Summer Safety

This article appeared in the Bagpipes in August 2006.

While we are having fun and enjoying the summer, keep in mind the summer months are the most hazardous for our pets. You and your Beardies are probably spending more time outdoors during this season, and are exposed to high temperatures, insect infestations, abundant plant growth, toxic lawn and garden chemicals, swimming pools, lakes/ponds, and wildlife. All of which may increase the risk of injury or illness for your Beardie. The data below was compiled from pet insurance claims received for the year 2005. Note the increase of certain incidents in the summer months as compared to February.


Feb

Jun

Jul

Aug

Foreign Body, Any

20

25

85

83

Foreign Body, Eye

7

35

30

21

Foreign Body, Nasal

10

81

43

25

Foreign Body, Oral

13

27

22

19

Foreign Body, Foot

12

76

87

62

Burns

6

16

11

11

Insect Bite/Sting

68

207

256

311

Near Drowning

1

3

1

4

Heat Stroke

4

36

50

31

Ear Infections

3,629

4,285

4,578

4,756

Foreign bodies: Your Beardie’s coat is sure to trap a fair share of burrs, bugs, foxtails, and sticks as they romp through the tall grass and fields. Foxtails, a type of grass with sharp points, are very common in the dry summer months. The sharp points force the grass to move forward (not backward), allowing the foxtail to imbed in a paw, ear, eye, or nose. As a penetrating foreign body, the foxtail inevitably causes an infection. Get in the habit of checking your Beardie’s eyes, ears, nose, and paws on a daily basis.

Burns: Hot pavement, sand, or cement can be very painful on those Beardie paws; so avoid taking your walks during the hottest time of the day, usually between 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. In addition to burns on the paws, your Beardie is susceptible to sunburn, especially the areas not covered by dark skin or excessive fur. You may want to apply some sunscreen (at least SPF 15) to top of the muzzle if your dog will be spending a lot of time in the sun. Fawns and Beardies with a thinning coat are at greater risk.

Insect stings and bites: Insects of all shapes and sizes come out during the summer. Some of the more common offenders are bees, wasps, hornets, mosquitoes, spiders, fleas and ticks. If appropriate for your region, use a heartworm preventative and take prophylactic measures to avoid flea and tick infestations. There are many different products available. Do some research before you talk to your veterinarian and make an informed decision regarding the best treatment choice for your Beardie.

Near Drowning: Although relatively rare, cases of near drowning do increase in the summer months. Be sure to practice water safety. Never leave your pet unattended near a pool or at the beach. Be mindful that saltwater, jellyfish, sea lice, currents, and strong waves are some of the dangers encountered at the beach. If your Beardie is fortunate enough to have a pool, make sure there is an easy way for him or her to exit the pool when they become fatigued.

Hyperthermia (heat stroke): Heat can be deadly! Avoid strenuous activities during extremely hot times of the day and never leave your Beardie in a closed vehicle. During warm weather, the inside of your car can reach 120o F in a matter of minutes, even if you are parked in the shade. Early stages of heat stroke include: heavy panting, rapid breathing, excessive drooling, bright red tongue/gums, and difficulty maintaining balance. Advanced stages (requires immediate veterinarian care) include: gums that are white or blue, unwilling or unable to move, uncontrolled defecation or urination, difficult and/or noisy breathing, and shock. If your Beardie has early signs of heat stroke, cool them down by applying 70% isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol to their pads, or hose down the coat with cool water. When you immerse a Beardie in a tub, the water trapped in the hair will get warm next to the dog, and act as an insulator against the cool water, and cooling stops. If your dog is so heated that it is panting severely, only let it have a small amount of water. Water in the stomach will not cool your dog; however, you need to keep the mouth wet so panting is more effective. Once the body temp returns to normal (99.50-102oF), stop your cooling efforts.

Otitis Externa (ear infections): Ear infections are frequently caused by water getting trapped inside your Beardie’s ears after swimming or bathing. Yeast thrives in a dark, moist, warm environment. There are specific ear cleaning products you can use that will help dry the ear canal after water exposure or change the pH level to prevent recurring ear infections. Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation.

Just like us, wildlife is also more active in the summer months. Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) is carried by raccoons, skunks, foxes, otters, weasels, coyotes, wolves and mink. CVD is spread through the secretions and excretions of infected animals, usually in airborne particles that your Beardie can breathe in. The good news is the virus doesn’t survive long once it is outside the body. Rabies is similarly passed through secretions, but is usually the result of a bite from a rabid host. All mammals are capable of carrying rabies, but it is mostly found in bats, skunks, raccoons and foxes. If you live in a rural area and your Beardie is at risk for exposure, take the following precautions:

Besides being carriers of disease, skunks also have the potential to cause a rather odoriferous problem. If your Beardie gets “skunked”, do not bring the dog into your house if you can avoid it! As long as the skunk oil remains on the dog’s coat, the odor will remain in the air. Act as quickly as possible, before the skunk oil has a chance to saturate the coat. Below is a recipe for a very effective solution to mix and use after a “skunking”:

Mix all the ingredients together in a bucket and use immediately. Work the foaming mixture well into the coat and leave on for five minutes. Rinse with warm water and follow with your regular shampoo.

Summer is also a time people fertilize lawns and work in the gardens with chemicals. Most lawn and garden products are hazardous for your Beardie. Use caution when walking your dog on unfamiliar turf, since you may not be aware if chemicals are present. If you suspect that your pet has been exposed to a poison, it is important not to panic. While rapid response is important, panicking generally interferes with the process of helping. If possible, take 30 to 60 seconds to safely collect the material involved. Also bring any matter your pet may have vomited or chewed, and place in a zip-lock bag. In the event that you need to take your dog to your veterinarian, be sure to take these items with you. In addition, the ASPCA has an Animal Poison Control Center (APCC), and is your best resource for any animal poison-related emergency, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you think that your Beardie may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance call: (888) 426-4435. Be aware a $55 consultation fee may be applied to your credit card.

By the way, do you know who wears a coat and pants all summer? A Beardie, of course! Be safe and enjoy the rest of the summer.

Copyright © 2007 by Maryann Szalka. All Rights Reserved. Contact Maryann for reprint permission.