No article on summer safety would be complete without taking into account those who are really affected by the weather, but can’t tell us how they feel—our pets. Understanding how the hot months distress them is crucial to their well-being. As pet owners, we need to take into consideration what can go wrong as the temperature rises.
Dr. Hanh Chau of Family Vet in Chantilly sees many muscle-related injuries including strains, torn tendons, and simple exhaustion. “The rate of obesity in pets is mostly overlooked,” she says. “Dogs are especially susceptible to overexertion during the summer because they often follow owners outdoors on hikes, and other outdoor activities.
Dog owners may be aware of the need for proper hydration, but not as many know the signs of when their dog may be having trouble coping with the heat. Some of the signs of heat exhaustion in dogs are: heavy panting, refusal to continue, droopy head, collapse, disorientation, etc. If your pet is showing signs of heat exhaustion, quickly find them some shade and cool water and call your vet.”
Colleen Dixon, owner of Suburban Tails Dog Walking and Pet Sitting in Loudoun agrees. “Walking and jogging may be a natural part of your daily routine, however dogs naturally feel the heat more quickly than humans as they naturally stay lower to the ground and these simple activities become much more taxing.” And don’t forget that prolonged contact with the black asphalt can literally burn a dog’s feet.
Colleen is sensitive to a major summer problem: “It should go without saying, but you should never EVER leave your pet in a vehicle on a hot day for any amount of time. A closed vehicle can reach over 90 degrees Fahrenheit in just over five minutes and more than 110 degrees in less than twenty minutes! If you see pets in cars on warm days, take action and call the police or fire department immediately. Time is crucial!”
Dr. Chau asks that owners are aware of another pet hazard—ticks. Loudoun is a deer tick hotspot. Loudoun County has one of the highest rates of Lyme disease in the country. Deer ticks are more than just a nuisance, since they are remarkably small in relation to other types of ticks. A Deer Tick may be only the size of a speck of black pepper, yet it also is the carrier of a very debilitating bacteria which causes Lyme disease. Loudoun’s rate of Lyme disease is 20 times higher than the rest of Virginia. A tick preventative is very important, and is always cheaper than treatment. Says Colleen, “A dog doesn’t have to spend a lot of time outside to contract a tick-borne illness, see your vet immediately if you suspect they may be affected. Keep your dog well-groomed, and check ears, bellies, armpits and base of the tail carefully for signs of ticks.”
Article contributors: Dr. Hanh Chau of Family Vet in Chantilly (family-vet.com) and Colleen Dixon of Suburban Tails Dog Walking and Pet Sitting (suburbantails.com). For more on their expertise, visit their websites.