The 2012 summer officially begins at 7:09 p.m. this evening, and she’s coming in with sizzling temperatures in the 90s today and tomorrow! With warmer weather, there are many activities to do outdoors with our dogs, but it is our responsibility to keep them safe in the ‘dog days’ of summer.
Probably the most dangerous thing to do with your dog in warm weather is to leave him in the car while you run into a store. I’ve noticed many folks running errands with their dogs on warm days already, and it bears repeating over and over again that it is not safe to leave your dogs (or kids) in the car, even with the windows open and even in the shade. The inside of a car can reach a lethal temperature in just minutes, even in moderate weather. It is never to safe to leave your dog in a parked car, not even for a few minutes.
Another common dangerous situation is dogs left outside during the heat of the day. Besides the summer heat, the sun can also burn a dog’s skin, wild animals can cause harm, and people can steal your dog. Leaving your dog unattended outside is a high-risk endeavor. I never recommend leaving dogs outside unsupervised anyway, but in the hot summer heat this can be especially deadly. If you do have a dog who is outside for any extended period of time during the day, please make sure that he has adequate shelter and can escape the sun, as well as access to unlimited water in a secure dispenser which will not get bumped or tipped over.
Heatstroke is a very real and common danger for dogs in the summertime. Dogs will pant to cool off when they get overheated. When the air becomes overheated or very humid, panting does not cool a dog efficiently. Heatstroke is a medical emergency, symptoms include rapid panting, anxious behavior, rapid heartbeat, fever over 102, refusal to respond to cues, warm dry skin (particularly on nose), vomiting, and collapse. If you suspect your dog is overheated or is suffering from heatstroke, you need to call your vet or an emergency veterinary facility immediately. You will also want to attempt to bring your dog’s temperature down by placing him in a tub or pool with cool water, covering him with cool, wet towels, or in severe cases with a cool-water enema.
Ticks are already causing problems this year. We had almost no winter weather and ticks never went away. Ticks of ALL varieties can carry and transmit deadly diseases (not only deer ticks). Lyme disease is most prevalent in CT, but there are also other tick-borne diseases, which can be just as lethal. Ehrlichiosis is not uncommon and can cause similar symptoms as Lyme disease (muscle pain or weakness, fever, fatigue, etc), but can also lead to more serious problems like pancreatitis. There are many products on the market which can protect against fleas and ticks, and some even protect against mosquitoes, which can carry another serious threat to dogdom: heartworm. Ultimately, each dog has his or her own set of traits which will determine the best products, if any, you should use. This is something to discuss with your veterinarian. Be sure and ask about the risk associated with the treatments as well, because they all carry some pretty hefty potential side effects too. You need to weigh the risk of potentially deadly tick-borne or mosquito-borne illness against the risk of potentially deadly preventative treatments. After all, these products are all forms of poison.
When traveling with your pet in the car, you want to make sure he is restrained in some way. Crates are the safest way for pets to travel, but seat belts designed with a sturdy harness are also a good way to keep your dog relatively safe in case of an accident. If he is not restrained, and you have to stop short, or if you are in a crash, he WILL be thrown from the car and will likely be severely injured or killed. It is also not a good idea to let him hang his head out in the wind. I know, I know, it’s one of the top joys of being a dog…but just run your fingers across the front of your headlights and be aware that all those little nicks and scratches happen to your dog’s eyes! I have lived with a blind dog. If I could’ve prevented her from losing her eyesight, I would have. It’s one simple thing you can do. One more thing about traveling that should go without saying: It is NEVER safe to travel with your dog in the bed of a pickup truck.
Finally, certain summer plants can be toxic to dogs. A partial list can be found here: http://www.entirelypets.com/toxicplants.html, along with the particular dangers associated with each plant. In addition to the list of flowers, some fruit and vegetable plants can also be deadly. The green leaves of tomato plants, garlic or onions, grapes, and mushrooms can all cause medical emergencies, as well as many garden fertilizers. Please know what is growing or being used in your yard and prevent your dog from having access to anything that can harm him. If you suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, call the ASPCA animal poison control hotline at 888-426-4435 (there is a $65 fee) or your vet or local emergency vet hospital.
Know your local 24-hour veterinary facilities phone numbers and locations:
- New Haven Central Hospital 203-865-0878/ 843 State Street New Haven
- Shoreline VCA Emergency Clinic 203-929-8600/ 895 Bridgeport Ave Shelton
- Norwalk VCA Veterinary Referral and Emergency Center 203-854-9960/ 123 West Cedar St Norwalk
- Cheshire VCA Animal Hospital 203-272-3266/ 1572 S. Main St Cheshire
Michelle Douglas, CPDT-KA, CDBC is the owner of The Refined Canine, LLC, providing dog training and behavior consulting services in Southern CT since 1997.