Summer may be the perfect season for lounging around on the beach, ice cream in hand, soaking up the rays, but did you know that it can also pose a significant risk to your canine companion? From flea infestations to doggy hay fever, the summer season brings with it a number of factors you need to watch out for in order to keep your dog safe and away from harm.
However, that’s not to say you need to shelter them and keep them locked in all day, as there is no greater joy than seeing a dog splashing around in the sea or chasing squirrels in the park on a nice summer’s day. It’s good to be cautious though and learn how to limit the likelihood of your pooch pal developing a nasty condition. After all, those squirrels won’t chase themselves.
Here are five of the most common dog problems you will need to keep an eye out for this summer.
Heartworm is a serious and potentially fatal disease transmitted by a foot-long worm parasite through a mosquito. As you might have guessed, the parasite typically targets the heart, but it can also live in lungs and blood vessels.
Heartworm develops inside of mosquitoes in the form of a microscopic baby worm known as microfilaria. Mosquitoes pick this worm up from other already-infected animals, such as foxes, coyotes or wolves, via a ‘blood meal’ (i.e. it sucks them out of their blood). They then transmit the parasite into non-infected dogs by ‘biting’ them. This then allows them to grow inside of your pet, up to a foot-long in length. If left untreated, the worm can continue to grow and could cause long-lasting damage to your dog’s heart, lungs and arteries.
While companies can provide great diagnostic kits to easily identify heartworm, prevention is by far the best form of defence. Since the condition is spread by mosquitoes, avoiding mosquito bites using a drug-impregnated collar or spot-on treatment is the first port of call. However, if your dog does become infected, a monthly spot-on or tablet treatment will be able to prevent parasitic growth.
Here in the UK, mosquitoes aren’t as prevalent as they are in countries like Australia, America, Spain, Italy or France, but it is still worth keeping an eye out for heartworm, especially if your dog displays any of these symptoms:
- Reluctance to exercise
- Swollen belly
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
Fleas are a real nuisance for dogs over the summer months as they thrive in the warmer weather. It is definitely worth consistently checking your dog’s coat for them, as it can take only three weeks for one flea to turn into a massive infestation of over 1000 bugs.
If left untreated, your dog could exhibit symptoms such as:
- Hair loss – as your dog will scratch itself trying to get rid of them.
- Allergic response – as a result of the flea’s contact with the skin.
- Flea dirt – as these tiny black dots are left by fleas on your dog’s skin.
- Tapeworms – as these are usually transferred by fleas.
Fortunately, fleas are fairly easy to get rid of using an effective flea collar or a strong spot-on treatment like Advocate or Frontline. However, one of the best ways to prevent them is by simply giving your dog a haircut. This will not only make it easier to identify the presence of any fleas in the first place, but it will also keep your dog feeling nice and cool in the sunny weather.
Ticks are a form of arachnid which live by feeding on the blood of various mammals, including dogs. They can transmit a number of harmful conditions to your pooch via the hooking mechanism they use to attach to their skin. Due to their small size, they can also be very difficult to detect.
Deer ticks in particular are known to cause Lyme disease – a chronic, multi-systemic, inflammatory disorder. This can also be hard to identify in dogs, as a number of its associated symptoms resemble other diseases. However, if your dog starts displaying muscle weakness, joint pain and a limp in its front leg then it could be Lyme disease.
Fortunately, Lyme disease is preventable using a vaccine and highly treatable using antibiotics. Tick removal is also doable using a pair of specialist tweezers but, due to a tick’s strong hook mechanism, it can be very difficult and frustrating. Flea treatments are also recommended as one of the best preventative measures to use.
With the warmer weather around, it’s easy for dogs to become dehydrated. After all, they spend the entire day wandering around with a fur coat wrapped around them, so they’re bound to get hot. If your dog starts displaying any of the symptoms below, make sure they’re nice and hydrated:
- Sunken eyes.
- Loss of appetite.
- Weight loss.
- Excess urination.
- Dry mouth.
While it may sound relatively harmless, dehydration can actually prove fatal to dogs. It’s vital for them to have access to water whenever they require, and they should avoid spending all day out in the sun – as much as they’ll probably want to!
Dehydration can be avoided by giving your dog a haircut, and by providing them with shade to get away from the sun. Even a pop-up umbrella or beach shelter would do the trick. Likewise, you should avoid leaving your dog in the car for too long, as temperatures can reach levels as high as 40oC inside.
If you’re feeling generous, you could even invest in a small wading pool for your dog to splash around in. Or, take it one step further, by making your own dog-friendly ice cream guaranteed to cool your pup down.
Hay fever & allergies
Summer brings with it a variety of seasonal items, including grass, hay, pollen, rape-seed and fleas. As a result, your dog can suffer from a wide range of allergies, including the annoying condition that many of us humans encounter: hay fever.
While we may think of hay fever as a condition which gives us a runny nose, red eyes and nasal congestion, it manifests itself very differently in dogs. If your dog starts to scratch their body, nibble their paws or rub their face on the furniture, these are all key signs that they are probably suffering from hay fever.
Preventing the issue is relatively straightforward. Since hay fever is brought on because of pollen, make sure to brush your dog as much as you can and wipe them down after walks to remove any pollen from their coat. Also, use an effective flea treatment and give them a haircut in order to minimise the risk.
You could also try incorporating Omega 3 and 6 oils into their diet, to boost their skin barrier and prevent harmful allergens from entering their system.
What are your summer tips for dogs?