Summer Safety with your Dog

With the return of beautiful weather, our pets and ourselves are celebrating the natural beauty of the PNW by enjoying more time outdoors. Keep in mind these potential hazards to keep  your pets safe:

* Mushrooms:

particularly in spring and fall, mushrooms can sprout up quickly. Wild mushroom toxins can cause a range of symptoms from intestinal upset (vomiting, diarrhea,  anorexia) to neurologic symptoms or liver damage, and some are potentially fatal (especially  Amanita species, such as the classic red one pictured in Alice in Wonderland but they can also be tan or brown). If mushrooms are in your yard where your dog could ingest them, pick and dispose of them in the compost, then promptly wash your hands.

* Heat:

dogs do not have sweat glands that help with evaporative cooling throughout the body the way humans do, so they are much more prone to over-heating. They eliminate excess body heat via panting and a very limited amount through sweating on the bottom of their paws. The biggest risks are dogs who exercise in direct sun (especially with dark coats), breeds with noisy breathing (short-faced breeds like pugs and bulldogs), and for some medical conditions such as heart disease. Short walks during the cooler times of day  (early morning and late evening), avoiding exercise, and providing plenty of cool fresh water are recommended to mitigate this. And (if it needed to be repeated) never leave your pet in a  car unattended if it is above 70 degrees out: even with the windows cracked, the temperature can still climb 15-20 degrees.

* Bee stings and insect bites:

 While these can be seen year-round, they’re much more common during the warmer months. Benadryl (diphenhydramine) at 1 mg per pound can be given for a local bite or sting reaction (swelling around the area and even for a limited number of hives). More severe reactions such as facial swelling, worsening hives, vomiting, or weakness and collapse are more critical and warrant immediate veterinary assessment,  although you can give oral Benadryl promptly as you’re coordinating transport to the vet as long as they are able to swallow. Never give other human medications (such as anti-inflammatories) unless directed, as many of these can be quite toxic to dogs. And make sure your dog is on an effective flea, tick, and heartworm preventative, as serious blood infections are less common in this part of the country but still do occur.

* Injuries:

cuts, abrasions, and lacerations occur when pets are out doing more. If you are not close to an emergency center, it’s particularly important to have the following basics handy:  an antiseptic such as Betadine (iodine), a topical antibiotic such as Neosporin, materials to loosely bandage and protect a wound or abrasion, and sterile saline for flushing something out of the eye. If a wound occurs that has active bleeding, apply gentle steady pressure and make plans to get them to an emergency center if it is not stopping within a few minutes or is a more serious injury.

* Water:

swimming is wonderful exercise and a great way to keep cool, but be mindful that outbreaks of toxic algae can occur. Websites to check for bacterial or algal water outbreaks are listed below. Also, monitor your pet’s stamina when swimming or fetching in the water:  you may need to force them to take periodic breaks, and don’t push them to do more than they’re comfortable doing as accidental inhalation of water can lead to pneumonia or other serious inflammatory lung reactions.

* Sunburn & thermal burns:

Pets can get sunburn – particularly on areas of the body without fur, or with thin light-colored fur. Sun-blocking clothing or sunscreen can be used.  Sunscreens for dogs, such as Epi-Pet’s Sun Protector Spray or My Dog Nose It Balm. You can use baby sunscreen free of ingredients labeled “toxic if ingested”, but ingredients like zinc oxide and PABA are dangerous if ingested so these can be harder to find.

Dr. Carina Nacewicz
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