With summer comes a whole different set of health concerns for our clients and their pets. Here are seven summer hazards you should remind dog owners about, plus tips on how to get the word out to clients.
Despite widespread media coverage, dogs succumb to heat-related deaths every year because they are left in parked cars. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the temperature inside a car can rise almost 20 degrees in 10 minutes, nearly 30 degrees in 20 minutes, and more than 40 degrees after 60 minutes (1). Depending on where your clients live, it may be illegal to leave a pet inside a parked car under dangerous conditions, and Good Samaritans and police may be permitted to take drastic measures, such as breaking car windows, to free pets from hot cars (2).
For potential legal and health reasons, advise your clients not to leave their pets unsupervised inside vehicles. If they cannot take the dog inside with them when they are running errands, they should leave the pet at home.
Summer means our clients will be spending more time outdoors with their pets, enjoying all that nature has to offer. While activities like hiking and camping can provide a great bonding opportunity for pets and owners, there are also parasitic risks to consider, including ticks, fleas, and worms. Even if you feel like you’ve had the parasite control conversation time and again, make sure to remind clients about the importance of protecting their pets from internal and external parasites year-round. If your client seems indifferent to parasitic risks, you might be able to shift their perspective by pointing out the zoonotic risks.
You should also make sure clients understand what type of parasite protection products they’re using. They may not realize that some oral heartworm preventives also cover intestinal parasites, or they might mistakenly believe their dog is protected against all major types of worms, even though not all heartworm preventives include tapeworm coverage. Other clients may think that their flea and tick control medication also covers heartworm and intestinal parasites. One way to help eliminate some of the confusion is by recommending a broad-spectrum product like Interceptor® Plus (milbemycin oxime/praziquantel), which offers protection against heartworm disease, roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms.
See important safety information for Interceptor® Plus below.
Summertime can be very stressful for dogs who are scared of fireworks, thunderstorms, and other loud noises. To get ahead of the problem, encourage clients to schedule a short in-person or telemedicine appointment to discuss their concerns, or address it during the pet’s next wellness check.
Signs of noise aversion in dogs that clients should watch out for include:
- Clingy behavior
- Unable to calm down
- Destructive behavior
- Inappropriate urination or defecation
Talk to your clients about a variety of options for calming their dogs, such as prescription medications and adjunct, natural therapies. Recommendations may include administering medications specifically designed to help with noise aversion, crating, playing calming music, a dog anxiety vest, or other solutions that you have found helpful.
Paw Pad Burns
Inexperienced pet parents may not realize how hot pavement can get during the summer. Remind them that asphalt and cement surfaces can be significantly hotter than the surrounding air temperature. In fact, one older study found that, in direct sunlight and no wind, asphalt temperatures can reach 125 degrees Fahrenheit when the air temperature is only 77 degrees and 135 degrees in 86-degree weather (3).
Asphalt heated by the sun to 135 degrees can fry a dog’s paw pads in seconds. Make sure your clients know that air temperature is not a good indicator of ground temperature. To judge how hot the pavement is, tell them to use this rule of thumb: Press your own bare feet or hands for 10 seconds on the pavement. If it is too hot for you, then it is too hot for your dog. Find a different, cooler way to get your daily exercise, or go for a walk on soft surfaces like dirt trails or grass.
We may find it flabbergasting to see people out jogging with their dogs during peak sun hours, but many people just don’t understand that their dogs aren’t having a good time, or that it can be really bad for their dog’s health.
Communicate to clients that heat stroke can be life threatening. Review the signs of heat stroke in dogs, and what to do if they notice the following:
- Continual panting
- Salivation and drooling
- Acting restless or agitated
- Lagging behind on a walk, stopping in the shade, refusing to walk further
- Red gums and tongue
- Pounding heart
You could also suggest alternative options for enrichment when the weather is hot, such as splashing in a kiddie pool or swimming, that won’t cause the dog to overheat. Water play and similar activities can provide an energy release while helping avoid boredom and destructive behavior, especially if your client’s dog is used to regular exercise like running or hiking that would not be safe when temperatures run high.
Ah, the dreaded foxtail. There is nothing more frustrating for a veterinarian than going fishing for a foxtail and coming up empty. Because they are barbed, foxtails can easily puncture and get trapped under a dog’s skin, especially in between toes. Foxtails can also be snorted up, inhaled, and get stuck in ears and eyes.
Unless a client has experienced the drama and expense of a foxtail getting stuck somewhere in their dog, it is highly unlikely that they know about this summer danger. Get information out to your clients before foxtail grasses develop the seedheads. Keep foxtails in jars in exam rooms to show clients, and explain how to check their dogs for foxtails, paying special attention to in between the toes. You can also suggest they ask their groomer to do a “foxtail” trim on their dog’s paws during foxtail season.
Skin and ear problems due to seasonal allergies represent a large percentage of daily appointments in late spring, summer, and early fall. Educating clients on how to minimize their pet’s allergy symptoms can help alleviate unnecessary suffering. It may also potentially free up client dollars for other needed services or products, such as parasite control, higher quality nutrition, or dentistry, which often falls by the wayside.
To help minimize itching, scratching, skin redness, skin infections, and ear infections caused by seasonal allergies, talk to clients about using antihistamines, medicated shampoos, and other allergy medications or treatments. You can also suggest using baby wipes to clean off a dog after he plays or rolls around in the grass. Since fleas thrive in warm and humid conditions, and are a common cause of itching in dogs, it’s a good time to reinforce the need for year-round flea and tick control, with a product like Credelio® (lotilaner).
More than ever, veterinarians are being called upon to curate pet health information for their clients. Providing the education piece to your clients can increase your brand reach and bolster practice loyalty and rapport (“My vet is so great she told me something that saved my dog and saved me money!”). Most important, education can lower the incidence of disease and suffering in pets caused by misinformation, which at the end of it all is our greatest mission.
Credelio® kills adult fleas and is indicated for the treatment and prevention of flea infestations (Ctenocephalides felis) and the treatment and control of tick infestations [Amblyomma americanum (lone star tick), Dermacentor variabilis (American dog tick), Ixodes scapularis (black-legged tick) and Rhipicephalus sanguineus (brown dog tick)] for one month in dogs and puppies 8 weeks of age and older, and weighing 4.4 pounds or greater.
Credelio® Important Safety Information
Lotilaner, is a member of the isoxazoline class. This class has been associated with neurologic adverse reactions including tremors, ataxia, and seizures. Seizures have been reported in dogs receiving this class of drugs, even in dogs without a history of seizures. Use with caution in dogs with a history of seizures or neurologic disorders. The safe use of Credelio® in breeding, pregnant or lactating dogs has not been evaluated. The most frequently reported adverse reactions are weight loss, elevated blood urea nitrogen, increased urination, and diarrhea. For full prescribing information see Credelio package insert.
Interceptor® Plus Indications
Interceptor® Plus is indicated for the prevention of heartworm disease caused by Dirofilaria immitis and for the treatment and control of adult roundworm (Toxocara canis, Toxascaris leonina), adult hookworm (Ancylostoma caninum), adult whipworm (Trichuris vulpis), and adult tapeworm (Taenia pisiformis, Echinococcus multilocularis, Echinococcus granulosus and Dipylidium caninum) infections in dogs and puppies six weeks of age and older and two pounds of body weight or greater.
Interceptor® Plus Important Safety Information
Treatment with fewer than 6 monthly doses after the last exposure to mosquitoes may not provide complete heartworm prevention. Prior to administration of Interceptor® Plus, dogs should be tested for existing heartworm infections. The safety of Interceptor Plus has not been evaluated in dogs used for breeding or in lactating females. The following adverse reactions have been reported in dogs after administration of milbemycin oxime or praziquantel: vomiting, diarrhea, depression/lethargy, ataxia, anorexia, convulsions, weakness, and salivation. For full prescribing information see Interceptor Plus package insert.
Disclaimer: The author received compensation from Elanco US Inc., the maker of Interceptor Plus and Credelio, for her services in writing this article.