If your pet is experiencing respiratory distress, heatstroke, or a severe trauma (such as hit by car or an animal bite), these are considered “RED” – or true emergencies – on our Fast Track Triage system. We advise you to seek immediate veterinary care. Please call ahead of your arrival so the veterinary team knows to expect you!
In Minnesota, summertime means an increase in pet emergencies as more pets spend time outside. In July of 2023, Dr. Wolf, an emergency veterinarian, joined us on Facebook Live to discuss the four most common summertime pet dangers. Below, you can read her answers, summarized, or watch the video for Dr. Wolf’s in-depth answers and safety tips.
1. Heat Stroke
There is a lot that pet parents can do to prevent heat stroke in their pets. However, once heat exhaustion occurs, many of these pets are in a very critical state. The best preventative tips to remember when it’s hot and humid out is:
- Don’t exercise your pet outside. This means no running, biking, or rollerblading while your dog runs alongside you.
- Don’t leave pets inside the car! Even when it’s only 70°F outside, the car will act like an oven and the inside temperature will continue to rise. After ten minutes, that car will be 89°F inside, and after half an hour, the car is 104°F. A pet inside the vehicle will quickly begin to overheat.
- Don’t let your dog walk on the pavement on a hot day. That hot surface can burn paw pads! Learn more here.
- Do keep pets in the shade if you spend some time outside on a warmer day. They should also have access to fresh water.
- Do be extra mindful if you have a pet that is at higher risk of overheating. These pets include smooshed-face breeds, pets with underlying condition such as heart disease or respiratory disease, senior pets, very young pets, and pets with dark or thick fur.
Learn more about heat risks for pets and what to do if your pet is overheating here.
2. Allergic Reactions
During the summer, our ER team sees a lot of insect stings – particularly from bees and wasps. Individual pets respond to stings and bug bites differently, but some may develop a more hypersensitive reaction than others.
If your pet has any of the following symptoms, it’s important to seek immediate veterinary care:
- Facial swelling (muzzle is puffy and red)
- Swelling around the eyes
- Hives or bumps
- Scratching at face or ears
- Respiratory distress (Note that those smoosh-faced breeds are at higher risk, but any pet can possibly develop an allergic reaction that causes their throat to close up)
Allergic reactions are very treatable with veterinary care. Our team will provide an injection of steroid and an injection of Benadryl. Often, the pet is then okay to go home with a steroid course and be monitored at home. Note that signs can be transient for 12-24 hours.
A Note about Benadryl:
Only administer human Benadryl to your pet if you have consulted with a veterinarian and have an exact dosage based on your pet’s weight. You do not want to underdose or overdose your pet.
3. Bite Wounds
Dogs are out and about more during the summer at dog parks, doggie daycares, or even with a neighbor’s or friend’s dog. Sometimes, dog personalities clash and lead to dog vs. dog bites. A huge gash is an obvious sign for emergency vet care – but many dog parents don’t realize those seemingly minor jabs are a big deal, too. When a dog bites another dog, there can be a lot of trauma underneath the skin. So even those minor jabs need to be examined because an abscess may develop. In these situations, our ER team will always examine the wound, flush it out, and if there’s a big pocket underneath (which 90% of the time there is), we need to drain the wound to decrease the chance of an abscess developing.
Keep in mind – this can happen to our feline friends, too! Cat teeth make those little punctures which make a little pocket. However, since outdoor cats tend to roam, cat parents often don’t know about altercations or notice an abscess until they discover pus coming from it! If you are aware your cat had a scuffle and witnessed a bite, always get your cat examined. To help prevent outdoor cat scuffles, we recommend investing in an outdoor cat condo (or “catio”) or have a controlled perimeter around your yard instead of letting your cat roam freely.
4. Traumatic Wounds
Since more pets are outside during the warmer summer months, we tend to see more traumatic wounds and injuries from pets hit by a car. If you know your pet was hit by a car, always seek immediate veterinary care. Even if the car was going slow and it was “just a bump” – it may not seem like a big deal, but your pet should still be checked for internal bleeding or pulmonary contusions (bruises on the lungs) that can show up to 24-48 hours later. We can’t see what’s happening on the inside until the veterinary team does an ultrasound and looks for organ bleeding or fluid in the abdomen.
Many of these summer emergencies like heat stroke or hit by car traumas are absolutely preventable. Monitor your pets closely while outside this summer and take extra steps to keep your pets safe. If your pet does experience an emergency this summer and your family veterinarian is unavailable, both our Oakdale and St. Paul animal ERs are open 24/7. Always call ahead of your arrival.
- Prevent Your Pets from Overheating | Heat Risks for Pets (aercmn.com)
- Summer Heat Risks for Pets | Twin Cities Emergency Vet (aercmn.com)
- The Dark Side of Dog Parks: Bite Wounds in Dogs (aercmn.com)
- Snake Bites, Bee and Wasp Stings! Oh No! (aercmn.com)
- My Dog Was Hit By a Car: What Should I Do? (aercmn.com)
- Top 5 Preventable Pet ER Visits | Twin Cities Emergency Vet (aercmn.com)
Content information provided by Chelsea Wolf, DVM.