Dog Days of Summer

Bozeman is certainly a dog town, and summer is when we have more outdoor adventures with our favorite sidekicks. But there’s a fine line between letting our dogs have a life and not letting them injure themselves too badly or frequently. Being able to avoid or treat some of these common canine medical issues can help you maximize the time spent outside with your dog this summer.

Probably the most important aspect of summer outdoor health for dogs is avoiding heat injuries. Dogs do not deal as efficiently with warm weather as we do. Intense activity and temperatures should dictate appropriate work/rest cycles. Working an animal for 15 minutes and resting for 30 minutes is reasonable for hard activity during extremely warm weather (over 90 degrees). Focusing activity during the cooler parts of the day limits the risk for a heat injury.

Grooming can help your dog deal with body heat more effectively. Woolly dogs definitely benefit from shorter hair coats, but regular Labrador and shepherd-type dogs should not be shaved completely. Their normal coats actually act as barriers to sun and heat. Shaving the underbelly, armpits, and inner thighs over major blood vessels is a nice compromise to giving your dog the full-body equivalent of a crew cut.

For extremely demanding athletic situations, give fluids prior to activity or during recovery. Administration kits are pretty simple and are something your veterinarian can train you to use.

Torn toenails, ripped pads, and skin lacerations are all common injuries to dogs running hard outside. Cleaning out the wound, stopping bleeding, and applying a bandage is the proper sequence for most wounds. If you can see meat, the wound probably needs veterinary care and stitches. If you are out in the deep woods, it pays to know how to close a wound temporarily. Though duct tape and superglue are not bad for minor cuts and scrapes, more extensive first aid kits (some include skin staplers) and training are useful for more severe injuries.

Dogs can suffer from many of the same reactions to insects and plants that people can. Symptoms can range from mild sneezing and hives to swollen faces and compromised airways. Benadryl is a simple medication to have in a kit, and most dogs tolerate it very well.

Snakebites are a different story. The best option is to avoid rattlesnake country, but should a bite occur, get your dog to the vet ASAP.

Spencer Anderson owns Baxter Creek Veterinary Clinic in Bozeman. He has unique experience working with the U.S. Army and with military working dogs.