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The Dog Days of Summer
By Paul Black, DVM
Finally, those long, hot, sunny days are upon us in Monroe County. The weather offers a great opportunity to spend more quality time with family including man’s best friend: hiking, gardening, biking, swimming, vacationing and taking trips in the car. But as you prepare to enjoy this season, be aware of potential hazards to your canine companion.
The most obvious threat to your dog is the reason we look forward to this time of year — heat. Dogs do not have sweat glands in their skin to cool themselves. They must pant to lose heat from their bodies. Unfortunately, panting requires muscular activity which can then increase core temperature further. This can quickly spiral into a dangerous situation with heat stress and heat stroke. Brachycephalic (short snout) breeds are particularly susceptible to overheating. Save strenuous outdoor activities for the cooler times of day, carry water for your dog or spend time near bodies of water where your pet can cool off. If your dog starts to display signs of heat stress — excessive panting, weakness, dark coloration of the gums — immediately wet your dog’s coat, place him in a cool area with a fan blowing on him, apply ice to the foot pads and call your veterinarian.
When traveling with your dog in warm weather, never leave him in a car even with the windows open. In just a few minutes the temperature in a car can skyrocket, resulting in heat stroke and death. If you must stop in your travels, either have someone stay with the dog outside or make the correct decision to leave your pet at home.
Trauma is far more common during the summer season. Lacerations, foot pad burns, bite wounds, orthopedic injuries and automobile trauma all rank high on the list. When spending time with your dog outdoors, be cognizant of the potential threats in the area, such as broken glass or metal, other dogs and access to roads. Always keep your dog under your control, either on leash or voice command for a well-trained dog. A common injury seen in veterinary hospitals at this time of year is foot pad burns and erosions. These occur when a dog in running excessively on hot pavement or concrete. The heat and the friction can rub the pads raw in a short time, causing a painful injury that requires pain medications, rest and time to heal. Remember, your dogs do not know they are injuring themselves until after the trauma has happened. It’s up to us to control their activity before they hurt themselves.
With the warmer weather comes the return of insects. Dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors will often have fly bites on their ear tips. These can become ulcerated, and they also tend to bleed and be quite uncomfortable. Insecticidal creams can be applied to the margin of the ears to repel the flies. Tick and flea activity increases during the summer. Flea bites result in itching and, in some dogs, severe allergic reactions will be seen with self-induced skin ulcerations and secondary infections. Although ticks do not generally cause skin irritation, they are responsible for the transmission of organisms that cause Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and other infectious diseases. Both fleas and ticks can be brought into our homes by our dogs, resulting in indoor infestations. The best treatment is prevention, and there are a variety of good options available today. It is best to discuss proper parasite control with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian is aware of your pet’s total health care and can create the safest and most effective internal and external parasite control program to best fit your pet’s lifestyle and health concerns.
Get out there this summer with your favorite canine companion! Enjoy all the wonderful activities that nature has in store for us in Upstate New York. Just remember your dog depends on you to keep him happy, healthy and safe.
Dr. Paul Black has served as President of Monroe Veterinary Associates since 1996. A graduate of Pittsford Sutherland High, Dr. Black earned his DVM degree from Cornell Veterinary College in 1982 and has worked as a general practitioner with MVA since that time.