Brian Jones, DVM, Woodlake Animal Hospital
Summertime is a time for you to get outside with your dog to play and have fun. Though the outside world is filled with fun, it comes with its share of dangers that can threaten harm and even death if not taken seriously. Following are a few of the things we need to be aware of and watch out for this summer.
Beat the Heat
Summer in Oklahoma is hot and humid, especially with all the rain. A dog left outside in the heat for too long can get sick; even worse, excessive heat can be life threatening. Access to a lot of fresh, clean water is a must at all times. If the temperature is going to be above 85 degrees for a prolonged period of time, your dog needs to be indoors or in the shade.
The dogs most at risk are our long coated friends or our brachycephalic breeds (smushed nose guys like bulldogs). With brachycephalic breeds, care must be taken to not let them become overly active outside on a sunny day. Playing and running outside when it’s hot for these breeds can spell disaster before a dog parent even realizes there is a problem, so it is advisable spend your outdoor time with them very early in the morning or late in the evening when it cools off to avoid the heat of the day.
Some fair-skinned dogs may even need sunscreen. Dogs can blister and burn just like people. Sunscreen can be applied to the bridge of the nose, ear tips, skin surrounding the lips, and any area where pigmentation is low. The sunscreen should be fragrance free, non-staining, and contain UVA and UVB barriers similar to SPF 15 or SPF 30 for humans. (SPF labeling and claims are not permitted on products marketed for use on pets because the FDA has not established a test to determine SPF values in pets.) Some protective ingredients include: Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Octyl Salicylate, Homosalate and Benzophenone-3. Octyl Salicylate products should not be used on cats.
There are some sunscreens created specifically for pets, but using baby sunscreen is also an option. Most human sunscreens have ingestion warnings because the ingredients can be toxic if a child or dog ingests them, so if your dog is likely to lick it off, look for a dog-specific sunscreen. One thing to remember about sunscreen is that you need to use plenty of it, and you should re-apply regularly during sun exposure. There are several brands of dog-specific sunscreens available. If you intend to use a sunscreen on a cat, make certain that the product labeling specifically states that it is appropriate and safe for cats.
What “bugs” us?
Dogs that spend a lot of time outside can get sores on the tips of their ears from flies. This is commonly referred to as fly strike. Flies bite the tips of the dog’s ears and feed from the blood. These sores are painful and the worse they become, the more the flies like it. There are fly repellant ointments you can put on your dog’s ears to help keep the flies off.
Many have also had very good success by using a flea and tick product called Advantix and placing the majority of the product as labeled between the shoulder blades but saving a few drops to put on the tip of each ear. The nice part about using Advantix is that it seems to last much longer than the traditional fly repellant ointment.
Fleas and Ticks
What would summer be without fleas and ticks? This summer season, fleas will be especially bad due to the large amount of rain. There are a plethora of products out on the market that work well and are safe. Topical flea and tick products like Advantix (for dogs only), Vectra and Frontline work well. These products are applied on the skin between the shoulder blades and last for one month.
There are newer products like Comfortis, Nexgard and Bravecto that are taken orally that dogs ingest like a treat. This may be more beneficial to dogs that like to go swimming or are frequently bathed. The difference between most of these products is what they are labeled to cover and how long they work. Comfortis is a flavor tab that kills fleas for one month. Nexgard is a chewy pill that kills fleas and ticks for one month. Bravecto is a flavor tab that kills fleas and ticks for three months.
Fleas and ticks not only make the pets itchy and uncomfortable but also can carry serious diseases. The common diseases that ticks in Oklahoma can carry are Erlichia, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Anaplasmosis. Fleas can cause severe skin allergies and can carry tapeworms that can infect dogs and cats. Prevention with one of the products above is the best way to make sure they do not contract a potentially fatal disease.
Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes. Once a dog is bitten by an infected mosquito, the baby heartworm (microfilaria) travels to the right side of the heart and grows to be up to a foot long. This process takes about 6 months. When enough worms invade the heart, a dog can show signs of heart and respiratory disease and will eventually die.
The recommendation for Oklahoma is to use heartworm prevention year round. Available products range from spot-ons and chewable treats to injections. Chewables, such as, Heartgard, Iverheart, Interceptor, Sentinel and Trifexis, are given once a month. In addition to preventing heartworms if given monthly, they all also help prevent intestinal parasites like roundworms and hookworms. Some of these products will even get whipworms and tapeworms, which are also intestinal parasites that can make your dog sick.
Sentinel will also sterilize fleas if the flea bites the animal. Trifexis is a little different, as it has the product Comfortis along with heartworm prevention so it can kill fleas, not just sterilize.
The injectable heartworm prevention is called Proheart 6. This is an injection that is administered by your veterinarian and lasts for 6 months. The main difference is that it does not effectively keep intestinal parasites like roundworms, hookworms and whipworms away as do some of the other products.
If your dog tests positive for heartworm disease, the treatment to get rid of the adult worms in the heart can be expensive and also life threatening. Once the heartworms are effectively killed, the damage left behind by the heartworms may be irreversible. So prevention is paramount.
This brief article is by no means a complete guide and if you have questions about any of the products listed here or a product that your dog is taking please give your veterinarian a call.
Woodlake Animal Hospital is located in Oklahoma City and offers state-of-the-art equipment and technology to provide the highest quality care for your pets. You can reach Woodlake Animal Hospital at 405-721-6604 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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