The dog days of summer are the prime time to get your dogs outdoors and enjoy what nature has to offer. But dogs don't have an efficient method of handling excess heat, so it's important for pet parents to keep a close eye on their furry friends for signs of heat exhaustion, says Dr. Nina Mantione, staff veterinarian at Petplan.
Look for drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, or changes in breathing. "If your dog is showing signs of serious distress from heat, it's best to cool him off immediately with cool or tepid water," she said. "Most dogs won't drink water at this stage, and it's best not to waste time trying to get them to. Instead, get them to the vet as quickly as possible."
Remember that short-faced breeds like bulldogs are particularly sensitive to the heat, so special care should be taken to keep these pets cool, Mantione says.
That's right: Dogs can get scorched under the summer sun just like their human parents, especially dogs with short, white coats, light-colored skin or sparse tummy fur or dogs that get summer haircuts, Mantione says.
"They can also develop sun-induced skin cancers, similar to what we know happens in people," she says. "To keep pets protected, you can apply an SPF 40 to 45 sunscreen to the bridge of the nose, ear tips, belly, skin surrounding the lips and any area where pigmentation is low."
Have a dog with skin allergies? Sunscreens formulated for kids or sports tend to have less perfume, which may help reduce an allergic reaction, Mantione says. But check with your vet before applying, just to be safe.
Keep an eye out for dangerous plants, advises Dr. Louise Murray, vice president of the ASPCA's Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital. Some mushrooms, flowers and other flora are highly poisonous to dogs if eaten.
"Foxtails can cause trouble, too," she notes. "These sharp, spiky grass seed heads, found in California and other western states, can get lodged in a dog's skin, nose, ears or eyes."
Over time, they may migrate further into a dog's body, making it virtually impossible to remove them. If eaten, foxtails can cause retching and gagging. If your dog ingests something, gather a sample of it and call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center or your veterinarian for help, Murray advises.
There are some tiny creatures out there that can cause significant pain for dogs, such as black widow spiders. "Dogs will usually show signs of their discomfort by whining or howling persistently," Mantione says. In some severe cases, the bite can be fatal or lead to paralysis. Pet owners should also watch out for brown recluse spiders, which produce bites that can take several months to heal, and insect stings, which can cause facial swelling, hives and itchiness. Some dogs have more serious reactions, such as vomiting and weakness.
"It's important to get the dog to emergency care as soon as possible," Mantione advises. "Without prompt medical attention, anaphylactic shock is almost always life-threatening."
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