Greensboro was fortunate this spring because we had moderate temperatures. Now we are in to full blown summer heat and the risk of life threatening heat stroke is very real. Most people are familiar with the heat stroke that happens when animals and children are left in hot cars. Animals, in particular dogs are at greater risk of heat stroke all summer long. Dogs for the most part do not sweat. They dissipate heat by panting. When their internal temperature increases to the point they cannot keep up with cooling via panting they get in trouble fast. Combine their fur coat, high internal temperature and a heat and humidity index and your dog could be in serious trouble before you realize it. The chart below is provided by the State Climate Office of North Carolina. You can see that as humidity rises the heat index makes ambient temperature much hotter than what registers on thermometers outdoors. Your dog’s normal temperature is between 100 degrees F and 102.5 F on any normal day. Even on a 10 minute walk a dog can develop dangerous heat stroke because of the heat and humidity index and their already higher body temperature, fur insulation and poor ability to self cool.
To prevent heat stroke make sure your animals are acclimated to the temperature outside. If they have been in air conditioning for days they will not be able to cope with suddenly being left outside. If they must be outside, slowly increase the time they spend outside making sure that they have access to good shade and fresh water at all times. If your dog shows signs of heat stroke (heavy uncontrolled panting, red mouth and tongue, staggering or collapse) or you know your animal was overheated accidentally you must seek emergency veterinary care immediately. Heat stroke can lead to seizures, organ damage and death. Spray them down with cool water and get them to your veterinarian or an emergency veterinary hospital immediately.
In this area Copperheads are the snakes to be concerned about. If your dog or cat is the curious type prone to poking at things with their noses and paws it is important that you supervise them when they have access to bushes, high grass, leaf piles, under house or porch spaces. Controlled leash walking is the safest way to try and avoid a snake bite. Having said that when temperature and ground water changes snakes will be on the move and you could even come across one on any of our local greenways. If you see your pet get bitten/struck by a snake, seek emergency veterinary care immediately. The faster supportive care is initiated the better the outcome. If you suspect a snake bite but didn’t witness it and are not sure when it occurred you should still see immediate veterinary care. Snake bites are always painful. Your pet may not cry out, but their paw or face/ area bitten will swell and be painful to touch. If you notice that your cat or dog is limping or they have a swollen face or foot when they come in from outside there is a good chance they were bitten by a Copperhead. If your pet will allow it, clean the area with soap and water and then seek veterinary care as soon as possible. Snake bites can be mild, moderate or severe depending upon how much venom was pumped into your pet at the time of the strike. Sometimes we get lucky and it’s a dry strike, so there will be a puncture wound with no venom. Dry strikes heal well and usually only require wound cleaning and oral antibiotics. Venomous strikes can be life threatening and depending on how much venom was injected a dog or cat can become very sick and require hospitalization and follow up treatments.
Fireworks and Thunderstorms- noise phobias
Many dogs are noise phobic especially during thunderstorms and fireworks. Frightened dogs are more likely to accidentally bite someone or injure themselves trying to get away from the noise. There have been cases of dogs crashing through glass windows, jumping from higher stories, breaking their teeth trying to chew their way out of confinement or breaking their toenails trying to dig their way out. Many times if they do get out they dart out into traffic and get hit or run far away from home and become lost.
Plan ahead for your pet. If thunderstorms are forecast take measures before they roll in and start booming. Talk with your veterinarian about treatments for noise phobias. There are oral medications, phermones and counter conditioning techniques that can help prevent a pet from becoming too overwhelmed and frightened. July 3rd, 4th and 5th and if you live near The Grasshoppers stadium fireworks will be booming throughout the summer. Just like with thunderstorm phobias, planning ahead and having medication at the ready or already on board as well as learning techniques to help calm your pet work best. Once they are in full panic mode from noise phobia is it harder to get them to calm down.
Glow Sticks and Glow in the Dark Jewelry
These are popular all summer long and although they are not deadly, chewing on them can cause severe irritation to the lining of a mouth. Cats seem particularly fascinated with chewing on these glow toys. It can cause severe salivation and burning/blistering of the mouth. Keep all glow sticks and jewelry away from pets and babies to prevent this painful injury. Exposure is treated with rinsing of the mouth and supportive care, but prevention is best.
Fleas and Ticks
Here in the Piedmont we have a year round flea problem and a significant tick problem April through November. Fleas and ticks carry diseases that can infect cats, dogs and people. Some of these infections can compromise quality of life, cause organ damage and event shorten life expectancy. Prevention is critical. There are safe effective flea and tick prevention products on the market. We can make recommendations that fit your pet’s life style and risk.