Pet Improvement: Summer tips

The x-ray on the left is of a foxtail tract that was injected with contrast medium to show just how far a foxtail can travel. The lesion between the toes of the foot on the bottom right is how these tracts will look to the naked eye. This is a great example of just how far foxtails can migrate in tissues. (Photo courtesy of Brentwood Animal Hospital and

The long-awaited relaxing summer months have finally arrived. It is so nice to see all the families and their pets out having fun. So here are a few tips to help keep it enjoyable.

Grass, we love grass. Lush summer grass is the perfect setting for romps. What could be the problem with grass? It is the seeds or awns. Speargrass, foxtail and many other grasses have barbed, spear-like seeds. By design, awns can easily pierce your pet’s skin, lodge and then travel. Eyes, nose, ears, skin and feet are perfect launch pads. Cats are prone as well.

Keep your yard mowed and be careful when out walking. If your pet darts off into seeded grass then immediately check inside the mouth, lips, eyes and gums. Once home, check over their entire body but especially between the toes. While you are at it remember to check for thorns from bramble weeds. Some signs are redness, itching, sneezing, coughing, pawing at the ears, lumps and abscesses. 

Dogs and cats in hot cars are an ongoing issue. As a reminder, a vehicle parked in the shade with the windows cracked can go from 70 to 90 degrees in 30 minutes. But what happens when you leave your car to take a hike or go to the beach?

Consider that your pets are already revved up from the great workout and you do not want to put them in a hot car. Surfaces like vinyl, plastic and upholstery not only can become superheated, but they also emit fumes. Crates and kennels are not exempt. Use sunshades and bring a cooler with you. Place your pet’s water bottle, bowl and several cotton throws in the cooler with a reusable ice pack. When you return from the walk you can place them over the hot surfaces and hydrate your pet with cool water.

Many hotels and vacation rentals will not allow you to leave the pet in the room unattended. Hence the temptation for people to run errands with their pets. But do not fall for it. If you must bring them with you, have someone in the car that can monitor the situation and keep the car cool.

Another concern is the risk of dehydration from lack of enough water. Yet dogs can also get water toxicity, which is a form of electrolyte imbalance. A thirsty, hot pet that overdrinks can dilute the body’s electrolytes. Too much sodium from ocean water can also create an imbalance. This can affect the brain and other organs and cause staggering, lethargy, vomiting, bloating, seizures and other symptoms. 

Likewise, dogs that swim in the ocean are also absorbing salt through the skin. It is important after a workout on the beach to thoroughly rinse the salt and sand out of your pet’s coat. Often one must use a brush or hand to dislodge the sand as it will layer under the haircoat and can create skin issues. 

Sand, in and of itself, will permeate every single surface that your dog has access too. Whether it is the interior of your car or your house. Sand accumulates quickly and becomes stiff and hard with the addition of moisture making it even more difficult to clean. It also provides a nice little haven for fleas and mites so frequent sweeping and vacuuming are recommended.

Savory hot dogs, hamburgers and deli meats are the norm at picnics and barbecues. But are they good for our pets? No. Fatty foods and composite foods can contain substances that create GI distress. A high-fat diet or snack can cause pancreatitis. Yet no one can beg like a dog. The ideal is to put your pets up when guests are over, yet many pets love the socialization. One suggestion is to create a bowl of acceptable treats for your guests to give your pets. You can use part of their meal for these treats but remember to deduct it out of the total fed. Never overfeed treats. 

Because of the pandemic, many major firework displays are canceled, however, this does not include what your neighbors will do before, during and after the fourth. Pets that are particularly sensitive should begin some type of relaxation regime days in advance. Because of the stress response, it is almost impossible to calm them down once they are riled up. Whether you use Bach Flower Rescue Remedy, CBD, valerian or other herbal remedies try to build up the effects. 

Check with your veterinarian about using drugs such as Benadryl or other stronger medications. Make sure your fence is secure and keep highly reactive dogs on a lead when outside. At least on July 4, try to keep your dogs and cats in an inside room where they do not have access to an outside door.

Play it safe, stay safe and enjoy the summer!

Jane Laulis is an avid pet lover. She hosts a pet talk radio show and is involved with pets from research to retail, nutrition to pet food manufacturing. She lives on the coast with her scientist husband, ocean faring dogs, indoor cats, exotic snakes and a charm of hummingbirds. She may be reached at [email protected]


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