With the change in season comes lots of adventures for all, but it’s important to recognise the potential dangers for dogs in summer.
The warmer weather can pose many dangers for dogs in summer. Dogs can get heat stroke when exercising in hot weather or if left in hot cars. Dogs are more sensitive to heat as they cannot regulate their body temperature as well as humans can. Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition and requires prompt treatment. Heat stroke can be avoided by not walking or exercising dogs in the middle of the day during hot weather, always providing access to fresh drinking water and allowing access to the shade. Dogs should never be left in hot cars, even briefly as cars internal temperature rises very rapidly. Cool mats and cooling bandanas can also be used to help dogs cope with warmer weather.
Pavements, tarmac and other hard surfaces become very hot on sunny days. Our footwear means we are often unaware of the temperature of the surface we are walking on, but our dogs pads are in direct contact with these surfaces. Walking on hot surfaces can cause painful burns and abrasions to the pads. You can easily test the temperature of the ground by holding your hand on it for 10 seconds, if it is too uncomfortable to do this the surface is too hot to for your dog to walk on. It is best to walk dogs in the morning or evening and avoid the middle of the day on warm days.
Wet eczema (‘Hot spots’)
In the summer, wet eczema (‘hot spots’) are common, especially in dogs with existing skin issues, dense fur and those that are bathed frequently. Wet eczema often arises when a dog itches one spot repeatedly. The skin becomes irritated and develops an ulcerated, red patch. Bacteria spread quickly in a hot, humid environment. The hot spot grows rapidly and they are often extremely painful. If you notice a potential hot spot seek veterinary advice immediately.
Fleas are particularly active during warmer months. Fleas can cause severe itching and skin problems, such as hair loss, dandruff and rashes. Some dogs develop allergies to fleas, Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD), which causes intense itching and often secondary skin infections. Year round flea prevention is essential and can be discussed at the practice.
Ticks are more active during the summer but generally warmer weather throughout the year now means that ticks are active for most of the year. Ticks are fairly common in Devon, especially in moorland areas such as Dartmoor.
Ticks can spread a number of diseases, through biting, including Lyme Disease and Anaplasmosis to our dogs. Effective tick control is key to preventing these diseases and should be discussed with your vet. Never attempt to pull, burn or freeze a tick off. If your dog does get a tick, it should be removed promptly and correctly using an appropriate tick removal device. This can be done at the practice if you are unsure how to do this. It is important to remove a tick properly as if the head is left behind it can lead to infection.
Insect bites and stings
Bites or stings from insects such as wasps, ants and mosquitoes rarely make dogs severely ill, but they can be itchy and sore. Some dogs, however, are hypersensitive and may have allergic reactions to these insects. The more bites or stings a dog gets at one time, the greater the risk of a more severe reaction. Signs of an acute allergic reaction include: swelling at the bite site, hives, difficulty breathing, pale gums, collapse, itching, facial swelling, panting, vomiting and. If you see these, please seek prompt veterinary advice.
The adder is the UK’s only venomous snake. Adders are frequently seen in Devon, especially on Dartmoor and in rural areas. In the summer heat adders bask in the sun to raise their body temperature. If a dog gets bitten by an adder, it can have serious consequences. If your pet is bitten you will rarely see the snake, but may hear your dog yelp and run away from a particular place. A dog that has been bitten by a snake will quickly become tired. A large, sore swelling will develop where the bite occurred, often around the nose or on the leg. If your dog has been bitten, keep it as still as possible to prevent the poison from spreading. Seek veterinary advice immediately. Treatment may require hospitalisation for intravenous fluids with pain relief and close observation. Areas with high adder numbers are best avoided on warm sunny days
When some species of blue-green algae bloom in lakes, streams and seas, a toxin can build up in the water. If a dog drinks or swims in the water, it can suffer from rapid and often fatal algae poisoning. Dogs should only be permitted to swim in clean algae free water. If you dog does get into water with algae, wash it off and seek immediate veterinary advice.
Seeds from grasses can find their way into a dog’s eyes, ears, nose and between their toes. These may need to be removed under sedation or anaesthetic and can cause secondary infections. If you suspect that your dog may have a grass seed stuck somewhere, always consult a vet.
Pollen is a common allergen in many species. In dogs it can cause itchy skin and atopic dermatitis. Dogs with ongoing allergies may get worse during the summer, if this happens consult your vet.
Barbecue and picnic scraps
When the weather is nice, many of us like to dine outdoors. Our furry friends have an excellent ability to sniff out and raid leftover food. As a dog owner, it is important to dispose of waste and leftovers carefully so that our dogs can’t eat potentially dangerous items. Use a strong and sealable bag for waste, and dispose of it in a bin or place in a safe place where dogs cannot reach it.
Bags of rubbish can contain sharp pieces of glass, wooden skewers or metal grills, as well as packaging and food scraps, such as bones. If chewed and swallowed, pieces of bone can puncture the delicate stomach or get stuck in the dog’s mouth, oesophagus or further down the intestine. Corn cobs are also not digestible, and therefore can easily get stuck in the intestine. Dogs with a foreign body or intestinal blockage will often start vomiting and show signs of abdominal pain. These cases are an emergency that will require surgery to resolve.
If you are concerned that your dog may have been exposed to one of the above dangers please contact your veterinary practice immediately.