Sunday, July 4, 2010

Summer dangers for dogs and cats

My summer has gotten off to a pretty dramatic start. There are so many things that can happen to pets in the summer when we are outside with them.

4th of July
Fireworks make me crazy, and they scare pets. A panicked pet, cat or dog, can run out in the street and get hit by a car, which is exactly what happened to a friend's dog this week. Fireworks aren't even legal here and it wasn't even the 4th yet, but someone shot off a noisy bomb and their dog Lily died for it.

Before you start thinking the owners were stupid, let me tell you my own story. Ignorant is a better term, which means we just didn't know what the consequences might be.

When I was a brand-new dog owner, we though it would be fun to take our sheltie, Sherman, to the beach on the night of the 4th so he could watch the fireworks with us. People were blowing off smoking, sizzling, sparkling do-dads all over the sand, and our dog just completely melted down. He never recovered from his fear of loud noises after that. What was I thinking?

Worse. We thought our cat, Sebastian might enjoy chasing one of those burning snake things out on our patio. I was holding him and when my husband set it off, the cat almost amputated my arm in his haste to get away.

Ignorance is not bliss.

Rattlesnake bites
You would think your dogs would be safe in your own back yard, but not always. My friend Melanie lives on a slope, so she has a patio with a retaining wall around it, and the hill slopes up behind the wall. A large red diamondback rattlesnake must have fallen off the edge into the patio. She heard frantic barking, and ran outside to see her standard poodle, Tango, standing between the snake and her rat terriers, defending his pack.

She brought the dogs in; her husband killed the snake. It was several hours before she realized Tango was swelling up from several bites. His head and neck were huge, and by then, it was too late. The dog died.

I had a similar incident in my back yard (not where I live now). I found a small rattler and rounded up the dogs. It was hours before one of the dogs swelled up and I realized he'd been bitten. He survived, but it was a long and expensive night in the emergency room.

There's not much you can do to protect your pets in the back yard, but when you are out on the trails, keep your dog on a leash and keep him from sniffing under bushes until you are sure there's no snake under there. Snakes like to rest in the shade along the edge of the trail. I also recommend rattlesnake avoidance training and a rattlesnake bite vaccine.

This week's disasters reminded me of another one a few years ago. Another friend was hiking on Iron Mountain one hot August morning. He is an extreme sportsman who enjoys mountain climbing in Europe and endurance riding. His white German Shepherd, Enrico, was with him, and the owner didn't recognize the signs of heat exhaustion. On the way back down, the dog collapsed and died before he could get him to the car.

He called me later, sobbing into the phone, "I killed my dog!" Needless to say, it was horrible and he was inconsolable. It's a hard lesson to learn. This man has a Ph.D. in physics, but he just didn't know any better when it came to his dog.

A dog loves his owner and will go and go without complaining just to keep you happy. Read my recent post about heatstroke in dogs so you'll be prepared.

It doesn't need to be an extreme situation for your dog to die from the heat. Temperatures rise so fast that even five minutes in a closed up car can kill your dog. Older and ill animals need to be kept indoors where it is cool.

When you walk your dog, if you touch the pavement and it is too hot for you to stand on barefoot, then it's too hot for your dog's feet too. His paw pads can get badly burned.

Photos: In memory of Lily, Tango and Enrico

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© 2010 Terry Albert. Photos of Tango and Enrico © Melanie Snowhite. All Rights Reserved.


~Kim at Golden Pines~ said...

Thank-you for this post and good reminders, especially with the time of year and record heat we are having in Virginia. I feel badly about the losses of those mentioned in your post--They are sad and difficult lessons to learn the hard way...

Terry Albert said...

Yes, I agree- even if you are aware, stuff happens, and it's not always anyone's fault.