By Bob Young, We Love Pets
During the summer, there is nothing more enjoyable than taking your dog for a nice long walk, you’ll both feel all the better for it. However as professional dog walkers, we are aware that this freedom increases the dangers your dog can be exposed to. So here are our Top Ten Tips to help you make sure that you and your dog make the most of the great outdoors.
Dogs will often nibble on plants but during Springtime especially you need to be aware that some bulbs and flowers can be particularly dangerous for your dog. Spring bulbs like daffodils can be deadly for a dog so make sure they don’t go digging them up. In fact the leaves and flowers of the daffodil can also make you dog very ill if eaten. Other flowers and plants to steer clear of are crocuses, snowdrops, tulips and lily of the valley.
Our advice is to make sure you either have your dog on a lead or be close enough to call them away if they start to eat any plants – its better to be safe than sorry. Typical symptoms to look out for if you suspect your dog has eaten plants are salivating, vomiting or diarrhoea, being unsteady or it seems to lack co-ordination.
When you contact your vet make sure you tell them as much information as you possibly can. For example, do you know what plant your dog may have eaten? If you don’t know the name, then take some of it with you for identification. How much do you think they might have chewed or eaten? How long ago did they eat it?
Your pet may love bounding through the long grass but remember, during spring and early summer these grasses are seeding and these will get everywhere. The seeds pose no serious danger to your pet but they can be very uncomfortable and can easily get stuck in ears, muzzles and down their airways. Always check at the end of a walk and remove any seeds that you see.
Bugs and Parasites
With the warmer weather comes an increase in all manner of bugs which can be at best irritating and at worst quite dangerous for your dog. Any areas of natural grass or woodland will be teeming with fleas, ticks, mites and gnats that are looking for a nice host. Make sure your dog is up to date with their vaccinations, flea and tick medications at this time of year and always check them when you get back from a walk.
If your dog is off the leash it can inadvertently wander into areas where bees or wasps are feeding. In most cases, wasp or bee stings are not emergencies unless your dog has been stung multiple times. With a bee sting, check and remove the sting if it is still in place, then bathe the area in bicarbonate of soda (one teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to 300ml warm water). With wasp stings bathe the area with malt vinegar or lemon juice. If your dog shows any allergic reaction, such as swellings, distress and breathing difficulties, take it to a vet immediately.
Just like people, dogs can develop allergies to plants, pollens, grasses, and many other substances in springtime. These normally appear as itchy skin and ear problems, accompanied by hair loss or inflamed skin. Some will even change their behaviour due to irritation and others may suffer respiratory symptoms or runny eyes. If you are at all concerned, especially after your dog has been out in the countryside, contact your vet.
The only poisonous snake we have in Britain is the adder and fortunately these are quite timid in nature and will not usually bite unless they feel threatened or cornered. Most adder encounters occur during their active season between March and October when dogs, due to their inquisitive nature, can sometimes disturb them. If you are in an area where adders are known to be active, try and keep to paths and make sure your dog is kept under control, preferably on a lead.
If your dog is bitten, seek veterinary help as soon as you can and do not attempt first aid measures such as sucking out the venom or applying a tourniquet. These procedures are ineffective and may even cause further harm to your pet. Try to keep your pet calm and wherever possible carry your dog rather than let it walk. Both of these measures will help slow the spread of venom around the body.
Most dogs can’t resist the lure of water, especially on a hot day. However beware of letting them go into ponds or rivers where algae – a blue-green or green paint-like scum – is growing. Some types produce toxins that can be irritants, or even lethally poisonous. And do not forget that although most dogs like water, not all dogs are good swimmers! Dogs can and do drown in rivers and the sea. If your pet has a near drowning experience they should see a vet, as complications can develop following inhalation of water.
It’s all too easy to forget that dogs are not as good as humans at dealing with hot weather and they can easily overheat, especially if they are enjoying a game chasing after a stick or a ball. Some simple precautions can stop this happening.
Exercise them in the mornings and evenings when the weather is cooler and, if they are a long haired breed, get them a trim for the summer. Also make sure you always take water with you, even on a relatively short walk, just in case. On really hot days if they are playing, make sure they have a break every few minutes and give them a cooling spray with a hose when you get back. Lastly, learn how to take your dogs temperature, by the time a dog is exhibiting symptoms of heatstroke, it’s often too late.
Hot Cars & Spaces
You should not leave your dog in the car for even a minute on a sunny day even with the window slightly open. The same also applies to hot, airless rooms such as a conservatory. At 25 degrees Celsius, dogs in hot cars begin to pant excessively within 2 minutes and can die in less than 15 minutes.
You should also take care if going on a long journey on a hot day especially if you carry your dog behind the rear seats – remember they are surrounded by more glass than you are. If you have air conditioning make sure you use it and direct the airflow towards your pet. If you don’t, drive with the window down – the air will help them pant and cool off. Whatever you do, make sure you have plenty of water and take regular breaks.
When we go out in the sun we plaster ourselves with sun cream, but do we ever do the same for our four legged friends? All hairless breeds and dogs that have been clipped should be kept out of the sun as much as possible. Breeds such as terriers, spaniels, Chihuahuas, Doberman pinschers and other shorthaired dogs, as well as all breeds with white or pink skin, are at high risk from sunburn.
Dogs are pretty good at finding shade but if you know where you are going doesn’t have much, when hiking or boating perhaps, then take along either a special sunblock from your vet or use unscented waterproof sunscreen of at least factor 15.
It is also a good idea to keep dogs indoors or well shaded areas between 10.00am and 4.00pm when the sun is at its fiercest.
Visit www.we-love-pets.co.uk for details of your local We Love Pets team and for other helpful information on looking after dogs and other pets.