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Ask the Vet: Watch out for summer hazards

Original post made by Dr. Kristel Weaver, San Ramon, on Aug 23, 2013

I love summertime for the long days, barbecues, vacation and hikes with our dogs. In the veterinary hospital our caseload shifts with each season. Here are my top 10 summer hazards, starting with the most frequent:

1. Foxtails - Every day in the summer we remove foxtails, a weed rampant in California with seeds that look like a fox's tail. The tip of each seed has barbs, allowing it to move only deeper into your pet's eyes, ears, nose, feet, genitals and coat. Foxtails cause a lot of discomfort to dogs and cats and can even migrate internally, potentially causing organ damage and severe illness. Check your dog's feet and coat for foxtails after a hike. If you think your dog or cat has a foxtail that you cannot remove at home, take them to your veterinarian as soon as possible to reduce the risk of the foxtail migrating deeper.

2. Allergies - Many dogs and cats have allergies to airborne agents such as molds, pollens and dust. While some suffer year round, many are more affected between the spring and fall. Allergies are a chronic problem but we have a variety of treatments to keep them under control. Watch out for chewing or licking of the feet and legs, scratching in the armpits or groin, and scratching and shaking the ears. Skin and ear infections are commonly seen in our pets with allergies.

3. Fleas - In the East Bay we have fleas year round but they are worse in the summer. Successful flea control involves eliminating fleas from your pet and controlling fleas in the environment. If any of your pets go outside, you should treat ALL the pets in your household. Talk to your veterinarian about what products are best for your pets.

4. Rattlesnake bites - Rattlesnakes hibernate during cold weather and are active March through September. Dogs encounter snakes when hiking or playing in the snake's natural habitat. The rattlesnake bite causes significant swelling and blood loss, and impairs the ability of blood to clot. Most bites occur on the face or extremities. Facial bites are often more lethal as the swelling may block the airway. If a rattlesnake bites your pet seek medical care immediately.

5. Heatstroke - Every summer we see dogs with heatstroke. Heatstroke results from significantly elevated body temperature, causing multiple organ failure and potentially death, even with aggressive treatment. A dog with heatstroke will typically pant rapidly, drool, vomit and become weak or mentally unresponsive. Dogs do not sweat the way we do. They cool themselves by evaporating water in their airways through panting. Dogs with shorter noses (e.g., pugs, bulldogs, chows) cannot cool themselves as effectively as other breeds and are more susceptible to heatstroke. High humidity also makes it more difficult for dogs to cool themselves. In hot weather it is best to keep your dogs inside and only exercise them in the cooler hours of early morning or late evening.

==B Read the rest of Dr. Weaver's summer hazards next week in the San Ramon Express.==


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