Saturday, July 25, 2009

Well, here we are well into July and summer hasn't really hit yet. But, I have no doubt that it is on its way, so I wanted to provide you with some Summer Health Tips.

Time to get out with the family (and likely a family pet or two) and enjoy recreational activities. We may know our canine companions better than anyone else, but it is important to remember most of us are not medical professionals. If you are uncertain how to treat your dog’s medical needs or if you have any questions, you should contact your veterinarian immediately. Listed below is some important information to keep in mind with the arrival of summer:

1. Have your dog’s vaccinations updated if necessary. Diseases such as rabies, distemper and parvo are ever-present dangers, and necessary precautions should be taken.
2. Beware of insect bites. If your dog is bitten or stung, remove the stinger and watch the site for an allergic reaction. If this occurs or if there have been multiple wasp, bee or mosquito bites, take the animal to the vet.
3. Check your dog daily for fleas and ticks and be sure that they are on a good preventative.
4. Heartworm is a common problem for dogs. Be sure to have a heartworm test done every year, and follow your vet’s advice for heartworm prevention.
5. Most lawn and garden products may be hazardous. Make sure that plants and fertilizers within the dog’s reach are non-toxic.
6. The outdoors exposes dogs to the elements. Dogs may need extra brushing and bathing to stay clean and healthy.
7. No matter how careful and responsible you may be, accidents can happen. Make sure your vet’s phone number is close at hand and available to all family members.

General Summer Safety Concerns

Hot weather can make anyone feel uncomfortable, especially your dog. Here are some safety concerns for responsible dog owners:

1. Never leave your dog unattended in direct sunlight or in a closed vehicle. Heatstroke can occur quickly and lead to brain damage or even death. Signs of heat stroke include (but are not limited to): body temperatures of 104-110ºF, excessive panting, dark or bright red tongue and gums, staggering, stupor, seizures, bloody diarrhea or vomiting and/or coma. Brachycephalic breeds (the short-nosed breeds, such as Bulldogs and Pugs), large heavy-coated breeds (St. Bernards, Huskies, etc.) and those dogs with heart or respiratory problems are at a higher risk for heat stroke. If you suspect heat stroke in your pet, seek veterinary attention IMMEDIATELY!!! Use cool water, not ice water, to cool your pet. (Very cold water will cause constriction of the blood vessels and impede cooling.) Do not aid cooling below 103ºF - some animals can actually get Hypothermic (too cold). Offer ice cubes for the animal to lick on until you can reach your veterinarian. Just because your animal is cooled and "appears" OK, do NOT assume everything is fine. Internal organs such as liver, kidneys, brain, etc., are definitely affected by the body temperature elevation, and blood tests and veterinary examination are needed to assess this.
2. Always make sure your dog has access to fresh "water.
3. All dogs should have proper identification at all times. We suggest a collar with an ID tag, a tattoo or microchip.
4. Keep your dog on a leash when he is outdoors to prevent accidents and injuries.
5. Jogging is also dangerous this time of year. So your dog jogs everyday with you and is in excellent shape - why alter the routine? As the weather warms, humans alter the type and amount of clothing worn, and we sweat more. Dogs are still jogging in their winter coat (or a slightly lighter version) and can only cool themselves by panting and a small amount of sweating through the foot pads. Not enough! Many dogs, especially the 'athletes' will keep running, no matter what, to stay up with their owner. Change the routine to early morning or late evening to prevent heat stroke.

Does Your Doggie Paddle?

Many people head for the lakes and rivers this time of year, and the family dog is often part of the fun. However, not all dogs are excellent swimmers by nature, especially if Fido has underlying health problems, such as heart disease or obesity to contend with. Consider protecting your pet just as your human family -- with a life preserver. If your pet is knocked off of the boat (perhaps getting injured in the process), or is tired/cold from choppy water or a sudden storm, a life jacket could be what saves your pet's life. Dogs entering the water for the first time should be tested. Here are some important tips for teaching your dog how to swim:

1. Never throw your dog into the water.
2. Start in shallow water, and call your dog’s name. You can also try to coax him in with a treat or toy but always keep your dog within reach.
3. Another way to introduce your dog to the water is with a dog that already swims and is friendly with your dog. Let your dog follow his friend.
4. If your dog begins to doggie paddle with his front legs only, lift his hind legs and help him float. He should quickly catch on and will then keep his back end up.
5. Swimming is a great form of exercise, but don t let your dog overdo it. He will be using new muscles and may tire quickly.
6. Be careful of strong tides that are hazardous for even the best swimmers.
7. Never leave your dog unattended!
8. You should always be in a position to help him get out of the water.

The most important decision you can make to keep you pet happy and healthy during the summer is to use your common sense. If it too hot for you to be outside, it is too hot for your pet to be outside for extended periods of time.

Have a Safe and Happy Summer!!!