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Why Is Summer Dangerous For Dogs?
Some Food For Thought For Dog Parents
We all know not to leave a dog in a parked car on a warm day, but summertime presents a number of other hazards to pets that we may not even think of.
I’d like to offer a summer picnic of “food for thought.” A collection of things that some dog parents might overlook or that perhaps hadn’t occurred to them, or that new dog owners aren’t yet aware of.
Speaking of dogs in parked cars, that it’s dangerous should go without saying, yet how many of us see dogs in cars, and how many of us hang around until the owner comes out?
Many things can turn a quick “run in to get a loaf of bread” moment into an eternity, all while your dog sits in the hot car with the windows cranked a bit. How many of us have been behind someone at the checkout, on their cell phone, and rummaging for credit cards and coupons. These can be life-threatening delays to that dog in the car with the windows cranked a bit.
Nothing looks happier than a dog with his head hanging out the window of a moving car. There is a danger there, too. Dust and debris, moving at high velocity because of the forward motion of the car, can cause penetration injuries to the eyes, nose, tongue and mouth. There's also the danger of him looking into the sun for several minutes without eye protection.
A good pet supply store will have protective eyewear for dogs, and perhaps so will your veterinarian's office and your groomer. It's a good investment for owners of dogs who ride with their head out the window.
Summer is when dogs are exposed to more plant matter, some of which can cause health issues, ranging from gastric episodes to death, if ingested. When you improve the appearance of your yard with new plants, trees and shrubs, it’s a good idea to save the tags that come with them.
They contain the taxonomic, or scientific, name of the plant and enable the veterinarian or poison control center personnel to immediately and accurately identify the plant. That saves valuable time in treating a dog that has ingested the plant and, in some cases, seconds count. Also, treatment protocols vary depending upon the plant matter involved. If the vet has to rummage through botany literature to find the exact name of the plant, treatment is delayed.
Summer also means more biting and stinging insects and parasites, not to mention the chemicals we use to combat them. Flea and tick control products for use on the animal are safe*, of course, but the stuff we use on the grass and shrubs can be problematic should pets get into it.
It’s been my experience that consumers (i.e. guys!) routinely misuse lawn and garden chemicals. “I’ll just put it down a little heavier to make sure they’re dead.” Must be a guy thing.
Manufacturers spend hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in research, testing and documentation to prove to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (not simply convince them) that when used according to instructions the product will do what it claims it will do. The EPA registration number on the package shows that they’ve done that.
It’s unnecessary to over-apply insecticides or herbicides. I call it my “If you put a bullet between my eyes, I’m dead; if you put two bullets between my eyes, I’m no deader” principle. In addition, you run the risk that the product will not be able to break down properly and do its job.
Conversely, if you try to spread that 5,000 square foot bag of insecticide over your 7,000 square foot yard, it obviously won’t work. Rather than kill the bugs, it will just make them wicked sick so that after they bite you, they’ll throw up on you.
And if you have a dog or cat, don’t use cocoa mulch (made from the shells of cocoa beans) in your mulch beds. It can contain dangerous levels of chocolate’s toxic agent, theobromine, a cardiac stimulant that kills dogs and cats.
If your dog is a swimmer, pay close attention to his ears, especially if he has floppy ears, to avoid infections. Your veterinarian or pet supply store has products that will help dry up water that collects in the inner ear.
When you go for walks, try for around sunup and sundown, so the pavement won’t be so hot, and bring along some water for the both of you. Dogs are also subject to sunburn on their noses and, in the case of short haired dogs, the rest of the body, so keep that in mind when outside.
Should you have your groomer shave the dog down for the summer? That’s controversial. One school of thought says, “Obviously, if you shave him down he’ll be cooler, so it’s a no brainer.” The other school of thought says, “Dogs need their coats to thermoregulate and to protect them from biting/stinging insects, thorny brush, and the sun.” You make the call.
Wild animal encounters are more likely during the summer months, and not just in the woods. Woodland creatures are common in suburban, and even urban, backyards nowadays.
Make sure your dog’s and cat’s rabies shots are current and, if there is an encounter with a wild animal, examine your pet for puncture and scratch wounds and other injuries. If your examination is positive for any of the above, don’t mess around with it; call your vet. And you might want to keep your eyes peeled for parasites, too.
Cookouts can be dangerous because well meaning guests are likely to share their food with your dog, in which case the dog’s stomach might have something to say about it. You don’t want Boomer ralphing all over Aunt Agnes who came all the way from out of state plus, hours later, Boomer’s intestines might have something to say all over your living room carpet.
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Some people, especially those who are not particularly fond of animals, find it entertaining when your dog becomes a canine garbage disposal. It’s not fair to the dog to put him through all of that.
And guests could carelessly leave alcoholic beverages unattended while they go up for another helping of your famous Death By Chocolate dessert, creating an opportunity for your dog to drain their glasses and suffer alcohol toxicosis, which can be fatal.
A drunken dog is a dog in serious trouble. Signs of alcohol toxicity include vomiting, loss of coordination, disorientation and stupor; in severe cases, coma, seizures and death. It takes a while for the alcohol to be absorbed into your dog’s bloodstream so symptoms may not appear for 3 or 4 hours after ingestion.
Keep in mind that the noise and activity of your party can be confusing and frightening to dogs. They are, after all, pretty much creatures of habit and anything that disrupts their routines can be stressful, and there’s no telling how they’ll react.
It’s even scarier when they’re not familiar with some of the guests. Certain dogs react, either positively or negatively, to certain types of people, i.e. men with beards, men who wear hats, women who are animated or loud, or heavily perfumed. Results could be negative for everyone.
And, of course, there's always that threat of the dog, attracted by irresistible aromas, jumping up on the grill, getting seriously burned. Another danger is that he could send the grill flying, which could cause further injuries or fires if patio furniture, outbuildings, or guests clothing ignite.
Most experts agree that if you’re going to have an event with lots of guests, keep your dog or cat isolated from the activity or make other arrangements for their care on that day.
* Be very, very certain that a flea and tick spot-on labeled for dogs, isn’t applied to cats. The concentration of active ingredient appropriate for dogs is toxic to cats. Don’t even let your cat groom your dog while residual spot-on material is evident on your dog.