health problem, which is why recognizing the signs early is critical.

To avoid dehydration, look to its causes, like insufficient water or food intake; heat; increased panting; illness; fever; diarrhea; or injury. If left untreated, severe cases can lead to illness or death. To avoid a serious issue, recognizing the symptoms of dehydration is key. Signs may include: weak appetite; lethargy; slow response; loss of balance; sunken, dry eyes; weak pulse; excessive panting or rapid breathing; dry nose, mouth or gums; bright red gums; dark urine; and loss of skin elasticity. 

Regarding the last symptom, a classic test for dehydration is to check your dog’s skin elasticity. Gently pinch the loose skin at your dog’s scruff (back of their neck, before the shoulders) and release it. A hydrated dog’s skin will instantly return to its original position. In a dehydrated dog, however, the skin is less elastic and will take more time to fall back into place.

Another way to test for dehydration is to examine your pup’s gums. A hydrated dog’s gums are pink and moist. Tacky, dry, or off-color gums (typically red) can be a sign of dehydration. 

To prevent dehydration, make sure that your dog has plentiful access to clean water, as well as shade and shelter from overheating. Acting quickly on changes in their behavior or fluid intake can help prevent issues from escalating.

Fortunately, with mild cases of dehydration, the remedy can be as simple as immediately providing your dog with clean water for them to slowly drink. You should not force your dog to drink water, however, as this can cause vomiting and further loss of fluid. If they stop drinking entirely or if you suspect that your dog is severely dehydrated, contact your vet immediately.

Ticks & Mosquitoes

Summer might be a vacation for you, but it means overtime for ticks and mosquitoes, which are the most active in hot weather. And as a pet parent, it’s critical to protect your dog and yourself from these parasites since they can transmit illness and potentially deadly diseases.

While ticks and mosquitos are more prevalent during warmer months, you should know how to safeguard against them year-round — and what to do if your pet is bitten.

Like spiders, ticks are a type of arachnid and can range in size from poppy seeds to apple seeds. Mosquitoes, on the other hand, are insects and a type of fly. Both are capable of feeding off of other animals for their blood and can carry and transmit nearly a dozen different diseases each, some of which are deadly or incurable. Mosquitos can also spread heartworm, which can cause damage a dog’s circulatory and pulmonary systems with life-threatening consequences. 

Your dog’s best defense against these literal suckers is preventative protection. Never use bug spray intended for humans on your dog. Most of these repellents contain DEET, which can be highly toxic for your pup and something to be mindful of when you use it around them. Fortunately, there are numerous pet-safe products that are specially formulated for your dog like Nexgard, K9 Advantix II or BioSpot.

Repellent, however, isn’t enough on its own. Since there’s no foolproof guarantee for these products, you should use them in conjunction with a year-round, prescription medication. Talk to your vet to discuss options and select a treatment that’s best for your dog. If you own multiple pets, I recommend that you treat them all at the same time. It helps you track their dosages and prevent cross-contamination if one dog gets infected.

In addition to products, another preventative measure is avoiding tick and mosquito hotspots. Both typically inhabit places that retain moisture. For ticks, that means lawns, leaf piles, shrubbery, and wooded areas, though they can be found in urban areas as well. Mosquitoes can be found pretty much anywhere, though they particularly favor pools of standing water as breeding grounds. 

If you and your pet spend extended time outdoors this summer, especially for activities like hiking or camping, it’s critical to do a full-body inspection on your dog for mosquito bites and stowaway ticks. Pay particular attention to their ears and eyelids, under the collar, around their tail, the groin area, and between toes. Ticks can easily attach themselves through the slightest contact and blend in as a mole or debris on skin or fur. Mosquito bites will appear as inflamed, raised bumps, just like on humans.

If you do locate a tick on your dog, the sooner it’s removed, the better your chances are to minimize infection. Never remove a tick with your fingers; doing so can break the tick apart, leaving its head and mouth embedded in your dog’s skin and increase the potential of disease. Instead, use a pair of tweezers or a tick removal hook. Be sure to cleanse the bite area on your pet with rubbing alcohol and wash your hands thoroughly.

Whether you’ve found evidence or these buggers or not, it’s always good to know the signs of potential infection from a tick or mosquito bite. These can include: increased itching; an irritated bite site; fever; loss of appetite; lethargy; trouble walking; swollen joints; and general discomfort. If your pet is exhibiting these symptoms or you suspect that they may have been infected by a tick or mosquito, immediately contact your vet.

Heatstroke

It may sound like a type of swimming style, but heatstroke is no fun. This serious condition is caused when the body overheats, typically due to overexertion and/or prolonged exposed to high temperatures. When this happens in dogs, it can potentially cause damage to their brain, heart, muscles, and kidneys.

A dog’s normal temperature should fall somewhere between 100 – 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Contrary to a common misconception, dogs do sweat, albeit in a different manner than humans. The majority of your pup’s sweat glands are located on their nose and paw pads. Less surface area for glands means insufficient heat release, which is why they rely on panting as their primary cooling system. And when panting isn’t enough, heatstroke can occur.

So, how will you know if it’s heatstroke? Common signs include heavy, prolonged panting or drooling; difficulty breathing; weakness; dry or bright red gums; disorientation; diarrhea; and vomiting. If you see these signs, move your pet to a cool space, give them water, and wrap them in a cool, damp towel — and then bring them to the vet.

Prevention is key to defending your pup against heatstroke. Whether inside or out, your dog should always have access to plenty of drinking water, as well as shaded areas away from direct sun.

When it comes to walks or exercise, select times when the heat index (that’s temperature and humidity) is lower, like early mornings or at the end of the day. Where you head out is just as important as when. Stick to grassy areas over surfaces like cement and asphalt that absorb heat and can burn little toes. Remember: your dog’s cute paw pads and all that cuddly fur can magnify the impact of the heat. If you think it’s hot outside, it’s probably much hotter for your pet.

Finally, don’t leave your dog in the car in warm weather. Your vehicle’s interior heats up much faster than its surrounding environment, so cracking open a window isn’t enough to cool things down to a safe temperature. Even a short stint can be dangerous. My rule of thumb: if you’re running errands and can’t take your dog out of your car, don’t take them out at all.

Too Much BBQ

Speaking of heat, let’s move on to another kind: namely from the grill. While I believe that every body is a beach body, keeping your pup in healthy shape — whatever shape that may be — year-round is my priority. Summer can be synonymous with cookouts and sweet snacks, but begging for scraps can quickly spiral into seconds or thirds. It’s important to keep treats in check and prevent our pups from overindulging in foods that could potentially make them sick.

Too much of any food isn’t great for anyone or any body, and there are foods that your dog should never eat, even in the smallest quantity. These include: chocolate in any form; macadamia nuts; grapes and raisins; coffee; garlic and onions; alcohol; and foods containing xylitol. It’s important to note that this is not a definitive list. If you have any doubts about feeding your dog something or if you suspect that they’ve already eaten a potentially toxic ingredient, seek emergency care immediately.

Equally important as what your dog eats is how they eat and digest. If you’ve ever found yourself in a stare down with the last slice of pepperoni with extra cheese, I get it. Pop an antacid, swear you’ll never eat pizza again, and repeat the process the next month. While bloating in humans is a lot easier to get over, it can be a much more serious issue for your dog. Bloating occurs when your dog’s stomach fills with gas. Too much accumulation of gas or liquid can cause their stomach to rotate, which can lead to Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV), a life-threatening condition. The increased pressure of this buildup can cut off blood flow to the stomach and rupture its wall, as well as inhibit breathing, resulting in systemic shock and potentially fatal consequences without emergency treatment.

On its own, bloat can be painful. When it becomes GDV, the results can be lethal. Pups with broader chests, older dogs, those that eat or drink too quickly, and certain breeds may be at higher risk, but it’s critical that you know the warning signs since any dog can experience bloat. These include: a swollen or hard abdomen; restlessness; excessive drooling; “unproductive” vomiting (meaning, retching with nothing being expelled); and labored breathing. 

Breaking their food consumption down into two separate mealtimes and serving in a bowl on the ground, rather than an elevated dish, can help decrease the risk.

Even the most vigilant pet parent can’t always prevent their dog from getting into foods that they shouldn’t be eating. If your pup eats something that you suspect may be toxic, immediately contact your vet for or call a pet poison control (the FDA recommends Pet Poison Hotline: 855-764-7661) for emergency care.

Bonding Through Care

Caring for your pup in the summer can sometimes require a little more sweat. Because they can’t always communicate their exact needs to us, it’s important to give our dogs some extra TLC to deal with the extreme temperatures and critters that summertime brings. A bit of special care now means preventing serious issues from emerging later. So, whether it’s beach time bonding or naps with the A/C on high, I wish you and your pets a safe and happy summer!