Summertime is full of bonding opportunities for you and your pet. Favorite summer activities for dog parents are enjoying the outdoors doing hikes, beach days and pool parties. Who wouldn’t want to take advantage of sunny days, warm breeze and cold water with their pooch?!
With that being said, part of being a responsible dog parent means knowing and recognizing how these summer activities and weather conditions can affect your pup. Keep reading for some helpful information to make sure this summer is filled with great memories and not trips to the vet!
For our top dog-friendly beaches and activities check out last month’s article here!
Overheating is not something to take lightly especially with the rising heat! Heat exhaustion can potentially lead to heatstroke and cardiac arrest if left untreated. This condition occurs when an animal’s body temperature reaches over 103˚F; if the temperature continues to rise to 106˚F < they are at risk of heatstroke.
Dogs and cats regulate their body heat through rapid, open-mouthed panting. They do have a few sweat glands in their paws, however, that does little to help bring down their body temperature. Since they don’t actually sweat like we do, at times panting isn’t sufficient from keeping their temperatures leveled. There’s a big difference between regular, exercised panting and excessive panting-so keep that in mind!
Fortunately, it’s not too hard to spot signs of an overheated pup! The first symptom is excessive panting followed by more subtle signs such as drooling and less responsiveness to commands and his or her name. Clear indications of something being very wrong are incoordination, collapsing, convulsions, vomiting and tongue and gums appearing blue or bright red.
If you notice your pet behaving even slightly “off” don’t hesitate to spring into parent mode.
- Immediately relocate your dog or cat to a cool, shaded area. Blast that A/C and fan!
- Provide them with fresh, cold water but never force them to drink if they don’t want to. If you live by a lake or have a kiddie pool let them take a dip. If a body of water isn’t readily available wet down paper towels with cold water and place on their armpits, neck, back and between their hind legs.
- Take a rectal temperature. Anything between 103˚F – 105˚F is not ideal but manageable at home. Anything 106˚F < is considered a danger zone and your veterinarian needs to be contacted right away.
While heat exhaustion can affect anyone there are certain dog breeds that are prone to a higher chance of overheating. Being knowledgeable about your dog’s breed is a great way to stay ahead of the game with their safety.
A general rule is both very old and very young dogs are especially susceptible to this condition; as well as overweight dogs, dogs that suffer from medical conditions involving heart and breathing problems, extremely active dogs and long-haired dogs.
**Specific breeds that fall under this group are any brachycephalic breeds, flat-faced, such as pugs, boxers, bulldogs, Boston terriers, Shih Tzus and Chihuahuas.
If your pet is a true wilderness lover and simply wants to be outside, provide them with shade, a cooling mat or vest to make sure they stay cool. Consider a haircut for pets with thick or long fur. Just don’t cut too much off, sunburn is a real thing for dogs! Take him or her swimming or turn on the sprinklers and let them run wild for a few minutes through them.
Prevention is always the best method to avoid a scary situation for you and your pet. Shorten walks on hot days or opt for a longer walk when it cools down. Limit outdoor exercise and play and always provide them with fresh water. Most importantly give your pet ample breaks and keep them hydrated throughout the day.
This condition is probably the most perplexing of them all. Water is an essential nutrient for all to maintain good health. We all have experienced at some point the effects of not drinking enough water, dehydration! But is there another side to that? Is too much water a concern?
Is it! Water intoxication occurs when there is too much water in the body for it to process fully. The issue with “too much water in the body” is the dilution of sodium levels. This is where those electrolytes come into play!
Depleting the electrolyte balance within the body is dangerous because sodium helps maintain blood pressure as well as muscle functions. The intake of excessive water causes the cells to bloat including those in the brain which ultimately can lead to the nervous system shutting down. Who knew drinking too much water could sound so scary?
While a responsible pet parent knows that providing clean and fresh water to their pet is necessary, summer is always a tricky time. Logically providing unlimited water at all times makes sense in sweltering heat and on sunny days but that is when your pet is at the highest risk to become intoxicated–even more so when beach days and pool bashes are involved!
Outside of drinking large amounts of water in one sitting after play or exercise, snapping at the sprinkler as it comes around and catching toys that are thrown in pools and lakes opens up the chance for a potential issue.
Water intoxication can occur quickly and become very serious fast. Changes to look for include staggering, lethargy, light-colored gums, nausea and dilated pupils. In severe cases, loss of consciousness and coma can occur. Your immediate response to it and getting him or her to your vet as soon as possible can determine many things for your dog’s life.
They need to be treated with IV fluids, water pills to increase water and salt that had been eliminated from the body and drugs to reduce swelling in the brain. Aggressive treatment can help your pup recover, unfortunately too often they don’t.
Like with most of these conditions prevention is the best solution. Monitoring your pet while they play and controlling water intake are things you can do to keep them safe. Limit rough play in the water and rather than a drink after their play is over, consider frequent small breaks in between play and your activities.
At the beach always carry freshwater on you, salt poisoning from ingesting too much saltwater is another life-threatening condition opposite of water intoxication that we’ll be looking at next!
I can guarantee your dog is a fan of the beach! A vast body of water they can fully submerge under, an open field of soft sand they can dig endlessly into and the ability to run, jump, chase and fetch without the limitations of a yard or park. It sounds like a dream for any pooch! So when does that dream become a nightmare?
If a mouthful of saltwater has you crinkling your nose then you know very well how unpleasant and dehydrated you feel after a beach trip. For your furry companion, those mouthfuls of saltwater can be fatal.
It’s estimated that dogs have a mortality rate of 50% < with toxic levels of sodium in their systems regardless of the treatment provided. Because of this, it’s extremely important to closely observe your pet for any changes in behavior and to make sure you’re doing everything possible to keep them safe while on your trip.
Too much salt, just like too little, disrupts the fluid balance within your dog. Keeping in mind that water makes up 80% of their bodies, anything higher or greater creates significant reactants to go off within their systems. Their bodies work hard to keep and regulate a balance of salt and water for this reason.
Severe dehydration, along with confusion, are an automatic response to too much salt intake. Diarrhea is another big indication of salt poisoning. Too much salt draws water out of their blood and into their intestines which can lead to diarrhea and vomiting. Generalized weakness and tremors are another.
You know your animal better than anyone so don’t brush off minor changes as simply being “tired” or “sleepy.” If they seem even the slightest “off” chances are they are.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a standard treatment for salt poisoning. Many veterinarians follow the same process as with water intoxication by administering IV fluids to help flush the system of excess salt and providing drugs to reduce swelling in the brain.
The complexity of salt poisoning is that lowering sodium levels too quickly could result in another issue like fluid in the brain. Typically treatment is extended over a 2-4 day process and depending on your dog’s condition supportive care at home may be necessary.
Once again, prevention is your best friend. Make sure he or she has access to fresh water, monitor that they aren’t drinking ocean water, avoid playing fetch within the ocean and take ample breaks from swimming.
Intestinal Sand Impaction
The biggest factor to intestinal sand impaction is play on the beach or sandy surfaces. Naturally your dog will consume a small amount of sand from either licking their paws or sniffing around the ground. Retrieving toys or objects thrown in water is the #1 culprit with this condition. Throw your dog’s favorite toy in the ocean and he or she will rush in after it and, in their excitement, swallow a mouthful of saltwater or sand. If your pup is a digger same goes for playing on sand!
With this condition, dogs tend to feel pain sometime after ingestion but not right away. Sand compacts in small areas so food and water will not be able to pass; the same goes for bowel movements. Once this becomes a problem the dog will show signs of illness quickly. Nausea, restlessness, pain when the stomach is touched, panting, loss of appetite and dehydration are all signs to look for.
If your dog exhibits any of these signs get him or her to your vet right away.
- Diagnostic tests such as X-rays will be done to determine the severity of the impaction.
- Fluid therapy will be administered as well as oil or synthetic sugar to help loosen sand.
- In extreme cases, surgical extraction will be performed.
Luckily dogs recover just fine from these types of surgeries but recovery is unpleasant as they will still have gritty sand in their bowel movements for a few weeks afterward! Keeping a close eye on your pet and limiting or avoiding all together direct play on the beach will keep your dog off the operating table and an unpleasant memory from your head!
Sunburn and hot paws
Everyone has experienced the uncomfortable and even painful feeling of sunburns. We’re all aware of the negative effects of UV rays on our skin and like us, our canine friends are just as susceptible, if not more, to getting sunburned. Skin cancers are a real possibility for our pups averaging around 30% of total skin tumors being caused by exposure to the sun.
While every dog can experience sunburns there are some that are more prone to them. Hairless breeds and dogs with white fur or thin hair are extremely sensitive to the sun. Dogs with skin conditions such as alopecia or dermatitis, dogs with scar tissue and those with short-cropped hair cuts as well. Regardless of breed or fur, every dog is at risk.
Areas to look out for are the nose, ears, belly, eyes and hind legs as the skin is more delicate and fur is thinner around these sections. Paws are also at great risk of burning on hot cement or asphalt. Blisters can form rapidly from contact with a hot surface so keep that in mind when taking a stroll outside!
**A rule of thumb is if the ground is too hot for your hand then it’s too hot for their paws.
Sunburns are quite noticeable to spot. Red skin, tender and hot to the touch, cracked and dry skin, blistering and as they are uncomfortable, your dog will show clear indications of discomfort and pain by vocalization or hiding.
Even if the burns appear minor it’s always great to have a professional examine your pup as a precaution since heat exhaustion can form from prolonged burns. A cold compress can be used at home to help relieve swelling and pain as well as cooling the skin.
If severe, your vet will administer fluid therapy to prevent or aid in correcting a dehydrated pet. Cortisone cream may be applied if the area is inflamed as well as a topical antibacterial to prevent infection.
Treatment for burnt paws and sunburns are the least invasive, however, could have a lifelong effect on your pet’s health with the potential of skin cancer forming later in their lives.
Luckily there are many measures you can take to help your pup avoid discomfort and health issues. A pet-safe sunscreen can be used when spending time outside, booties for their paws, doggy shirts and hats or avoidance of the sun all together on very hot days!
Prevention truly is the key to a safe and memorable summer with your best friend. Just as you would monitor and watch a child, the same is to be done with your pet. Ultimately, knowledge and knowing what to look for and what to avoid play a huge role in keeping them healthy and safe.
You and your pet can enjoy everything summer has to offer, no limitations! Just keep in mind certain things and always remember their bodies work a little differently than ours.
They always run a little hotter in temperature, they don’t sweat like we typically do, and they can’t apply their own sunscreen; nor serve themselves freshwater when their bodies tell them they need it!
At Canine Concierge we wish you a safe and happy summer!