It’s summer time, which means we are outside more with our pets, leaving us and them susceptible to different health risks. An obvious risk is overheating, and should be avoided by keeping pets indoors with access to water during peak heat as well as out of cars FULL STOP (even with windows cracked or open, your dog is wearing a fur coat in essentially a car oven!) However there are some less known and equally hazardous hot weather pet risks to be aware of;
1) Skin cancer and sunburn: Yes, even animals can get sunburns! Usually animals are protected by their hair coat, however, white animals and sparsely haired individuals are particularly at risk. White cats or cats with white ear tips and noses are prone to sun burns and skin cancer (specifically squamous cell carcinomas) on their ear tips and faces. A common surgery is ear tip removals due to sunbathing susceptible kitties. So lather up those pink ears and noses with sunscreen this summer (and even winter!)
2) Burned paw pads: Asphalt can get extremely hot in summer months. So hot that paw pads, if exposed long enough, can suffer serious burns and excoriations, causing lameness and pain. Protect those little fuzzy toes and avoid walking pets on hot black surfaces!
3) Mosquito bite sensitivity and bee stings: Hot weather means more bugs. Curious pets sometimes chomp on buzzy insects, which leads to stung noses, mouths, and paws. Animals can have allergic reactions just like us, leading to facial swelling, vomiting, and anaphylaxis. If you notice any of these clinical signs, get Fido into the vet immediately for steroid and antihistamine treatment.
Another type of allergic reaction that isn’t quite as emergent is mosquito bite hypersensitivity-cats often come in with a history of swelling around the nose and face for the past week/month with small excoriations that look like multiple pin prick wounds.
4) Fleas, ticks and Lyme disease: With summer comes flea and tick infestations if we aren’t careful to give our pets preventative treatment. It’s not only important to keep these blood suckers out of your home, but it also protects Fluffy from tapeworms (transmitted via flea saliva) as well as Lyme disease (a bacterial disease from tick bites that commonly causes fever, lameness, and anorexia in pets, and much worse in humans!)
5) Water risks: Dogs love to dive into any disgusting puddle to cool off. This makes them susceptible to a potentially fatal bacterial disease transmitted via rat urine called leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is commonly found in stagnant bodies of water. That’s why it’s so important to vaccinate our pets YEARLY against the lepto strains in your area.
A less sinister issue with swimming is the increased occurrence of ear infections. Help reduce this risk by cleaning ears with a veterinary prescribed ear cleaner after Fido goes for his daily dip.
6) Sticks: We tend to spend more time outside with our furry friends when the weather is agreeable. A stick may be picked up by Fifi for a game of fetch. While this may seem like a good idea for play time, it can actually be dangerous. I’ve seen many mouth injuries due to a stick getting lodged into the gums, between teeth, or even breaking off at the back of the throat causing tracking abscesses causing pain and infection for months. Opt for pet-safe sturdy toys without sharp edges to throw for your four-legged friends.
Bufo toad toxicity: This hazard is very region specific. Bufo toads (Bufo marinus or the Cane toad) are commonly found in Central America but were introduced to the Southern United States. Florida is rife with them, especially in summer months. Dogs like to mouth or lick these toads. The mucus on the toad’s skin acts as a neurotoxin when in contact with an animal’s mucus membranes. Dogs will begin to seizure and continue to do so until death, or until the toxin is wiped from their gums with a wet cloth. (I mention Bufo toad toxicity because while interning in Miami I must have seen at least one of these cases every day during the summer!)