This post was originally created a few years ago but with a big heat wave upon on us and near drought conditions in select areas the points it makes for our current summer are important!
In the midst of a hot summer, it’s important to think about protecting your dog during outdoor activities. There are illnesses and other problems that are much more frequent in summer with the rise in outdoor activity due to warm weather, so we see more cut feet, and more dog bites. We see more contagious cough and diarrhea because dogs are at shows or boarding or competing. Lyme disease is transmitted by ticks and heartworm is carried by mosquitoes, so these are summer diseases too, although diagnosis may be made at any time of year. (Please see this post for more about parasites.)
Dogs cool off by panting, rather than by sweating the way people and horses do. Panting causes water from the mouth and lungs to evaporate, which means that the dog needs to drink to replace lost fluid. Dogs that are overweight, or those with very thick coats, have a lot of insulation and may overheat easily.
Activity in summer – ball chase or tag with another dog or a walk in the sun may cause overheating in hot, humid weather. Older dogs can have partial paralysis to the larynx, and consequently have decreased ability to pant effectively.
A dedicated Frisbee player or jogging companion may continue to exercise when a less enthusiastic dog, or one more in tune with his body, will lie down in the shade. Often the trigger for overheating is confinement in a car, where temperatures can easily climb over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
So how do you tell if your dog is able to recover with shade and water to drink? The warm but not heat stroke dog will drink water, pant, and lie down in the shade. They should seem more relaxed in 10 minutes. In contrast, when body temperature is much too high, or the dog has ineffective panting, the dog will make more noise, be unable to relax, and may be unwilling to drink water.
More severe signs include seizure or muscle spasms and disorientation and collapse. Body temperature will be very elevated (usually above 105 degrees F). The non-responsive or seizuring dog needs to transported immediately to the veterinarian, while you are also cooling off ears and feet with cool water.
How do you prevent heat stress in summer? Dogs that are trained to exercise in warm weather are frequently trained to use a wading pool to cool off. Most dogs that retrieve in water are able to play in warm weather because the swimming cools the skin.
Avoid hot, humid weather for jogging; go out early in the day or after dark. When traveling with a pet, remove the pet from the car when you need to make a daytime stop.
In Michigan, porcupines are native north of Gaylord so a summer trip up north may give your dog exposure to these strange, slow moving animals. The dog gets a face full of quills by trying to bite the porcupine. This often means there are quills in the inside of the mouth. The dog should be taken to a veterinarian, who will sedate the dog and carefully pull out the quills.
This is a bacterial disease transmitted from surface water, like in puddles or ditches, that has been contaminated by wildlife urine. The now-routine distemper/parvo/leptospirosis vaccine booster contains 4 of the most common serotypes of this organism. Annual boosters are needed for leptospirosis protection.
In Ann Arbor, leptospirosis can occur in any age pet, and I associate the disease with the “rhu-burbs,” farm or rural land that was developed recently and houses and grass are placed near farmland or woods.
Symptoms of the disease are a sick dog—vomiting, diarrhea, not eating, drinking too much, yellow color to sclera (the white of the eye). Lab work often suggests kidney or liver disease in a previously normal dog. Treatment includes fluid support and antibiotic. Leptospirosis is zoonotic, meaning urine from an infected dog is a human health risk of leptospirosis exposure to caretakers.
Vaccination is recommended for all healthy dogs in our area, but we are aware of a higher risk of vaccine reactions in this product compared to Distemper/Parvo boosters without lepto. You should work with your veterinarian to develop the best vaccine strategy to protect your own pet.
Bee and wasp stings
Bees and yellowjackets are most numerous in late summer. A typical mild bee sting reaction is a tender swollen area directly at the site of the sting. A single bee sting in a nonallergic large dog can be treated at home by removing any remaining stinger, applying an icepack, and giving oral diphenhydramine (a first-generation antihistamine) at 1 mg per pound of body weight, repeating every 4-6 hours for 48 hours.
Small dogs, dogs with multiple bee stings, and dogs showing more generalized signs, such as swollen face, hives, or collapse should all be seen at a veterinary office as soon as possible.
The summer months usually see the most outdoor activity of the year for both ourselves and our dogs. The reason to have a dog is to have a companion. Your dog will look out for you, but you need to look out for it as well. One of the best things a dog can do for you is to be your walking buddy, so enjoy summer with your dog, just go out early or late in the day.
—Dr. Jessica Franklin, DVM