Summer is a great time to have a pet in the city, but it can also be a dangerous time of the year for your canine or feline friends. Veterinary emergency rooms see an influx of dogs and cats during this time of the year. Here are some of the most common illnesses or injuries and how you can prevent them.
1. Heat Stroke: Imagine wearing a fur coat during the hottest day of the summer – that’s how your dog feels when walking around in the middle of the day. Dogs dissipate heat by panting and through their paw pads, so they can become easily overheated in the summer. Signs of overheating/ heat stroke include lethargy, excessive panting, drooling or weakness/ collapse. If you notice these signs, put a wet towel on your dog and bring him or her to a veterinarian immediately. You can prevent heat stroke by always having water on hand and walking your dog early or late in the day. Their paw pads can also burn on hot concrete, so stick to the shade! Also, NEVER leave your dog in a car – it can get very hot, even if the windows are down.
2. High Rises: It might be tempting to leave your window open for a nice summer breeze, but this can be very dangerous for your dog or cat! Many animals will put their weight against a screen to explore the outside and can fall. Most cats will try to land on all fours (depending on the height) but this can lead bad injuries. To be safe, keep your windows closed or combine a screen with a secure window guard.
3. Gastrointestinal (GI) Upset: If you’re taking your pup to a rooftop barbeque or movie in the park, be cautious of what human foods your pet is offered. Many foods (including grapes, raisins, chocolate, gum, etc) can be toxic to your pet and other typical BBQ foods (ribs, burgers) can cause vomiting, diarrhea or pancreatitis. To keep your pet satisfied, bring a baggie of his or her regular dry food and have friends offer that as a safe but satisfying treat!
4. Wellness Care: Parasites, fleas, ticks and mosquitoes carrying heartworm disease seem to triple during the warm weather months. Visit your vet at the beginning of the summer to make sure they are covered against all these parasites before traveling to the shore, dog park or kennel. Also, we always recommend veterinarian approved flea and tick control products and some over the counter versions can be dangerous for your pet. An animal’s fur is used to block the sun, so if your pup has to be shaved for any reason, be sure to apply a veterinarian approved sunscreen before taking him or her out into the sun!
Enjoy the summer with your pet and stay safe!
Sarah McCready, DVM
One of the most pesky “bugs” we deal with as veterinarians is a one-celled parasite called Giardia. This probably sounds familiar to you as it’s one of the most common causes of diarrhea in cats and dogs. It lives inside the intestines as one form called a trophozoite. Outside the body the trophozoites band together and form a “cyst,” which is found in fecal material.
Animals typically become infected by ingestion of infected fecal material. One of the most common modes of transmission is contaminated water. So if your pet is drinking from a puddle in the park, there is a good chance they can swallow the cysts. There are also some dogs out there guilty of periodic “stool-eating” (we don’t know what the appeal is) that can ingest it in that manner as well. What also makes this parasite even more of a nuisance is the cysts in the fecal material can actually stick to your pet’s coat. So if an animal is cleaning himself and happens to ingest fecal material while doing so, he can actually re-infect himself with the parasite. This can become a problem with animals in close quarters particularly in a dog park or day care situation where these little guys are in constant contact with one another.
If your pet is already infected with Giardia and is being treated, hygiene is a major factor in controlling re-infection. So after your pet has a bowel movement , if you notice there is fecal material stuck to the coat, make sure to clean it off.
Giardia is actually considered a zoonotic organism, meaning humans can get it. However, it is rare that a person would actually get Giardia from a dog or cat since they would have to ingest the feces of an animal infected with it. A far more common source of infection would be contaminated water sources. Campers and hikers are at risk if they drink untreated water from lakes and streams. We do see some infections in immunocompromised individuals or those that work in nursing homes and long term care homes.
Your veterinarian may test for Giardia by taking a fecal sample and examining it under the microscope in the hospital or sending it out to a separate laboratory. Giardia doesn’t always cause diarrhea, this is why it’s important to have your pet’s stool tested once a year even if it’s not sick.
This information should not steer you away from all the activities your pet loves, such as day care, dog parks, and any other outdoor activity because the prognosis for Giardia is good. The actual parasite is pretty wimpy, so medication will take care of it. We typically use a dewormer called Panacur that goes in the food and an antibiotic called Metronidazole. This is the most common and effective treatment.
The best thing you can do as a pet owner is pick up your pet’s feces after they have a bowel movement and avoid walking them in areas riddled with other animal’s fecal material. Also, try to stop them from drinking out of puddles, ponds, or any stagnant water source. Additionally, bring your pet’s feces in for a parasite check yearly to test for feces. Giardia can be rather troublesome for veterinarians, but as diligent and informed pet owners, you can prevent an infection.
Questions? E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Did you know that when your dog yawns – he’s not telling you he’s tired, but anxious? Yawning is one of many doggy vocabulary words and often the first offered by puppies. Did you know that when your dog shakes off – he is trying to calm himself? When your dog turns his head away from you, it’s not that he’s ignoring you!
New York is great in the spring, probably the best time of year here, in my opinion. The bitter chill of winter is a fading memory and we haven’t yet been bombarded with the 95 degree, 80% humidity days of July and August. It’s a time to delight in the sunshine and promise of warmer days to come, and well, just spend some good ol’ quality time outside! For many of us, we get to share this good fortune with our four legged friends. Even my three cats, while they don’t get free rein of the wild outdoors, they do get some great kitty outdoor time as they stretch out for a springtime snooze in the sun on our gated balcony. While it is a time to celebrate Mother Nature, spring is also a time to make sure our furry companions are protected against common springtime hazards.
Parasite prevention is critical year-round, not only for the health of our dogs and cats but also from the perspective of public health as some of these parasites can be transmitted to humans. Given the mildness of this past winter (read: idyllic blessing and repose from harsh winters-past, in my humble opinion), this spring and summer promise to delivery higher loads of pesky “bugs” (parasites, viruses, bacteria, mosquitoes, ticks, fleas) normally knocked back in numbers by cold weather. Therefore, we should be extra diligent to ensure our cats and dogs are adequately protected. All cats and dogs should receive heartworm prevention (yes, even indoor cats – face it, your apartment is not a impenetrable biosphere), gastrointestinal parasite protection (again, even indoor cats can be exposed if we inadvertently bring microscopic eggs in on our shoes, for example) and based on lifestyle and exposure, flea and tick prevention.
Spring is also a good time to update your pets’ vaccinations, which will be individually tailored based on lifestyle and risk of exposure to common bacteria and viruses. The ASPCA has a wonderful website dedicated to Springtime Safety Tips. I highly recommend taking the time to read this info-packed article, especially the links to poisonous plants and home chemicals. Finally, among other things, springtime also brings the increased likelihood of allergies and traumatic events (scuffle at the dog park, plant parts in paws, etc). Bottom line: we’re here to help. Check out our Pet Care & Resources page for tips on common health issues as well as general wellness care for dogs and cats including vaccination recommendations. Or, better yet, stop on by our hospital to check our our new digs and say hello in person! Thanks for reading, and I look forward to meeting you and your furry family members…
Kristin Lester, DVM, MBA, Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist
Seaport Animal Hospital
80 Beekman Street, New York, NY 10038