Common-sense care tips keep pets safe in summer
By Kim Campbell Thornton
It's Memorial Day, and that means just one thing: Summer fun with your dog is right around the corner. But along with the good times come some seasonal hazards that can hurt your dog and spoil the easy-living vibe. Here's what you need to know so both of you can enjoy the dog days of summer.
-- Sun seeker. Whether your dog is just hanging out in the backyard or spending the day hiking or picnicking with you, he needs to be protected from the sun if he has a thin or light-colored coat. The most vulnerable areas are the nose, face and ear tips, but pets who like to sleep on their backs in the sun can get a painful belly burn. Apply sunscreen made specifically for pets, or use PABA-free sunscreen or zinc oxide. Make sure you don't get it in your dog's eyes.
-- Heat and humidity. When temperatures get extreme, heat exhaustion and heatstroke are concerns, especially for dogs with flat faces, such as Boston terriers, bulldogs, French bulldogs, Pekingese and pugs. For short-faced breeds, as little as half an hour in high temperatures can be fatal. Dogs with heavy coats or those with heart problems may also be at risk.
While it's fine for pets to have access to the outdoors on a hot day, they should stay primarily in air-conditioned comfort. Outdoors, they need plenty of shade and an unlimited supply of cool, fresh water. Limit exercise to cool mornings and evenings. Be familiar with signs of heatstroke: excessive panting, weakness, dizziness, dark red gums, nausea and loss of consciousness. Cool the pet with lukewarm -- not cold -- water, and get him to the veterinarian right away.
-- Pool safety. Does your dog love swimming in the pool or riding on the family boat? Be sure he knows how to get out of the pool or onto the boat. Go into the pool with him and show him the stairs. Have someone else call him while he's in different parts of the pool, and make sure he knows how to get to the steps and use them to get out. Practice frequently.
Consider purchasing a dog ramp for use in pools or on docks or boats. Place it at the opposite end of the pool from the steps so your dog has options.
If possible, restrict access to the pool or spa if you're not there to supervise, especially if you have a pet with limited eyesight. Another option is a Safety Turtle pet kit, which will sound an alarm to alert you if your pet falls into the pool.
-- Beach and boat. Playing in the waves is a quintessential beach dog activity, but bodysurfing dogs can incur knee injuries from the force of the waves. Keep your dog close to shore if waves are booming.
Play fetch on hard-packed sand so your dog doesn't ingest a lot of it when retrieving his ball or flying disc. Taking in too much sand can cause a serious intestinal obstruction.
Whether your dog is riding with you on a stand-up paddleboard or a more substantial craft, protect him from drowning with a pet life vest. Choose one in a bright color that's easily visible in the water. It should fit comfortably and have a handle on top for easy retrieval if your dog falls or jumps in the water. Just as you would with a pool, show him how to get out of the water.
-- On the trail. If you and your dog are out on a hot day, carry plenty of water for him and tie a cooling bandana around his neck. Take frequent breaks, and offer your dog water frequently. Dogs cool themselves by panting, which isn't very efficient in hot or humid conditions.
Now that you're prepared, go out there and have fun!
Dog phobia treatable
Q: My fiance is very fearful of dogs, which is surprising and dismaying because I love animals. He says he hasn't ever had a bad experience with one. Is there anything that can help? -- via email
A: Phobias are interesting (unless you're the person who has one). Sometimes they develop after a bad experience with the cause of the fear, whether that's a dog, a spider or a particular frightening situation, but other times they begin as a type of panic disorder, with no apparent cause.
I spoke to David Carbonell, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Arlington Heights, Illinois, who treats people with anxiety disorders. He says therapy can be surprisingly successful and sometimes may take as few as eight sessions.
He starts by asking clients how they feel when they encounter a dog and what they think might happen if they meet a dog. People often describe physical signs of fear: a pounding heart, sweaty palms, difficulty breathing. They might be afraid of being bitten or knocked over by the dog. Dr. Carbonell asks them what has happened in the past when they've encountered dogs.
"By reviewing history and asking a lot of questions, I'll seek to create some room for doubt about how accurate their idea is of what would happen, and I'll help the person develop some responses to the physical fear and scary thoughts," he says.
Those responses may include breathing exercises and relaxation techniques. Once a client has learned the techniques, Dr. Carbonell sets up a session with a dog.
"To have the experience of being able to calm themselves and tolerate the physical sensations and let them subside, it's necessary to actually practice with a dog, and that's where the real treatment comes from, from doing that in the presence of a dog -- getting afraid and having the time to calm down," he says. -- Kim Campbell Thornton
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Collie in driver's seat
on Scottish farm
-- Traffic was stopped on a busy Scottish highway last month after a sheepdog named Don accidentally leaned on the controls of a utility vehicle, taking it out on the road. After going down a hill, through a split-rail fence and across the road, the tractor hit a traffic barrier, stopping its movement. Fortunately, Don wasn't injured -- despite not wearing a seatbelt. His owner, Tom Hamilton, had been checking on some lambs when the incident occurred. Drivers responding to Traffic Scotland's tweets about Don's adventure wondered if the dog was Breathalyzed. No reports on whether he was feeling sheepish.
-- A study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology found that hyperthyroidism in cats might be linked to exposure to flame retardants used in plastics and furniture. Researchers at Sweden's Stockholm University found high levels of the chemicals -- known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers -- in blood samples from cats with hyperthyroidism. Cats accidentally ingest PBDEs when dust containing the substance sticks to their fur and they then groom themselves. Hyperthyroidism, which affects more than 1 in 10 older cats, is the overproduction of thyroid hormone by the thyroid glands.
-- You could be playing with shelter cats right now! A new website allows anyone to control remote-controlled cat toys for two minutes at a time. No matter where you are in the country, you can help entertain cats at 13 different shelters nationwide through the iPet Companion website (ipetcompanion.com/liveplay). Each visitor to the site can control the toys for two minutes at a time, then get back in the virtual line for another turn. The technology is a bonus for people who love cats but have allergies or who can't get to the shelter to volunteer in person. -- Kim Campbell Thornton
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.
CAPTIONS AND CREDITS
Caption 01: Without access to shade or fresh water, dogs can be at risk of heatstroke, even if temperatures are only warm, not hot. Position: Main Story
Caption 02: A cat at Idaho Humane Society plays with a remotely operated toy. Position: Pet Buzz/Item 3