by Dr. Ashley Gray
After going on a long hike with my dog Louis recently, it finally hit me that the warm weather is here to stay! It has been in the steady 80-90’s now for a few weeks here in the Carolina’s, which means we are out & about more than ever. With the rise in temperatures comes the humidity, and it can be really tough on our dogs outside for extended periods of time. Louis is an athletic breed, but he does have a longer coat paired with black fur that can make him overheat quicker than average. I noticed about halfway through our hike that he was slowing down and panting much harder than the first mile. You may be thinking…hey, my dog can handle it just fine. I’m sure they can…sometimes, but heat stroke is a real life threatening issue with dogs, so it is important to be aware of it.
The best way for our dogs to expel heat is through panting. This can be very effective for most dogs, however, certain breeds have been bred for an appearance that sets them up for respiratory difficulty. You probably guessed I am referring to the “brachycephalic” dogs or bulldogs, pugs, etc. We have bred them for their cute wrinkly face, which in turn has caused these breeds to have a much more difficult time in warmer weather. Last summer was my first time as a veterinarian out in the real world. I saw at least a handful of English Bulldogs come in to our clinic with a temperature > 105°F. Unfortunately, none of them survived despite aggressive treatment in our ICU.
Heat stroke is due to the inability of our dogs to cool off, causing internal temperatures to rise. Once their internal temperature gets to a certain point, multiple organ dysfunction can occur.
Black, tarry stools
Rapid heart rate
Pinpoint areas of bleeding under the skin
If you have the ability to take their temperature, anything > 102.5°F is abnormal. If it is only mildly increased (102.5°F-103.5°F), you can try to cool your dog off by blowing fans on them or rinsing them with room temperature water (NEVER COLD WATER). If their temperature is >104°F or you notice multiple signs from the list above, it is in your pet’s best interest to see a veterinarian immediately.
How Do We Avoid Heat Stroke?
- Bring a bowl and plenty of water with you on extended walks or hikes. Offer it as often as their panting/activity level calls for.
- Let them rest in the shade in 10 minute intervals based on how strenuous the activity is on them.
- Consider shaving your dog’s hair-coat in summer if longer coated.
- Use a harness instead of a neck lead on longer walks.
- If you have a brachycephalic breed, decrease the time of your walks and pay close attention to how they are breathing. Minimize their exposure to the hottest part of the day by walking them in the early morning or late evening.
- If you own a brachycephalic breed, you can always see your regular veterinarian for advice or a consult as there are certain surgeries that can be performed on bulldogs, pugs, etc to help them breathe better, if indicated based on their anatomy.
Part of the fun of having a dog is enjoying the beautiful outdoors together! It is important to know that heat stroke can happen to your dog so we are mindful of it as the temperatures continue to rise.
Dr Jamie Laity
Monthly preventative products for parasites can be a source of much confusion for pet owners. What does my pet need? How often should I give it? Which products work best? These are a few of the many questions we hear on a daily basis.
Here’s the scoop:
In the south, parasites (both inside and outside the body) run rampant for dogs and cats. Heartworms are the focus of many of the monthly preventatives because these parasites can cause significant damage, but are very preventable! Heartworms are transmitted through mosquitos, and because we live in the south, heartworms are a real problem for our pets.
Both dogs AND cats can get heartworms, even the pets that stay indoors all the time. Heartworm preventatives should be given EVERY 30 days for maximum protection. If you forget a dose, the best thing to do is bring your pet in for a heartworm test.
Intestinal parasites are very common in our pets. Dogs and cats can become infected with intestinal worms through their everyday environment. Hookworms, roundworms, whipworms and tapeworms are among the most common intestinal parasites we see. These worms can cause various problems including diarrhea, weight loss, and anemia. Like heartworms, intestinal parasites are preventable. We recommend that each pet has a fecal once a year to check for internal parasites.
What about those nasty fleas and ticks? External parasites are not only ugly to look at, but can also transmit dangerous diseases to your pets. Fleas can result in tapeworm infections and ticks can harbor a whole host of organisms that cause serious illnesses in pets. The tricky part with flea infestations is that only 5% of the fleas are actually on your pet. The remaining 95% of the population is buried in deep carpet, couches, and rugs. If you are noticing fleas on your pet, monthly preventatives will help, but they won’t eliminate the problem. Vacuuming daily will help remove eggs and larvae from the environment. With severe infestations, professional exterminators may be necessary.
So what products should I use?
There are many different products on the market that do a great job preventing these harmful parasites. At Animal Medical Hospital, we recommend Sentinel combined with Vectra 3D each month for dogs. Sentinel is an oral tablet that prevents heartworms and intestinal parasites and acts like a “flea birth control.” It does not kill adult fleas, but makes fleas sterile, which helps with population control. Vectra 3D is a topical liquid that kills adult fleas, kills and repels mosquitos and ticks. Vectra 3D also has the advantage of being waterproof. Both of these products in combination will protect your dog for 30 days. For cats, we recommend Revolution, which is a topical product that prevents heartworms, fleas, intestinal parasites and ear mites for 30 days.
Dr Bridget Andersen
There are numerous toxins in a typical household to which our pets could become exposed. Toxic substances range from obvious hazards such as rat poison, to seemingly benign substances such as over the counter flea medications and raisins. It is impossible to remember all of the potentially harmful household items, but there a few key facts that every pet owner should know.
EXPOSURE TO TOXINS? NOW WHAT?:
- Whenever a pet has been exposed to a potentially harmful substance but seems normal, call a poison control hotline for advice. Animal Medical Hospital recommends the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline at (888) 426-4435. Note: this service is included in the HomeAgain membership. This organization has the most accurate and expansive database of toxins, and they will be able to calculate the toxic dose your pet received and advise whether or not your pet needs to be treated.
- If your pet is already showing signs of illness, bring him/her into the hospital and we can call the Poison Control Hotline once your pet arrives. There is a fee for the hotline’s services but it is well worth your while and may prevent an emergency visit to the hospital.
- If possible, have the product label available during the phone conversation so that you can provide information as to the product ingredients, concentration, and quantity.
- Also, bring the container/product label to the veterinary hospital – including the quantity spilled and vomited.
If your pet has had a topical exposure to a toxic substance (over the counter flea medication, household cleaners, 100% tea tree oil, antifreeze, etc) wash your pet immediately with mild dish detergent and copious amounts of water. It is best to wear gloves in case the product is toxic to humans as well. For powders, vacuuming the pet’s fur prior to bathing is ideal. For eye exposure, immediately flush the eyes with water, or ideally saline solution prepared for eyes. Then follow up with a phone call to Poison Control or Animal Medical Hospital.
For ingestion of a potentially toxic substance it is best to seek advice prior to treatment. If the substance is deemed non-caustic and the ingestion has occurred within the hour, it may be recommended to induce vomiting. This is best performed at a veterinary facility with an intravenous injection because the injection is less irritating to the stomach lining than oral induction. However, if unable to bring your pet to the hospital, vomiting can be induced at home using FRESH 3% hydrogen peroxide. Feeding a small amount of dog food or bread prior to induction of vomiting is commonly recommended. It is helpful to keep a turkey baster, bulb syringe, or large medicine syringe on hand in order to administer the hydrogen peroxide.
INGESTION OF CAUSTIC SUBSTANCES:
It is extremely important to contact your veterinarian or Poison control center prior to induction of vomiting because vomiting is contraindicated when the ingested material is caustic. Caustic items are corrosive and cause mild irritation to necrosis/sloughing of the mucosal tissue of the mouth and esophagus. Common caustic household items are alkalis (in cleaning products), turpentine, and petroleum products. In these cases it is best to dilute the toxin by giving milk or water and head to the emergency facility immediately.
The list of toxic substances is very long and is often time dose dependent. For complete lists of toxic substances, please go to www.ASPCA.org.
Neutering is a sterile surgical procedure that involves removing both testicles from a male pet. Spaying refers to the operation where the ovaries and uterine horns are surgically removed from a female pet. It is recommended to spay and neuter your pets between 5 and 8 months of age, before they reach sexual maturity. This is for both medical and behavioral reasons. The only reason not to spay or neuter is if you are going to breed or show your pet.
For male pets, there are several medical reasons for neutering. The first is to eliminate the risk for testicular cancer, which is the 2nd most common cancer in unneutered male dogs. If the testicles are removed, they can’t get cancer there. Neutering reduces the risk for prostate cancer and prostatitis, and reduces the risks of diseases associated with hormones such as testosterone. As for behavior- there will be a decrease in the need for roaming as your dog will not have the urge to reproduce, as well as decreased aggression. It also decreases the urge to “mark” their territory, so inappropriate urination is less likely to be an issue.
There are medical and behavioral advantages to spaying your female pets as well. Medical reasons include the eliminating the possibility of false pregnancy, uterine infections known as pyometras, decreasing the risk of breast cancer and eliminating the chances of uterine and ovarian cancer. As with males, behavioral benefits include reduced aggression and other undesirable behaviors such as inappropriate elimination.
There are serious medical complications and behavioral issues that can arise from not spaying and neutering your pets, as outlined above. In addition to these, you will be preventing the risk of unplanned pregnancies. If you take away the urge to reproduce, they will be much more suitable as pets because they will no longer have to answer the “call of the wild.”
It is tempting to reach in the medicine cabinet when our pets are not feeling well, but this can ultimately result in more harm than good. Many over the counter medications that are safe for use in people are toxic to dogs and cats. Even those medications that are safe for use in dogs and cats are not safe at the same dosages as those used in people.
Tylenol for instance is extremely toxic to cats and dogs and can lead to kidney failure as well as severe bleeding ulcers. It should never be used. Neither should Aleve as it can cause similar problems. Even milder forms of pain relievers such as aspirin can cause these signs at the human dosages listed on the bottles. In addition, aspirin can be extremely dangerous if given with other forms of medications such as steroids and anti-inflammatories dispensed from your veterinarian.
Antihistamines dispensed over the counter often have additional drugs in them for decongestion or to prevent drowsiness in people. These extra ingredients can cause dangerous heart arrhythmias in pets. Even something as mild as vitamin supplements often contains concentrations of certain ingredients that can be harmful to pets. For these reasons it is always advisable to consult your veterinarian before administering ANY over the counter medication to your pet.