Some summer fun is dangerous for dogs and other household pets

Many summer activities we humans enjoy can be dangerous for dogs, especially heatstroke, due to the intense heat since canines are notoriously bad at dissipating body heat.

Watch for early signs of heatstroke (also known as hyperthermia) in your dog to avoid serious outcomes.

Leaving a pet in a car for too long is the most common cause of heat stroke, which can be deadly. 

Dogs have only a couple of ways to cool off: blood vessel expansion and panting. When dogs pant, they evaporate moisture from their tongues, nasal passages, and the lining of their lungs, and this cools them down as air passes over the moist tissue. They also cool off via vasodilation. Blood vessels, especially in the ears and face, expand – bringing overheated blood closer to the surface to cool down.

The bottom surfaces of paws can sweat, but not enough to make a difference. “Heatstroke usually occurs when high ambient temperature overcomes the dog’s ability to dissipate heat. The degree of damage is determined by how high a body temperature is reached and how long the animal is exposed,” says Dr. Jerry Klein, AKC chief veterinary officer.

“Some pets, particularly dogs that have particularly thin hair or some dogs who don’t have much hair at all on their bellies, they can potentially get sunburned. So talking to your vet about some safe options for sunscreen is important,” said Tara Lynn, communications manager at the SPCA.

Dr. Page Wages, a veterinarian, said Neutrogena pediatric sunscreen is safe to use on dogs.

It’s important to use only veterinarian-approved sunscreen formulas that are safe for dogs since many brands contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs when ingested, such as zinc oxide, para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) and a group of chemicals referred to as salicylates.

Dogs will often lick their skin and accidentally ingest the sunscreen.

Here are some more summertime hazards to watch out for, to keep your pets safe.

—Snake bites can also be a hazard for pets. Snakes come out at dusk and dawn, and have an increased presence at the beginning and end of the summer or after a big rain, Wages said.

“Staying away from high grass areas around where there’s water. Those are usually where those guys will lurk and wait,” she said. “Just generally, the snakes put up a bit of a smell, so dogs and cats will be interested and might go investigate and get bit. So if the dog or cat seems to be interested in something in the grass or bush area, try and get them away as quick as you can. If they do get bit, they need to be seen by a veterinarian as soon as they can.”

— Bee stings. Some dogs and cats, just like people, are allergic to bee stings. Their faces will swell up. Wages recommends Benadryl for bee stings, but some pets may need something stronger, like steroids.

— Fire ant bites. Wages said pets will get a rash or a very swollen area around the bites, which are often concentrated around legs and feet.

— Hot spots. Found on dogs, these are irritated, red lesions, similar to eczema in people. “They usually start with a bug bite they chewed on or an area they got wet from playing with another dog that just stayed moist. Bacteria will grow on any moist skin, and they’ll get infections,” Wages said.

— Burns from grills. “I think one of the main things is a hot grill, and dogs smelling whatever’s cooking on the grill and getting really close to the grill, and depending on what kind of grill, if they get under it, they run the risk of being burned or hot grease dropping on them and burning them,” Lynn said. “We actually just took in three puppies from Johnston County who had burn marks on their back. We’ll probably never know exactly how that happened, but the way it looks, it very well could have been a situation where they either walked under a grill or walked under some sort of piece of equipment and some hot liquid dropped on them.”

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