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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Summer Hazards: what every dog owner should know

July 7, 2010 ~10 AM. Outside the temp was nearly 90 degrees, but
the inside  of my car read 110 degrees!

For more information on the below hazards, click on the heading of each subject that has an *asterisk and a page will open to another site with more information.


Given this last week of brutal temperatures reaching 105 in some spots, namely my back porch, that would be first & foremost of the list of summer hazards on my list. Never, ever, put your pooch in a car on a hot day no matter how much those sad eyes beg you. You know, the look that says, “How can you possibly even consider leaving me behind?”

According to the national Highway Traffic Safety Administration “A locked car in the summer sun can climb from 78 degrees to 100 degrees in just 3 minutes and to 125 degrees in 6 to 8 minutes.”

Something that most people do not think about is that their car windows act as heat holding sources, sort of like a magnifier glass, even tinted glass. We have all done this experiment as kids, you know, placing your eye glasses over a dry leaf in direct sunlight to start a  fire? Oh, okay, maybe I was the only sicko that did this because matches were not readily available to me, but you get the idea! So, no excuses, even if you think you are only going to be a minute in a store or friend’s house, as even a minute, in such an oven can kill your dog. Don’t believe me? Stick your head in a hot oven!

Most normal people keep an outdoor thermometer outdoors on the patio or on the side of the house. Not me! Well I do, but I also keep a thermometer in my car so I know the actual temperature in which I am about to place my dog in. Leaving the window open a crack is not going to cool the car down at all. Again, if don’t believe me, put yourself in your car, turn it off, crack the window just a wee bit because let’s face it, we all know you would only crack a window just wide enough for the dog’s nose but closed enough to deter intruders. Sit in there for as long as you think you might be in a store. Keep track of the time and check the car thermometer you just bought because of this blog, and see how quickly the red line on the thermometer sky rockets!

As a therapy dog owner, I put the kibosh on any therapy visit that is more than five minutes from my home in the heat of the day. Granted, my dogs have an extremely thick coat and my car’s AC is not the best, but if my dog’s coat were thinner and the AC worked to full capacity, I still would not take the chance unless I knew for sure what  the temperature of the car was before putting the dog in there. If you really feel you must make that visit, take two sets of car keys with you so you can leave your car running and the AC on while you do your visit and lock the doors with the other set of keys.
Is it going to prevent a thief from breaking the window and stealing your car? No! But I don’t know many thieves that hang out at nursing home parking lots either!

Always ask yourself this before you put the dog in the car , Is it worth the risk?

I mention these every year and you should know the warning signs and what to do. If it’s too hot for your human child to continue to partake in activities on a hot day, it is even hotter for your dog. Don’t think swimming in a cool lake or pool will make a difference as it is still strenuous activity that can impact your dog’s physical being.

When a dog is already overheated keeping him submerged in a body of water (such as a tub) only drives the body temperature up because the heat from the body begins to warm the water around it, thus it is further keeping more heat against the dog. So if heat stroke arises, rinse the dog off with a bucket of cool water, and check the temperature every three minutes until it starts to drop (to 103 F) then 'stop' cooling efforts. If you were to continue the cooling, the temp may drop to a hypothermia temperature.

 If you are out at a picnic, please pack a cooler with a cold damp towel in it for your dog.  If you think the dog is showing signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke lay the cool towel over the dogs belly , moving it around often, to bring down the body temperature and head for the nearest vet office.

Hot blacktop

Hot asphalt or hot sand should always be kept in mind and booties are something one should think about if they walk a lot with their dog. You never know when you are going to come upon either of these hot surfaces and engage in pleasant conversation with a friend or neighbor. Don’t think it’s hot? Take your shoes off and stand on it for a while! A dog’s paw pads are like the shock absorber's in your car which work each time the dog puts its paw down on the ground. This pressure makes the pad spread to absorb the shock. If your dog gets a cut, blister, boil, etc. on the pad, it can take months to heal because each time the dog takes a step, the pad spreads, thus reopening the wound.   Muttluk booties have been rated one of the best as far a consumer satisfaction.

OMG! This sweet smelling and tasting chemical can kill your dog with one lick. Check often under your car to make sure there are no leaks. If your dog roams free then you will also have to worry about your neighbor who is a hobby mechanic as well!

                                                                    Spoiled food

Summertime brings with it many back yard Bar~B~Q’s and unfortunately not everyone has their garbage picked up more than once a week. As well, many people in today's society compost, but not all abide by the proper rules of composting. If your dog gets into food that’s been in the heat for a while you know the food is spoiled. This can cause *garbage toxicosis (AKA garbage gut) and if the food is not yet spoiled but fatty, then * pancreatitis becomes a concern. As well any type of bone can cause an obstruction of the bowel.

                                                                   *Planting flowers

Before you pick the pretty purples, pinks, yellows, and reds, know which are toxic to dogs, and again if your dog roams, your neighbor may have toxic plants in their garden as well so know the possible signs of toxicity. Keep the poison control hotline for pets handy on the fridge. Believe it or not, your Vet does not deal with this everyday and does not always know what plants are toxic.
Poison control hot line (888) 426-4435. A $65 consultation fee may be applied to your credit card.
                                                          Water hazards: Drownings

* Read my beach blog from April 25, 2010 for beach safety.
Pools: I cannot  stress enough that not every dog knows how to swim and I don’t understand why John Q public believes their dog can swim just because it is a dog! Yes, there are some dogs that take to water like a drunkard takes to beer, but there are those that do not and struggle in water until exhaustion over takes them and they drown. Generally it is the exhaustion from the panic that usually claims their lives. I have Newfoundland’s, which are bred and used for water rescue, but when I first brought them into my pool they had no clue what to do, other than to panic because their feet were not touching land and they had not yet been taught how to get out. Imagine any living creature panicking in a pool of water with no knowledge of how to get out! Fear creates panic and panic creates death. If you don’t believe me, plop yourself in the middle of the ocean with no soul in sight and see how long it takes for panic to set in!
So if you have a backyard pool, block it off from your dog until it is taught how to get in and out safely and don’t leave him there unattended. Unfortunately curious puppies are most vulnerable to this. A good investment  would be a life jacket for your pooch.

Click here for How to help a drowned dog  (and other first aid tips)


Mosquitoes really flourish in warm stagnant water so empty all buckets or shallow sources of water. Mosquitoes cause heartworm disease in dogs so make sure your dog is on a preventative if possible. I know the preventative is expensive but in the long run it’s cheaper to prevent than the treatment they’ll need if they get heartworm. Please don’t think because you keep the dog inside most of the time that it will be free from mosquitoes. These buggers can breed in damp basements or crawl spaces.

                                                           *Ticks and *Fleas

Ticks and fleas flourish mostly in tall grasses or damp places but that’s not to say that a rabbit can’t hop into your yard and leave a tick deposit on your finely manicured short lawn. Ticks carry many diseases and fleas can get so bad they can cause anemia in dogs.

                                          * Allergic reactions to bug stings and bites

If your dog’s cheeks or lips start to swell taking on the appearance of Louis Armstrong, it is advised you have Benadryl at the ready. Any breathing difficulty should receive immediate Vet attention.
Keep Benadryl in your purse or car for just such occasions. *Benadryl is usually dispensed for dogs at 1-2 mg per pound of body weight and usually come in packages marked 25 or 50 mgs. Be sure it is *Benadryl allergy and not the allergy /sinus.

                                                                       * Skunked!

Most of us think about the horrible smell our dogs will carry with them for a long while once they have been skunked, but did you know that a direct hit can cause a more serious problem? Anemia in dogs has been caused by taking a hit from a spraying skunk.  So if you see signs of lethargy, weakness, or discolored urine, seek vet care.
                                    homemade skunk bath for your dog

1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide
¼ cup baking soda
1-2 teaspoons detergent such as softsoap or Ivory liquid

If you have a gigantic dog like mine, add a quart of tepid water to the mix to cover dog fully. Let stand on the dog for 5 to ten minutes rinse and repeat. Don’t however keep such a mixture for the future. Just like the hair dye you put on your head, the container could get a buildup of gasses and explode after a certain amount of time.


Once fertilizer is spread on  lawns it much less toxic, but when it is eaten or inhaled directly from the bag then it becomes a real problem. Insecticides to kill bugs as a general rule should be thought toxic and it is best to call your poison control center if there is any uncertainty. Remember your Vet may not deal with such poisonings on a daily basis. Always have the package handy when possible to let poison control know the contents and do not induce vomiting unless told to, as bringing a toxic item back up can do even more harm than it did going down.
                                                                       *Toad toxicity

Oh yeah, that fun little creature that dogs love to chase! Some can leave you dog with only a bad taste in the mouth, much drooling  and lip smacking but there are toads that are very toxic to dogs in the USA so I thought this should also be included in this blog. The Colorado River Toad and the Giant Toad (or marine toad) are two such toads that you would want to seek emergency help for if your dog got a hold of one.  The Colorado toad can be found  from Arizona to Southern California and the giant toad can  be found in Texas and Florida.   Breathing difficulty, seizures, fever, collapse, & vomiting are just some of the symptoms to watch for.

Okay, this was a lot of info to take in and I’m sure there are some things I am missing so if you think of something else please post. Include sites for further reading if necessary.

Well, until fall, keep cool and let the dog's tail be your fan!

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