Chewing is a normal and necessary activity for our canine friends; it provides exercise and stress relief and is a satisfying behavior for most dogs, especially puppies. It is important, however, to be sure chew toys are safe.
In general, DO:
On the other hand, definitely DON’T:
It has been a growing concern this summer that pet owners are leaving their pets inside hot cars and are heavily exercising their pets during hot weather. We want to keep pets safe this summer, especially on humid days.
Leaving Pets in Cars
You wouldn’t leave a baby in a hot car while you run into the store. Don’t do it to your dog. We’ve heard the following excuses:
“There was water in the backseat.”
When you’re overheating and thirsty, do you enjoy drinking hot water? A bowl of water sitting in your car is going to get just as warm as your dog is. Hot water is not refreshing. It’s rather useless.
“I was parked in the shade and cracked open the windows.”
Neither of these make a difference. The temperature inside the car is hotter than the outside temperature-no matter where you park. Cracked windows do nothing on a hot, humid day. There’s no cool air coming in.
“I was only gone ten minutes!”
In 5-10 minutes, the temperature inside the car increases from the outside temperature. It might be 78 degrees outside, but after 30 minutes, the inside of that car is at 120 degrees. Dogs don’t sweat like humans do. They can only sweat through the pads on their feet. This means dogs can overheat quickly.
Keep your pet safe and NEVER leave him/her in a car. If you went to the veterinarian and then have to go to the grocery store that’s right next to the vet clinic, then drive home and drop off your pet first. Is this inconvenient? Sure. Is this taking up more gas? Yes. Is this worth your pet’s health and safety? Absolutely. Leaving your dog in a hot car can kill your dog. If a pet owner is willing to take that risk than he/she does not deserve a pet.
If you see a dog alone in a parked car, call the police. Write down the car’s information (color, model, license plate number). If the dog seems okay, run into the store and alert the business. Ask them to page the owner of the car. However, if the dog is already overheating (panting, barking, acting frantic), take a quick photo with your cell phone and then break open the window. The photo is to prove to police that the dog was endangered so then you won’t get charged with breaking into a car. Wait with the dog until the police arrive. If you have cool water, give the dog some.
Still not convinced that you shouldn’t leave your dog in a hot car? Then go sit in your parked car on a hot day. Park in the shade, crack the windows, and wait ten minutes. Watch Dr. Ernie Ward sit in a hot car for thirty minutes:
Exercising On a Humid Day
If it is higher than 80 degrees outside, do not exercise your pet heavily. This means no running, jogging, tennis ball fetch, etc… A walk in the cooler hours of the day is fine, or a slow meander when it’s hot. Pay attention to your dog though, and know when your dog is ready to go home.
If your dog fits any of the following descriptions, you need to take extra precautions in the heat. Dogs with squished faces (Pugs, Bulldogs, and Boxers), cannot breathe very well in heat and humidity. They are at higher risk of heat exhaustion. Pets that have black fur or hair attract more heat than pets with light-colored coats. Northern breeds with thicker fur are also more likely to overheat.
Sometimes, the pavement might be too hot even for a walk. To test the pavement’s heat, place your hand or bare foot on the pavement. If it is too hot for you, it’s too hot for your dog’s feet.
Click here to read more about the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion.
Click here for tips on how to keep your pet cool on a hot day.
Help us spread the word and raise awareness about this issue. We want to keep pets safe this summer by making sure all pet owners know how dangerous the heat can be! Please share this blog or our social media posts to alert pet owners!
Contact your veterinarian if a deer tick or black-legged tick bit your dog. Your veterinarian can use an in-house 4Dx antibody test or a C6 antibody test to discover if your pet has been exposed to the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Treatment for Lyme disease usually involves 30 days of an antibiotic called doxycycline, and symptoms of the illness usually resolve within 24-48 hours of starting the antibiotic.
With each passing day becoming longer, lighter, and warmer, it’s only natural for us Midwesterners to start firing up our grills and inviting friends and family over to enjoy the summer. One of my favorite celebrations of the summer is Independence Day, filled with barbecues and fireworks. As pet owners, however, it is important to keep in mind the health and safety of our furry (and feathered, and scaled...) friends during the Fourth of July.
To us, festive flashes of light and loud bangs and pops mean “party!” But pets are hard- wired to be terrified of fireworks, so it’s best to keep your pet safe at home during firework displays. A secure kennel or a safe, escape-proof room should do the trick. If your pet suffers from extreme anxiety during firework season, you may wish to discuss the use of anti-anxiety medication or the use of a ThunderShirt with your family vet (Reminder: NEVER give your pet medication unless under the direct supervision of a licensed veterinarian!).
2. BBQ Safety
Barbecues, while delicious and enjoyable, come with their fair share of pet hazards. Alcohol, sharp barbecue tools, citronella candles, and insect repellent are all items that we should keep far away from our pets. Again, it is safest to keep your pet in the house, in a safe and secured location. However, if this is not possible, the next best thing is to keep anything hazardous far out of your pet’s reach. Don’t apply insect repellent to your pets, unless it is made for pets. Citronella candles and insect repellent both contain chemicals that can anything from nausea, drooling, and tummy upset to difficulty breathing, tremors, seizures, and coma in severe cases. Keep alcohol and sharp objects high and out of reach of your pets. Pets with a history of asthma or other respiratory disease should be kept indoors and away from smoke or aerosols.
3. Tags and Microchips
Since summer is full of scary noises and party-goers coming in and out of the house, take the time to ensure that your pets have identification. Cats and dogs should wear collars with accurate ID information. Additionally, if your pet is not microchipped, talk about it with your family veterinarian. If your pet is already microchipped, now is a great time to make sure the contact info the microchip servicer has for you is still accurate. According to one microchip servicer, 1 in 3 pets goes missing during its lifetime, and thousands of pets are reunited with their families monthly with the use of microchips (and updated contact information!). As an emergency veterinarian, I see so many lost or stray pets that come in with either no identifying information (no collars, tags, microchips) or out-of-date microchip information. These are easy and inexpensive ways to decrease the risk of losing your loved one forever.
4. Dietary Indiscretion
Hot dogs, potato salad, corn cobs, cheeseburgers, coleslaw, french fries, ice cream… all delicious summer treats that should be saved for human consumption only. It can be tempting to feed table scraps to your pets during summer celebrations, but the best thing for your pet is to stick to his or her regular diet. Any human food can upset your pet’s delicate gastrointestinal tract and cause vomiting, diarrhea, or in severe cases, pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas). Additionally, corn cobs are notorious getting stuck in the stomach or intestine, requiring surgical removal, and should be kept far, far away from your pets!
5. Water Safety
If you plan to take your pet to the beach, lake, or on a boat this holiday, take a moment to think about your pet’s safety in the water. Invest in a properly-sized pet life jacket and keep your pet secured and inside the boat at all times. Be especially careful around moving motors to prevent serious injury. Additionally, be on the lookout for blue-green algae, which is a highly toxic form of algae that can grow in lakes, ponds, and streams in Minnesota. If in doubt about the type of algae, keep your pet away from the shore, as just a few laps of this water can kill your pet.
Hopefully, with the tips above both you and your pets can safely enjoy the Fourth of July and the rest of the summer season together. Remember that if you find your pet in an emergency situation, both our Oakdale and St. Paul locations are open 24/7!
Euthanasia is one of the more difficult things veterinary staff have to do, and it’s not any less difficult when it’s our own pet.
I got my cat Simon when he was about four years old. He had been relinquished to the care of the animal emergency clinic at which I worked—his owners unable to pursue treatment for his umbilical hernia. The condition was serious; a loop of his intestine had passed through the hole of the hernia and become entrapped, causing pain and vomiting. One of our vets stepped up to perform surgery and volunteered to adopt the cat. But after the surgery, Simon suffered burns from the heating pad used to keep him warm, and he remained in-hospital for months, recovering from his wounds. (Heating pads are no longer the standard of care for post-surgical warming because they cause thermal burns to patients like Simon who aren’t conscious enough to move off of them.) By the time Simon was ready to leave the hospital, the veterinarian’s home was no longer an option. I felt that my cat, Henry, was in need of a friend, so I decided to take Simon home.
From day one, Simon was a pretty cool cucumber. He wasn’t bothered by Henry’s histrionics upon arriving in my tiny studio apartment, and Henry eventually decided Simon might make a good buddy. They shared cat beds, often curling into each other in a yin yan pattern. They played and wrestled together, and when I added a dog to the family, six years later, they both accepted him with feline nonchalance. Through it all, Henry was the affectionate clown, and Simon, the aloof cat who, more or less, kept to himself.
I was lucky that both of my cats lived a very, very long time. If a cat lives long enough, it’s very likely that he will eventually acquire kidney disease, and so was the case for both of my beloved cats. I euthanized Henry in 2011 because, at 19 years old, the disease had finally gotten the best of him. I euthanized Simon only two weeks ago. He was also 19 years old.
How do you know if it’s the right time to euthanize a pet? Well, there’s rarely a perfect time. In my role at AERC, I facilitate a Pet Loss Support Group, and it is unusual to find a pet owner who doesn’t question the timing of their pet’s death. “I euthanized him too soon,” or “I waited too long; he was suffering” are common refrains at our meetings. There is, however, a generally agreed upon quality-of-life scale that can aid a pet owner in making this difficult decision. Asking yourself such questions as, “Is my pet in pain?” “Is he eating enough?” “Is he able to keep himself clean?” and rating your responses on a scale of 1-10 can provide important insight and a more objective perspective than you may be able to provide at this time.
When I applied the quality-of-life scale to Simon, he received 43 points out of 70—slightly better than half. A score of less than 35 may mean that a pet’s bad days are outnumbering their good. Still, I felt that I may have been rating Simon falsely high, as many pet owners might, fearing that a low score would somehow seal his fate and mean it was time to say goodbye.
Many pet owners want their pets to die a “natural” death, meaning without the aid of euthanasia or other assistance. While this is a valid choice, it is important to remember that a natural death can be unpleasant to witness. Many animals struggle at the close of their lives, yowl or scream, or have difficulty breathing. They might lose control of their bodily functions, or act as though they don’t know where they are. Natural deaths may be quick, or they can take several hours, necessitating the pet owner to miss work if they wish to remain with a pet until the end.
Ultimately, Simon made the decision easier for me. He was eating less and less as the nausea of the kidney disease overtook him, and he became very weak in his hind legs. The morning I chose to end his life, he was unable to use his litterbox and became very vocal. I knew he was ready to go. I said my goodbyes as the veterinarian gave him the euthanasia injection, and I tearfully told him to say hi to Henry for me. I truly hope I see them both again someday.
Last summer, I was out on a pontoon with a long-time friend and her family. We were enjoying a lovely Sunday afternoon on the lake. The sun was warm, and we were preparing to jump in the water and enjoy a swim. One of the members of the group, Jim, had brought his dog along, and he set about securing the dog on the boat. Someone asked, “Why are you tying him in the boat? Don’t you want him to swim with us?” Jim replied, “He hasn’t learned to swim yet, and the water is too deep here.” Several people expressed surprise at the notion that a dog would need to “learn” to swim, and Jim continued. “Not all dogs are born knowing how to swim, you know,” he paused. “When I was a kid, we were out on our boat with our pet beagle, Benji. My dad thought you should teach a dog to swim by tossing him in the water, so he did, and Benji ended up drowning.” Everyone was quiet.
Jim’s story is all too common. Many people believe that if you throw a dog in a body of water, he or she will automatically know what to do and begin to swim. For better or worse, however, dogs are as unique as humans. Fortunately, it is no longer the expectation that parents throw children in a pool and expect them to somehow learn to swim, but that old wives’ tale still persists in regards to dogs.
Do many dogs “just know” how to swim? Certainly. There are many breeds of dogs for whom swimming is somewhat innate because it is what they were bred for. For example, Newfoundlands are amazing swimmers, even in very cold water, because they served on ships, retrieving lost fishing gear and rescuing humans in the icy waters of the North Atlantic. Standard Poodles were bred to retrieve hunted ducks out of water. In fact, their traditional haircut, shorn close with puffy balls around the ankles, head and chest, kept the dogs from getting weighted down in the water but left the puffballs to warm the vital organs and joints. And of course, we all know Labrador Retrievers live for water.
It’s important to keep in mind, however, that even a dyed-in-the-wool Labrador Retriever might not know how to swim in deep water safely the first time out, and just like humans, individual dogs have different personalities that may affect their ability to swim successfully. The safest approach, regardless of the breed, is to ease your dog into swimming in a safe environment. Try starting on a beach on a lake that gets deeper very gradually, rather than one with a sudden increase in depth.
If your dog is a Toy breed that is traditionally a landlubber, (i.e. Chihuahuas, Pugs, Yorkshire Terriers) a canine lifejacket is a great way to make sure your dog stays safe. In fact, if you’re on a boat with your dog, we recommend a lifejacket, regardless of breed. Any dog can become overly tired while swimming, get entangled by items just below the surface, or have trouble getting back in the boat. Most jackets have a handle on the back so you can pull your dog up into the boat in case of trouble.
When teaching your dog to swim, be prepared to get in the water too, and encourage your dog with a toy or a particularly tempting treat. If he resists, don’t drag your dog into the water, and if you find yourself becoming frustrated, it’s time to stop trying for the day. Otherwise, your dog may pick up on your upset feelings and link your displeasure with the act of swimming itself. Would you want to try something new (and possibly scary) if someone dragged you into it by the neck and yelled at you? Probably not. So keep the experience positive, and celebrate even the smallest successes. With patience, your dog will be cooling off in the water in no time.
Watch Sally learn to swim!