Summer Hazards for Pets!

The Dog Days of Summer are quickly approaching, and with some common sense and proactive behavior, pet owners can keep their dogs and cats safe from common summer hazards, like foxtails, heat and rattlesnakes!

FOXTAILS are grass-like weeds that resemble the tails of foxes. They're commonly found throughout San Diego....not just in large fields, but all along sidewalks and paths where we walk our dogs. They often go unnoticed in remote areas of large yards, as well. In the summer, the they dry out and become dangerous as the sharp seeds lodge themselves in the fur of pets. Once embedded, they can cause severe infections and abscesses, as well as migrate throughout the body causing damage to internal organs. They can also enter the eye, causing blindness, or the ears and the nose, causing infections. They can become life-threatening, and require immediate surgical removal.

Foxtails should be considered a very serious problem, and it is best to keep pets away from fields or pathways where they can come in contact with foxtails. Keep yards clear of the dangerous seeds. It is better to avoid the problem, then spend thousands upon thousands of dollars removing a foxtail that has traveled into the body. There is very little, if any, veterinary assistance to help pet owners pay for the costly surgery.

RISING SUMMER TEMPERATURES require lifestyle changes for dog owners. No longer are we able to run into the store for 20 minutes and leave a dog in the car. On an average 80-degree day, it takes only 20 minutes for the temperature inside a car to reach in excess of 120-degrees. In fact, it is now considered a crime in California, punishable by fine and jail time, to leave a pet in a car on a hot day. Not only do you face criminal charges, but authorities are able to bust your car windows if they suspect your pet is in distress. Though our pets love to join us in the car, during the hot summer months, it seems clear that leaving the family dog home with plenty of cool water and shade is the right thing to do. Additionally, if you see a pet left in a car during a hot summer day, call the police or animal control immediately and report the situation (plug the numbers into your cell phone now, please). It doesn't take long for a dog to suffer brain damage, so time is of the essence. Again, this is a crime in California, and considered an emergency situation.

Additionally, leave pets at home during the summer when you are going to be attending events, such as street fairs, where the dog would be exposed to extreme temperatures. The heat from the asphalt can cause serious distress to a dog, who is only inches from the ground. Additionally, the pads of a dogs feet can burn, causing severe pain, and requiring veterinary care. Bringing a dog to a street fair may be a great way to meet people and get attention, but it's not healthy for the dog.

Finally, the hot summer months mean RATTLESNAKE SEASON here in San Diego. Most pets who are bitten by rattlesnakes are struck in the face or the front legs, making a bite life threatening. It has become fairly common to vaccinate dogs against rattlesnake venom, especially if you live in snake-prone areas, or you like to camp and hike with your dog. The vaccination is usually administered in two or three injections with a booster each year. Having the vaccination will help your dog be resistant to the effects of venom, but not immune. A snake bite should still be considered an emergency, requiring immediate vet care. Additionally, there are rattlesnake avoidance training classes that have been known to effectively condition dogs to fear and avoid rattlesnakes. Google "rattlesnake avoidance training" to find a class in your area.