Yes in fact there are, simply due to their humans’ lifestyle changes during nicer and warmer weather. If you spend some time and think of the activities that you do I’ll bet you can think of some that are not on my list. But reflecting back on the emergencies I have seen and been expected to fix, I will relate them to you as hazards.
During the summer we seem to do more traveling. This can be local, day trips, or long vacations. Dogs often go with us when we take trips or even run errands. Often we don’t think about it but more often than not the dog stays in the car when we are going inside. If it is warm outside (65F or over) do not take your dog. A dog left in a car on a hot day without enough airflow through the car is a real and life-threatening hazard for dogs. The temperature in a car, even with the windows cracked can rise to over 100F in less than 10 minutes. Dogs need the windows open at least ½ way to prevent overheating, cars should also be parked in the shade. This leads me to another hazard—dogs jumping out of cars. It is more of a hazard if the car is moving, but even if it is not dogs can get lost or hit by cars. If you are going to take your dog with you, make sure they have proper ID on them so that if they get lost they can be identified.
At the beach
Some dogs are good swimmers others are not. Some dogs are bird chasers and others are not. Some dogs eat beach debris others do not. Going to the beach is a hazard in and of itself but one of the most serious hazards is the ocean water. On the beach ocean water is the only water that dogs have to drink (unless the owners provide some). By drinking the beach water the dog ingests a lot of salt. As the dog runs around the beach it gets thirsty and drinks ocean water. The amount of salt in the water serves to dehydrate the dog rather than hydrate the dog. Also, at the beach there is deep and soft sand, often dogs are burning excess energy and they do this by running around. As dogs lives are sedate while we are at work, their bodies are not used to this much activity and they hurt themselves. Sore or sick dogs often end up at the veterinarian.
Around the house
Our houses are full of summer hazards for our dogs. We garden and use “killing chemicals” more during the summer: rat poisons, slug baits, snail baits, insecticides, fungicides, and antifreeze. All of these are sold freely and are TOXIC to your animals. Some of these kill quickly and others kill slowly, either way death of your pets is purely avoidable. If you buy something that is designed to kill a particular part of nature (slugs, snail, bugs) it will likely have more widespread effects including your pets. But dogs will eat lots of things including parts of BBQ grills that have cooked food on them, charcoal, discarded bones, garden ornaments, garden tools, or even children’s toys. These objects can serve as foreign bodies that require surgery to remove or act as poisons that require lengthy medical treatment to overcome.
Dogs will run behind anything to keep up with you and to be with you including cars and bikes. Neither one is a good idea. Dogs running behind cars on the beach, behind bikes on the riverfront, or anywhere near a riding lawnmower is a VERY bad idea. Dogs will literally kill themselves trying to keep up with you, and if you are in a car or on a bike you have no concept of how much effort they are putting out. Not that long ago, I had a dog brought into my clinic on emergency for cremation after it dropped dead trying to keep up with it’s owner on a bike. Even hiking or walking, it is important to allow your dogs to have frequent water breaks and cooling off rests. Please note that dogs cool themselves by panting and through the sweat glands on their feet. In order to do either, it requires a good supply of water in the dog’s body for it to be evaporated out. Pay particular attention to dogs over six years of age, as they often are becoming more fragile due to their age, they are more prone to overheating, exhaustion, traumatic injury, or other serious accidents with sudden exercise.
Dogs, especially white and thin haired dogs can succumb to sun related cancers, or sunburn. The areas that I most commonly see sun related trouble on dogs is their ears, nose, face, un-haired belly, back, buttocks, and feet. I guess depending on the dog; the sun could affect anywhere on the body. The answer is not necessarily to use sunscreen, because the active ingredients are often aspirin derivatives or heavy metal such as zinc. Even pet sunscreens contain these compounds. Be really careful with their use and wash it off when the sun danger is over. The answer is really to provide cool shelter or cool shade such that the dog can get out of the sun.
In our local area, there are at least two holidays that include fireworks: 4th of July and Regatta. Either way fireworks are very loud and often scary and overly stimulating for dogs. The local shelters are often fill with stray or lost dogs in the days after fireworks displays. Please keep your animals away from all fireworks (do not take them to displays), make sure your dogs and cats have good ID, keep dogs on leashes to prevent bolting, and if medication is needed please talk to your vet before you give anything including human medication.
As you can see the summer is full of potential hazards, and I have only really touched the surface. It is important when one has pets, to have enough money to have them treated in case of emergency. I recommend to my clients to have $1500 to $2000 stashed away in a pet bank account for emergencies. Often veterinary clinics do not bill their clients, so having money to help your pets is important.
Please use common sense with your animals this and every summer, with care and caution some tragedies can be avoided.
Dr. Dannell Davis
Astoria Animal Hospital