As people get out and about more in the warmer months, so do their pets. Pet owners often like to take their dogs to parks, lakes and even on road trips. While this can be fun for the whole family, it’s also important to be aware of issues that can arise when spending so much time in the great outdoors.
“There's a lot more recreation with pets,” says Dr. Adam Stone, co-owner and medical director of Bend Animal Emergency and Specialty Center. He explains this can lead to lameness injuries, dogs getting impaled with fish hooks, and bite wounds since they’re frequently around many other dogs at various public areas.
Heat can also bring on respiratory problems, especially in some breeds. “Brachycephalic animals, which are dogs with the squished faces such as bulldogs, tend to be much more susceptible to the consequences of heat shock or heat exhaustion,” he says. “They can get swelling in their larynx which can cause difficulty breathing. But, being in high temperatures for too long can be really disastrous for any dog. We have dry heat in Central Oregon and sometimes it doesn't feel quite as hot as it really is.” Particularly in vehicles, it can get really hot very fast, so never leave a pet in a car.
Burns to the paws are also quite common in the summer months. “We have a lot of sun, and even in the woods and on the trails where they're not on asphalt, the dirt is a lot sandier and holds a lot more heat,” notes Stone. “If you add in running, even on a trail, that combination of abrasion and heat can cause severe paws problems.”
When it gets very hot, Dr. Stone suggests choosing alternate ways to have fun with your pet. Swimming is a great outdoor activity, but it’s important to be aware of the possibility of blue-green algae. “It can be hard to detect just by looking at the water,” he says. “It’s more of an issue during the hottest and driest part of the summer with smaller lakes and ponds which have very still and shallow water that promotes the growth of this algae that can be extremely toxic to family pets.”
Another problem is the increased frequency of wild fires, where smoke can drift for many miles and exacerbate respiratory conditions or breathing issues. “It's not just the smoke causing the irritation, but the particulates from different types of allergenic trees and plants as well,” Dr. Stone explains. “Those allergens are now being delivered straight into the respiratory tract.” Dogs can develop difficulty breathing, a cough and itchy red eyes if outside too long.
Cheat grass, which has pronged seeds, is another huge problem for animals. These seeds often get stuck in ears, noses, mouths and throats. These can cause sneezing, coughing and gagging.
Last, but not least, are fleas and ticks, which can cause serious health problems. Dr. Stone says many of his clients do not realize that these pests are a real issue in Bend. However, he sees many dogs with tapeworm from eating fleas, as well as tickborne illnesses.
If traveling with your pets, Dr. Stone recommends an exam, including blood work, before leaving and refilling any medications, including those for anxiety or nausea related to motion.
Bend Animal Emergency and Specialty Center has six emergency doctors with a combined almost 50 years of emergency and critical care experience. “Communication is very important to us,” explains Dr. Stone. “We have the ability to spend more time with our clients, making sure that they understand and feel good about the medical decisions they're making.”
Summer safety tips for pets:
Heat and paw protection – Limit time outdoors, especially when walking or running with your dog.
Avoid blue green algae – Bring dogs to larger lakes where water is deeper and cooler.
Flea and tick prevention – Use oral medication or drops to prevent flea and tick-borne illnesses.
Cooler Options - When very hot, find alternative, cooler ways to have a good time with your pet.
Bend Animal Emergency and Specialty Center
“Becoming a veterinarian was a moral decision for me,” says Dr. Stone. “I just felt like I owed something to the planet and with my interests and my abilities, being an animal doctor would be the best option.”
The practice, he explains, is focused on helping the Bend community. “We work with several nonprofits such as the Companion Animal Medical Project and Think Wild.”