Keeping your pets happy in the summer heat
A Gordon vet’s advice on summer pet care for your furry friends*
Summer is upon us - before we all think about holidays, let’s make some preparations for our pets to ensure they enjoy the next few months as much as we do.
The deadly paralysis tick
Ticks are most prevalent over spring and summer across the North Shore, and are most likely found in bushy areas, near the coast, and anywhere visited by possums or bandicoots. Tick control is essential for all dogs and cats with access to the outdoors. As vets, we’re frequently faced with distraught owners who thought that their pet was covered for ticks, only to find that the product they were using wasn’t effective against ticks, or wasn’t being used appropriately. Important questions to ask yourself are:
• Is the product safe for your pet? If you have a cat, is the product safe for cats? • Does the product cover paralysis ticks? • Is it being used at the correct frequency?
Despite the fact that paralysis ticks may be only a few millimetres in size, they inject a deadly toxin which paralyses muscles and signs will emerge two to three days after the tick starts to feed and inject toxin. Initially, affected pets may just be less active, or reluctant to climb stairs or jump up. Over the course of a few hours this can progress to more significant wobbliness of their legs, particularly their hind legs. If left untreated, patients may become completely paralysed and unable to move and left untreated they can die.
Tick paralysis signs to look out for:
• Limb paralysis, • Vomiting or retching and appetite and thirst loss, • Laboured breathing with a loss of voice and sometimes a hoarse miaow or bark.
If you find a tick on your pet, whether they’re showing signs of tick paralysis or not, either remove the tick yourself or ask a vet to. The sooner your pet is treated, the better their chances of recovery. Don't adopt a ‘wait and see’ approach.
Prevention is of course better than a cure! Even with the use of tick preventatives, we recommend daily tick searches of your pets. Find a quiet spot where you won't be distracted and run your fingers slowly over your pet's skin. It's important to work in a pattern so that at the end of the tick search you can be confident that you have searched their whole body. Remember that it's the skin that you’re feeling and not the coat. Always double check their head, neck and shoulders, because ticks have a preference for the front half of the body.
Heat stress & heat stroke
We all seek out cool spots on hot summer days, and our pets are no different. Whether you have a cat, dog or pocket pet, it’s essential that they have access to cool, shady spots, and a plentiful supply of fresh water. To encourage drinking, place extra water bowls around so they’re more accessible. Access to a tiled room can let your pets cool their belly. Additionally, for those lucky dogs with a pool, a dip in the pool, or for those without, a play under the hose or sprinkler can help to cool them down.
Never leave any pet unattended in a car. Cars rapidly turn into an oven in the sun and pets can overheat in a matter of minutes.
If you have a dog, avoid walking them in the heat of the day. Instead go for a short walk in the morning and evening.
Take care with feeding your dog frozen bones. We frequently see fractured teeth from dogs enthusiastically crunching on items that are too hard for their teeth.
Owners of short-nosed breeds like boxers, bulldogs and pugs need to be extra vigilant too - they pant inefficiently and are at an increased risk of heat stroke.
We don’t often think of pets getting sunburnt, but skin cancer is seen all too frequently in our four-legged family members. White cats regularly develop squamous cell carcinomas on their ear tips and nose, Dalmatians, Staffies and other sunbakers are prone to similar lesions on their sensitive belly skin.
Like us, it’s best to avoid the peak sunlight hours by keeping your pets indoors between 10am and 2pm.
Avoid sunscreens containing zinc oxide for dogs, and those containing salicylates for cats. These compounds are toxic to dogs and cats if eaten.
Thunderstorms & fireworks
There’s nothing quite like a summer thunderstorm to clear the air after a scorching hot day, or the excitement of the New Year’s Eve fireworks. Spare a thought though for our pets for whom the all pervasive sudden noise, flashing lights and changes in barometric pressure can cause great distress. Animals may show mild signs of anxiety such as panting, pacing or attention seeking, or this may escalate into severe anxiety demonstrated by drooling, trembling and destructive behaviour. There are a few actions you can take to help the situation. Provide a confined space to help your pet feel secure, close windows and blinds to block out the lights, try playing music to drown out the noise, and consider relaxation exercises. Either a gentle massage behind the ears, or calmly giving your dogs commands, followed by pat or treat reward, can give them something positive to focus on and help them relax. Asking them to sit, then drop, then stay and look, then rotating through the cycle can help to settle them.
Further comfort can be gained by the use of a compression jacket, a desensitization program from your vet, or the use of pheromones and medication to reduce anxiety. Talk to your vet about these solutions.
Before you head off, ensure that you have plans in place for your pets. Are their vaccinations, worming and flea and tick control up to date? Are their microchip details and your contact numbers correct? Are they registered with the local council? It’s also worth ensuring that your pet is wearing a collar and tag with your up to date contact details so that you can be reunited quickly if they get lost.
Some aspects of the festive season you may not have thought about... • Flowers: Lilies are highly poisonous to cats and despite this, many cats will try to eat lilies. • Party food: can poisonous in the case of chocolate and onions , or if the food is fatty, it can leave pets with a lifethreatening bout of pancreatitis. • Peace and quiet: while celebrating, ensure your pets have a quiet spot where they can rest undisturbed during parties, away from excessive admiration which may often distress an animal.
* The Monthly Chronicle recognises that cats, dogs and rabbits are only a small selection of the wide range of animals we love to keep at home. It’s only for reasons of space we have focused here on those breeds as they’re the most popular.
Dogs love the beach as much as we do, but watch out for sunburn