Beware Summer Fun: Part 2

Settle in for part two of our Summer Fun blog–all about water, parasites, and safety!

 

Dehydration

Dehydration is a common cause of many vet visits and uncomfortable dogs over the summer months, and can contribute to your pet’s susceptibility to heatstroke. As many of us know, this is the phenomenon where the body has less water than it should. Dehydration occurs for many reasons–vomiting, diarrhea, illness, fever–but the most common causes in summer are lack of access to water, increased panting, and increased sweating through the pads of the paws.

The most common symptom of dehydration is a lack of elasticity in the skin–to check this, pinch the fur between your pet’s shoulder blades to form a ‘tent’ of skin. When you release, the skin should go back down within a second or two. Any longer, and your pet may be feeling a little too dry. Other signs of dehydration include bright red gums that are dry and sticky, thick and sticky saliva, and general exhaustion. When dehydration becomes severe, the eyes start to ‘sink in’ to their sockets and your dog may collapse.

Treatment includes access to water, the addition of electrolyte solutions (on advisory of the vet), and may also require IV fluids administered by the vet.

As soon as you start seeing these signs, make sure to note when your pet is drinking and ensure that they have ready access to clean, drinkable water. Bring them out of the sun and let them relax, put cool compresses over their paws, and keep a close eye on them.

If you’re concerned about your dog’s water intake, you can combat dehydration by giving your dog appropriate cooling treats such as ice cubes on the floor (or outside), and increasing the moisture content in their food by feeding raw, or adding water or wet food to their current diet and feeding them more frequently during the day (3 meals as opposed to 2).

 

Waterborne Parasites

With the increased heat, more and more people and dogs are flooding the shores of the local rivers, lakes, and bays–which means more and more people and their pooches are at risk of contracting harmful parasites and diseases from infected water. Many of the parasites listed below thrive in the summer, so read away and get prepared!

 

Leptospirosis

This well-known condition is caused by the water-borne bacteria, Leptospira, which thrives in warm areas with high rainfall. Many people have heard of the name, but few know what it actually is or does. It is a zoonotic disease–meaning that it can transfer from your pet to you. In humans it appears as flu-like symptoms that can lead to kidney damage, meningitis, liver failure, and respiratory distress. In dogs, it can appear as fever with shivering and muscle tenderness, lethargy, increased thirst, change in frequency/amount of urine, dehydration, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice, and inflammation of the eyes. As with humans, dogs can also develop kidney and/or liver disease, lung disease or difficulty breathing, bleeding disorders, and fluid accumulation in the abdomen or legs. In both cases it can be fatal; but it can also be asymptomatic, and some dogs recover spontaneously with little treatment.

As with anything, the best defence is avoiding Leptospirosis in the first place. Ensure that when your dog goes swimming, they are free of cuts or lacerations on their body and in their mucus membranes, limit their interaction with wildlife or other unknown animals, and limit the time they spend in dirty lakes and rivers. When they do go swimming, make sure to bathe them thoroughly afterwards.

Treatment should be sought as soon as possible if you suspect you or your dog may have contracted Leptospirosis–see your vet ASAP!

 

Pythiosis

Pythiosis, also known as “swamp cancer” is rare but severe when it does occur. It is a fungal infection, not bacterial or viral, that operates as a parasitic spore capable of movement. This fungus thrives in warmer climes and typically resides in areas of standing water such as puddles, ponds, swamps, and marshland. First, the fungus moves in through the facial openings (nose, ears, throat) or directly through the skin, where the resulting infection will affect the skin (large, itchy lumps or lesions) and gastrointestinal tract (vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss).

When pythiosis infects the brain, sinus, or lungs, the dog will display symptoms that indicate head pain, fever, swelling of the lymph nodes and sinuses, and coughing. In the GI tract, it may arise as abdominal masses, along with vomiting, diarrhea, regurgitation, fever, and long-term weight loss. When infection occurs in the skin, your dog may develop “non-healing” and swollen wounds, masses of pus-filled nodules, and necrosis where the tissues turn black and die off.

Treatments are available–see your vet ASAP for diagnosis, but the best way to avoid this is to not let your dog roam in stagnant pools of water. Luckily, most cases occur in more tropical areas, such as the American states bordering the Gulf of Mexico and more Southern-lying inland states, as well as areas in Columbia, Mexico, Australia, and Thailand.

 

Blue/Green Algae

Blue/Green Algae is a concern in dense buildups that usually occur in the summer months in freshwater lakes and ponds. The seasonal blooms are known as Harmful Algal Blooms because the algae–which is actually a form of bacteria known as cyanobacteria–produces toxins that can affect you and your dog quite severely. Because algae is such a hugely varied bacteria group, effects can range from things like rashes, vomiting, and diarrhea, all the way to seizures and death. The best thing you can do is avoid letting your dog (or you!) roam in standing pools that have a visible algae bloom. There is no way to tell whether or not the algae is carrying toxins until you or your pet have been afflicted and a diagnosis is achieved by a veterinarian or doctor. Unfortunately, dogs don’t know where not to swim, and if they swim in a lake that has visible blue-green algae and swallow even a few mouthfuls or clean themselves once they leave the water, the results can be fatal, fast. Make sure you always have an eye on your dog when you are roaming in the wilderness or taking your pooch for a stroll.

 

Giardiasis

Giardiasis, caused by the parasite Giardia lablia, is a common offender in the summer months for dogs. It is a parasite whose trademark is a very sudden onset of diarrhea. This is the culprit of traveller’s diarrhea in humans! Thankfully the parasite in itself is not fatal, but treatment should occur promptly if your dog suddenly starts having chronic diarrhea, as diarrhea can lead to dehydration and rapid weight loss. Giardia lives on in the feces of infected animals and can travel from there to nearby water sources. Beware water sources in dog parks, and keep a close eye on your pup to make sure she doesn’t snack on other dog’s leftovers!

 

Cryptosporidiosis

Commonly known as “crypto”, this is an unfortunately hardy species of parasite that is another common cause of sudden onset diarrhea. Known to outlast even the strongest chlorine disinfectants in recreational pools, the watery diarrhea produced when an animal or person is infected can lead to severe dehydration when not treated soon enough. Your pet may also run a fever, go off his food, or may appear more lethargic than normal. Thankfully, “Crypto” is rarely life-threatening, although some species are able to cross infect humans–but you will usually only have to deal with it for a few weeks at most.

 

Schistosomiasis

This nasty disease isn’t a huge concern for pet owners here in Canada, but if you’re travelling this summer–beware of this little bug in the hot and humid southeastern states and South America. Schistosomiasis is caused by the flatworm Heterobilharzia Americana, which resides in water and typically enters the body through the skin where it then infects the lungs and the liver. Adults produce eggs inside the GI tract which are shed when the dog defecates and then goes on to infect the intermediate host (snails), starting the nasty cycle all over again. The symptoms–vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, lethargy, fever, and rash–are caused by the eggs, which create inflammatory lesions in the dog’s GI tract. Schistosomiasis can be difficult to treat, isn’t as dangerous as some of the other waterborne parasites.

 

Pseudomonas

Pseudomonas are one of the most common reasons dogs get ear infections. It is a tiny, water-residing organism that waits for the chance to swim into the dog’s ear, but also is thought to cause swimmer’s ear in humans. When dogs get ear infections caused by this little bugger, you can expect to see swelling of the ear alongside vile-smelling discharge, as well as symptoms of pain and discomfort such as excessive scratching and head shaking. Thankfully all it takes is an easy trip to the vet for a diagnosis and treatment. To avoid this happening, specifically for those dogs already prone to ear infections, have your dog wear a lifejacket to keep their head above water and reduce the chance of water entering the canal.

The best thing you can do to avoid these parasites is to be informed–know the symptoms, know the causes, and know your water. Keep yourself up to date on which water sources in your region are safe, which are considered dirty, and which have been associated with waterborne disease breakouts in your area currently or in the past. Keeping your dog’s immune system healthy will also help prevent them from succumbing to these bugs and bacteria. Feed healthy, exercise often, and be aware!

 

Sun burn

We’ve all felt it–a day out on the beach or in the sun, having fun and spending long hours soaking up those rays–sunburns are the unfortunate side effect of enjoying your Vitamin D a little too much without adequate protection. It can be a painful few days of nursing your burn with a course of Aloe Vera and staying indoors, but at the end of the day, we know how to protect ourselves and have the ability to do so.

Dogs can also suffer from sunburn, but they can’t dress themselves or put on their own sunscreen! They don’t know the dangers of UV rays and will soak in the sun until they’re panting and exhausted, just because they love rolling in those bright beams. Sunburn is just as painful and uncomfortable for dogs as it is for us–all dogs can get sunburnt on their eyes, ears, or nose, as well as their toes or belly. Dogs with short, bristly coats (think boxers and bully breeds), hairless breeds, dogs that have thin, wispy hair and pink skin (poodles, maltese, bichon frise), and dogs that have their fur trimmed close to the skin are at an increased risk for sunburn all across their body. As with anything, the best protection is prevention; Walk your dog in the shade or at dusk/dawn, provide ample access to shade throughout the day, and invest in some pet-friendly sunscreen* or some clothes to keep your dog’s skin safe.

Sunburn in dogs looks just like ours–red skin that is sensitive to the touch, dry and flaking skin, and sensitivity when you try to touch or pet them. If you suspect sunburn, bring your dog to the vet to have them looked over and treated. You may be required to perform wound cleansing and topical treatments at home to ensure your dog’s skin heals properly and quickly.

*It is CRUCIAL to use sunscreen formulated specifically for pets, as if a dog licks a part of their body that has human sunscreen, they can easily ingest toxins and poison themselves*

 

Drowning

Drowning is, of course, always a concern when you and your pet are anywhere near water. It is frantic and can occur unexpectedly–your dog’s head sinking under, signs of struggle, paddling and whimpering–and it takes diligence to ensure it won’t happen. Most dogs, thankfully, know instinctively how to swim. This does not necessarily mean their chances of drowning are 0%. Young or older dogs, dogs with health issues such as heart murmurs/respiratory issues/seizures, dogs with an injury, or dogs of a certain body type can all be easily susceptible to drowning, especially in an area of water they are unfamiliar with or depending on the weather patterns. Even confident swimmers may not have the strength or ability to broach strong waves off the ocean or lakes. Bully breeds, muscular dogs, and brachycephalic dogs all can have troubles swimming too (this includes pugs, Frenchies, English bulldogs, American Staffies, pekingese, boxers, some mastiffs) just due to the way they are made. A lot of these breeds are very “top heavy”, meaning their mass is concentrated at the head and chest, and many of the dogs mentioned above have exceptional muscle mass and cannot properly hold themselves up above water.

When it comes to water, treat your dogs as you would your kids–constant observation and cutting off the swimming time will help prevent your dogs from undergoing and accident or getting too tired to swim back if they like fetching out way into the lake. It may even be better to cut out swimming entirely depending on the dog–such as dogs with cardiac troubles and especially dogs that can have seizures. It’s also a good idea to invest in a dog life-jacket, which can be found or ordered from your local pet store! If you have a dog that wants to touch the water but shouldn’t swim, a long lead can ensure they get their time in the water without taking their paws off the ground.

 

24 Hour Drowning

Even a close call with drowning or the accidental inhalation of water can lead to drowning well after your dog has left the water. Called “dry drowning”, “secondary drowning”, or “24-hour drowning”, this is when water that your dog has inhaled starts irritating the lungs which can lead to respiratory difficulty or pneumonia. Your dog may cough excessively, have fluid discharge from the nose, and show distress anywhere from immediately to a day following the incident. These symptoms can progress quickly to loss of circulation and ability to breathe, and can be fatal if not treated.

The best way to prevent 24-hour drowning is, of course, to prevent drowning in the first place! Accidents happen though. If an accident does happen where your pet inhales a lot of water, keep a close eye on them for the next few hours to ensure safety. If your pet is showing distress, take them to the vet immediately and plan to have them there overnight for observation. Things may appear totally normal after the near-drowning episode, but that is no reason to take this lightly as even without symptoms, things can change quickly.

Now, this isn’t to say that you should spend your summer cooped up indoors holding your dog tight–summer is a time for fun! The sun shines, people are out with their dogs and making friends, the waters are comfortable, vacation time abounds. What’s most important about having fun is also being safe and taking necessary precautions. Information is the number one defense against anything listed in this article! All you need to do is know: the dangers, how to avoid them, and how to treat them . Brush up on your K9-First aid, and make sure you have emergency contact us on hand just in case.

Go have fun!

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