Keeping your pets safe this season
Summer is finally here, and with it comes more time outdoors for us and our four-legged friends. Veterinarians see more patients with activity-induced injuries this season than any other. As the weather becomes progressively warmer, make sure you head off potential problems before heading out with your dog. Aside from the obvious things to avoid—leaving your dog in a parked car, overly strenuous exercise on hot days, etc.—there are other, lesser-known issues you may encounter, so be prepared.
Having the friends over for a barbecue? Consider keeping your dog inside. Fido can’t resist the temptation of tasty barbecue and will often help himself to unattended plates or give your guests “the eyes,” convincing them to share their food. Ingesting large quantities of fatty meat can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, or pancreatitis. In addition, ingestion of cooked bones can lead to obstruction or even worse, perforation of the intestines. Both conditions require surgery and can be life-threatening. If you want your dog to participate in the festivities, keep a close eye on him the entire time.
Grass seed can cause problems during the summer months. These sharp seeds get stuck in fur and actually cause abrasions to the skin, or lead to ruptured eardrums if caught in the ear. Keep your dog’s hair short and give him a head-to-toe brushing after playing in tall grass. If your dog begins shaking his head, it’s worth a trip to the veterinarian to examine for grass awns.
Speaking of ears, frequent swimming can lead to ear infections. Moisture in the ear allows bacteria and yeast to proliferate. Clean often to help keep infections at bay.
Fleas, ticks, and other insects come out to play in the heat, too. There are numerous insecticide products available from your veterinarian; you can also use more natural products to deter these creatures from pestering your dog—geranium, juniper, rosewood, thyme, grapefruit, and myrrh all contain essential oils known to repel insects. Some animals won’t tolerate the smell of certain oils, so be sure to test them with your pet before applying. Essential oil products don’t last as long as insecticides, and will need frequent application. Make your own spray using one gallon of distilled water with one to four drops of the oil, or visit a local pet store for flea- and tick-prevention products. As an added bonus, you’ll get the benefit of a nice-smelling pooch. Remember that many essential oils are toxic to cats, so contact your veterinarian before using on a cat, and use caution when applying the oils around your pet’s eyes.
Jane Mittelsteadt is a veterinarian and has owned 360 Pet Medical in Bozeman since 2009.