Summer care for canines

For most families, summer safeguards revolve around things like travel checklists, water safety, sun protection and avoiding pests. But four-legged family members unable to speak for themselves might require additional precautions.

No self-respecting cat, of course, will go jogging on hot pavement or shamelessly dive into a dirty lake for a filthy tennis ball. Carefree canines, however, are less discerning and face myriad summertime hazards.

Each year, dogs succumb to being left for "just five minutes" in a hot car, are poisoned by gardening chemicals or get separated from family during summer "fun" that turns traumatic.


Leaving an animal in a hot vehicle is a dangerous idea. For dogs that live primarily outdoors, ensure their living areas have plenty of shade and fresh drinking water to avoid dehydration, says Sue Woods, client coordinator for Southern Oregon Veterinary Specialty Center.

"Even with all the education out there, we get a handful of cases every summer where a dog was left in someone's rig," Woods says.


For daily walks, avoid the hottest part of the day and pay attention to air and surface temperatures. It's not uncommon to see people jogging on a 90-degree day, Fido trotting alongside while the owner is tuned out with an iPod.

"Sometimes we don't think about it because we're wearing shoes, but they can burn the pads of their feet," says Mountain View Veterinary Clinic's Dr. Robert Landon. "And for dogs with thin coats, or on their muzzles or ears, some nonstaining sunscreen will protect their skin."

Ticks, Fleas and Heartworm

A year-round problem due to the region's mild winters, fleas and ticks are easier to prevent than treat. Expect an influx of ticks after long, dry periods and sudden bouts of moisture.

Landon recommends 12-month protection, noting, "I'm not so worried about ticks with the little toy poodle in Ms. Jones' purse, but the black lab on a farm should be protected year round."

Transmitted by mosquitoes that are especially prevalent during summer, heartworms are more deadly and should be prevented, as well.

Water WORRIES (drowning and algae)

With increased fishing, swimming and boating on the summer to-do list, avoid drowning accidents by putting a life jacket on the family dog, especially the die-hard "fetch" junkie who will play until complete exhaustion sets in.

Another concern during summer months is poisoning from blue-green algae on many local lakes and rivers. Dogs exposed to neurotoxins in several types of algae will become lethargic, vomit and have seizures. Dogs have died the past two summers after drinking algae-tainted water from stagnant pools along the Umpqua River.

"If pet owners see that algae is growing in the water, avoid it at all cost," says Landon.

"It doesn't take a big exposure, and there is no antidote, so if they're exposed, it's a matter of getting it all the way through the system without losing the pet."

Oregon public-health officials issue advisories as toxic algae blooms occur. The advisories can be viewed at

Independence ANXIETY

While bipeds celebrate the birth of our country on the Fourth of July, most quadrupeds see it as the time of year when the sky surely is crashing down. Thunderstorms are a close second on the list of "things that happened just before the family pet disappeared."

"July Fourth and thunderstorms always bring on a rash of pets escaping," Landon says. "Obviously, before it happens is the best time to figure out a plan. If a sedative is needed to keep them calm, you want to figure out the dosage and see how your pet reacts before you have to use it."


If hiking or living in a rural area, consider a snakebite vaccine for dogs. Symptoms of snakebite include shaking, salivating, high fever and swelling in the area of the bite.

"It's important to always be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on your dog. If they get bit, get them to the vet right away," says Woods.

Boarding facilities or pet sitters

Separation from family is traumatic for most family pets, so don't cut costs on hiring a quality boarding facility or pet sitter. Ask for referrals and leave pets for shorter, overnight trips before planning longer absences.

Most importantly, make sure that whoever is caring for the animal has necessary medical information and permission to seek emergency treatment.

"If it's an emergency and the animal is dying, most of us will do something to help the animal, but it's really important to call your vet and let them know who's caring for the pet," Landon says.

"Let them know when you'll be gone, who's watching your pet and, if cost is a concern, how much you authorize for emergency treatment."

Landon adds, "Planning for anything ahead of time will make everything better on your family, your vet and your animal."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at

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