by Ashley Peters, DVM
Summer can be a fun time in Chicago to spend with your pets, but we and Wags-a-Lot Dog Walking want to make sure you can both enjoy it safely. Here are a few things to keep in mind while enjoying the sunshine.
What summer safety tips do you have for city dogs? What issues pop up in your practice this time of year that could be prevented?
Dog Parks: We see a lot of people spending more time with their pets at the dog park or beaches. Although these areas can allow exercise, playtime, and socialization, a lot of accidents, dog fights, and wounds can occur. Make sure to monitor your dog closely and to leave if you’re noticing unwanted behavior either exhibited by or to your dog. If you have a very small or fragile dog, try to avoid parks where there are a lot of larger dogs playing. Lastly, before you let your dog off-leash, make sure you have worked on some basic obedience, so if a problem does occur, your dog will listen and quickly respond to you.
Diseases: With many dogs out and about and interacting with each other, we see a surge in upper respiratory diseases such as kennel cough and canine influenza as well as other infectious disease including leptospirosis (a bacterial infection spread in wildlife/rodent urine and water sources), lyme disease, giardia, and gastrointestinal parasites. A proactive approach to such harmful diseases would be to make sure your pet is up to date on vaccinations, heart worm prevention, and flea/tick prevention.
Heat Stroke: One of the biggest issues we see this time of year in Chicago is heat stroke. When our dogs’ body temperature reaches a certain point, a number of harmful side effects can be life threatening. Signs of heatstroke include excessive panting, difficulty breathing, increased heart rate or respiratory rate, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, or even collapse. If your pet is experiencing any of these symptoms, seek veterinary attention right away! We recommend you gradually acclimate your dog to the warmer temperatures before allowing excessive exercise or play. Even a nice 70-75 degree day after many cooler days can be a problem. Make sure to always allow access to fresh cool water to keep them hydrated, an area for shade, or a place where they can cool down. Especially with our Brachycephalic breeds (such as French bulldogs, English bulldogs, Boston terriers, etc) who already have more compromised airways due to their anatomy, these hot and humid days can be detrimental. Make sure to take it easy and explore earlier in the day or later at night.
Sidewalks and Asphalt: During very hot days, asphalt can heat up quickly. Prolonged exposure can cause painful burns to our dogs sensitive paw pads. On hot days keep walking on these surfaces to a minimum.
Household Safety: When the weather is nice and we have our windows open, make sure that you have well fastened screens in place to prevent dogs from falling out or escaping.
Fairs and Festivals: We see a number of dogs enjoying time walking around the various street festivals Chicago has to offer. Make sure to monitor your dog from ingesting garbage or unwanted products they may find on the street or sidewalk and try to keep people food to a minimum. The goal is to avoid causing gastrointestinal upset that can lead to problems like pancreatitis or a bowel obstruction.
Fireworks: On and around the 4th of July, you can bank on hearing an increase in loud noises due to impressive firework displays. These loud noises and sounds can cause a lot of anxiety for our pets that can lead to destructive behaviors, or even escape. Create a safe place for your pets to stay indoors away from windows and loud noises, if possible. If your pet has extreme distress in these situations, make sure to speak with your veterinarian about certain medications to help reduce their anxiety.
Hear Us Out
Flea and Tick 101
Why are regular flea and tick prevention doses so important? What brand(s) do you recommend?
Fleas and ticks are common external parasites we can find on our adventurous pets, even in Chicago. Adult fleas live on our pets and lay eggs which then drop off into the environment and mature into new adult fleas (which can quickly create a flea infestation in our homes). Dogs can pick up fleas from any environment they visit frequently including the groomer, daycare, dogs parks, even from wildlife around our homes. Fleas can transmit infectious disease such as tapeworms, and unfortunately some dogs can have allergic response that can cause severe itching and skin infections. Ticks are small parasites that feed on the blood of their hosts. In the last few years we have seen an increase in our tick population throughout the Midwest. Ticks can transmit a number of diseases, like Lyme disease which can affect both humans and pets. If a dog has a heavy enough infestation with ticks. it can lead to a neurologic condition called tick paralysis. Although we think of fleas and ticks mainly being active during the warmer months, they can actually cause problems for our pets year round.
The best way to protect our dogs from these parasites is to use a regular flea and tick prevention. There are many types out there including collars, topicals, and chewable products. The two most common brands we use are Nexgard and Bravecto. Both products are an oral chewable pill that you can give as a treat! Nexgard protects against fleas and ticks for one month, most commonly used with puppies. Bravecto protects for 3 months, most commonly use with dogs over 6 months of age.
Lastly, we recommend you keep your dog on a regular heartworm preventative. Heartworm is a parasitic disease spread by mosquito bites to dogs. When bitten by an infected mosquito, a baby heartworm is transmitted to our dogs bloodstream that over time will develop into a large worm that lives in the heart and major blood vessels. These worms can cause damage leading to heart failure. Unfortunately, we are seeing an increase in heartworm disease due to the changing weather and shelter dogs being rescued from the south. There are topical, chewable, and injectable types of heartworm prevention. We use a once a month chewable product called Heartgard and Proheart, which is a one time injection that protects for 6 months. With the changing weather and environment these days, we recommend you protect your dog with these products year round.
Camping can be a fun way to escape with our dogs and a wonderful change of scenery for our city dwelling pets.; however, be sure to check on a few of these things before heading out to the woods.
What safety precautions should be taken when going camping with a dog (or taking a city dog to a more remote environment)?
Make sure your dog is up to date on vaccinations and heartworm plus flea/tick medications to prevent unwanted disease.
Bring doggie food and water bowls, recommending the portable kind! Make sure to bring a clean/fresh source of water to offer your dog. Try to prevent your dog from drinking out of dirty puddles and ponds where diseases such as leptospirosis and giardia can fester.
Make sure to bring your dog his regular food from home, bedding to sleep on, and towels to dry off in the event of water activities. Make sure to provide an area of shade when it’s warm outside and a place to keep warm if it gets cool at night.
Make sure to have a properly fitting leash, collar and/or harness, and that they are covered with the proper identification (ID tags, microchip).
Keep pets on leash during walks and hikes. There are many new sights, sounds, and smells to be experienced while exploring that they normally wouldn’t be exposed to in the city and we don’t want them to get scared, distracted, or run away. Keeping them on leash can also prevent encounters with wildlife and protect them from falling off steep trails or cliffs.
After hikes be sure to check your dog over for ticks, thorns, burrs, foxtails, etc that can get tangled in their fur. If doing any extensive hiking, you may want to get your dog fitted with booties to protect their paw pads on the trails.
If you are traveling far from home to go camping, try to look up local veterinary clinic information in case of an emergency.
We recommend you either make or buy a doggie first aid-kit to take with you in case of a problem or emergency. These may include items such as absorbent gauze pads, triple antibiotic ointment, hydrogen peroxide, adhesive tape/bandage material, tweezers, etc.
We hope you found these tips helpful! If you need to make an appointment or need to refill your prescriptions for heartworm or flea and tick preventatives, don’t hesitate to contact us.