If You Ever See This on the Beach, Cry for Help!
11 Scary Summer Pet-Health Hazards
1. Bee Stings
If a bee has ever stung you, you know it hurts, and if you have ever watched the film My Girl you are aware that some people can have deadly anaphylactic reactions to . The same can happen to our dogs when they're stung by bees. Most dogs will suddenly yelp and excessively lick or rub the affected area due to the pain and inflammation. Some dogs develop a mild allergic reaction causing swelling of the face and hives. Symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, pale gums, trouble breathing, a wobbly gait, and collapse indicate a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction. If you suspect your pet was stung by a bee, see a veterinarian immediately.
2. Snake Bites
If you're visiting an area where snakes are known to be present, keep your curious dog on a leash. Snakebites are painful, but they can also cause swelling of the airways, multiple organ failure, clotting problems, and shock, all of which can lead to death. Remember, just because your pet has had rattlesnake vaccine doesn’t mean you can skip the visit to the veterinarian if a bite occurs. The vaccine may only lessen the severity of the reaction and buy just enough time to make it to the veterinarian for further treatment.
Just like people, pets can experience pollen allergies. Signs of allergies include red, watery eyes and sneezing. Itchy pets will lick and chew their paws and may develop skin and ear infections. If you see these symptoms in your pet, ask your veterinarian about allergy-relief medications and other treatment options.
4. Off-Leash Activities
Running free can be fun for your dog, but going off-leash comes with potential hazards that include jumping into swift water, falling down ravines, encountering wild animals or not-so-nice dogs, and getting lost. If you choose to let your dogs off-leash, put bright yellow or orange collars on them to make it easier to spot them from afar. If they tend to wander, you may consider collars with built-in GPS for easy tacking on your cell phone — if you can get reception. Because ID tags can break off, make sure a microchip has been placed. During your pet’s yearly physical exam, ask to verify that the microchip is working and check with the microchip company that the information on file is up to date.
5. Mosquitoes and Heartworm Disease
Mosquitoes can transmit the deadly heartworm, Dirofilaria immitis. While there is a treatment for dogs, the medication is expensive and difficult to obtain, and deadly reactions can occur during treatment. As for cats, there is currently no effective treatment. The good news is that administering a monthly will help keep your pets safe. If you think being indoors is a reason to skip the preventive medication, think again — how many times has a mosquito bitten you indoors?
Tick activity picks up with warmer weather, as it’s the peak of their breeding season. Ticks carry many diseases that can harm both pets and people. Your pet provides an easy ride into your home where ticks can then find their way onto you. Diseases they can transmit include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and many others that can cause joint inflammation, paralysis, anemia, or blood-clotting problems. After any trip outside, inspect your pet (and yourself) for ticks, especially around the ears and paws. Speak with your veterinarian about tick protection options, from fast-killing medications to products with repellent properties, especially if you live in a heavily infested area.
Fleas may have been dormant over the winter, but in warm weather they can wreak havoc with our pets. Not only do their bites make our pets itchy, some fleas carry diseases that can affect people, such as bubonic plague and bartonella (also known as cat-scratch disease). It’s easier to prevent a flea infestation than to try and stop one. Giving your pet a monthly flea-killing product may be all you need to avoid a problem. Remember, even indoor pets are susceptible, as fleas can get into your house through a door gap or hitch a ride on your clothes.
8. Heat Stroke
Too much fun in the sun can overheat our pets as much as it does us. But dogs and cats cannot sweat like humans, so they rely on panting to cool them down. Providing plenty of breaks and opportunities for shade and water on hot days is a must. If your dog is a brachycephalic breed – short-nosed dogs such as bulldogs – consider avoiding outdoor activitites during hot days. Never leave dogs in a car even with the windows cracked. Cars heat up more than you think even if it's overcast outside! Signs of heat stroke include excessive panting (yes, cat also pant), agitation, vomiting, weakness, and collapse. If you think your dog or cat is suffering from heat stroke, rinse them off with cool water and get them to the nearest veterinarian.
9. Poisonous Plants
Even some visually stunning plants can have deadly consequences if your dog or cat eats them. Sago palms can cause liver failure, while oleander, lily of the valley, and foxglove plants can cause fatal heart arrhythmias. If you have a cat, don’t allow any lilies in your home! Every part of the plant is toxic, and even licking the pollen off while grooming can cause kidney failure in a cat. Make sure to browse through the ASPCA list of poisonous plants before making additions to your home or garden, or check out the USDA's plant image gallery.
10. Fertilizers, Pesticides, and Herbicides
While fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides may make for a beautiful weed- and pest-free lawn and garden, the chemicals in some of these products may make your pets sick. Fertilizers containing iron and nitrogen can poison a dog or cat, while bone- and blood-meal based fertilizers may form concretions in the intestines that can cause severe irritation or a blockage. Pesticides and herbicides may contain chemicals such as carbamates and organophosphates that cause tremors and seizures in dogs.
11. Slug and Gopher Baits
Think twice about using slug and rodent baits to protect your yard and plants from damage. Slug baits contain metaldehyde, a sweet-tasting neurotoxin that causes life-threatening tremors and seizures. Gopher baits contain either zinc phosphide or strychnine. Zinc phosphide reacts with water and acid in the stomach to produce a potentially deadly gas, while strychnine causes convulsions and deadly paralysis of the respiratory system. As a pet owner, you may already be avoiding these toxins on your property. But keep in mind that your neighbors may not, so you'll need to keep a close eye on your cats and dogs.
If your pet does get into trouble with one of these warm-weather hazards, contact your veterinarian immediately. Early intervention may just save their life.
Julio López, DVM, DACVIM, is a board-certified specialist in small animal internal medicine and a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine. Dr. López practices in Los Angeles and has experience in all aspects of internal medicine with a special interest in diseases of the kidney and bladder, endocrine diseases such as diabetes, Addison’s, Cushing’s, and hyperthyroidism. He launched www.MyExpertVet.com to provide trustworthy sources of information. Follow him on Twitter @ExpertVet
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