Waggy tails this summer

July 9, 2013 in Newsletters

Summer is once more knocking at our doorstep. We start to plan barbecues, beach trips and long days off relaxing.  But what about our canine friends? Certain breeds tend to suffer more in summer than others. In particular, the so-called “brachicephalic” breeds such as the pug, boxer and bulldog. These types of dogs have more trouble breathing in this heat and risk overheating. Great care must be taken to avoid them being out too long in the heat, especially without constant access to fresh drinking water. Other breeds that suffer in the heat are those that are not intended for this climate – breeds such as the Alaskan Malamute and the Siberian Husky spring to mind. Other long-haired breeds may benefit from a good grooming and shaving around this time of year.

Even if your dog isn’t one of these breeds, care should be taken to avoid long periods of exposurein direct sunlight. Certain dogs, especially short-haired ones, can also get sunburnt. In fact, I would suggest using sunblock on any exposed areas such as the nose and abdomen (tummy). One should also bear in mind that the temperature of the pavement/tarmac on the roads can be unbearably hot at certain times of day – these can burn your dog’s foot pads causing sores and foot infections.

Grass seeds:  This is, unfortunately, the time of year for the most insidious of dangers to our pets. Seemingly harmless, these seeds are very dry at this time of year and can easily get into a dog’s eyes, ears and nose, as well as the foot pads. Even a grass seed or burr that gets attached to the coat can eventually perforate (penetrate) the skin if not removed in time. Apart from the obvious discomfort, they can give some pretty bad infections especially in places where they break the skin.

Dogs die in hot cars:  This is a slogan we have heard over and over again. However, some people still choose to ignore it. The temperature inside a car rises quickly when stationary, even if parked in the shade. Dogs cannot withstand such high temperatures for very long. This is therefore a practice that should be avoided, even if for a few minutes. It can take only a few minutes for a dog to lapse into un-consciousness and die.

Ticks and fleas: These dastardly parasites are present all year round, but especially so in summer. Apart from the obvious dangers of having a blood-sucking parasite attached to your beloved pooch, these insects also carry diseases in their saliva. Most common in Malta is Ehrlichiosis, which is a tick-borne disease. If left untreated, this disease can cause severe anaemia and may also be fatal. Fleas can transmit worms to dogs and may cause harsh flea allergies, which then result in potentially severe bacterial and fungal skin infections. Spot-on treatments should be applied monthly to avoid these infestations. Care should be taken to avoid washing the dog two days before and after application.

Sandfly: As mentioned in my previous article, summer is also sandfly season. Avoid taking your dog out at sunrise and sunset and use adequate protection.

Swimtime! Dogs love the sea and most dogs are natural swimmers. Always monitor your dog when swimming and rinse your dog with fresh water afterwards, as the salt can cause sores on the dog’s skin when dry.  However, having said that, the salt water is very beneficial in cases of allergies or skin infections. Also, should one have a dog with certain joint problems, swimming will greatly help to ease the pain as it allows exercise without putting any pressure on the joint.

BBQ season: It is ideal that dogs aren’t fed anything that has come off the BBQ as the charred meat is not good for them. Also, at BBQs, dogs are often fed meat that contains bones. Many of these dogs unfortunately end up at their local vet with stomach problems the next day. If you are feeding dogs meat, always opt for a white meat, such as chicken that has been de-skinned and de-boned.

Dr Victoria Bondin
EFRU Rescuer