Summertime Hazards

By Gina Spadafori
Pet Columnist

Summertime Has Potential Hazards for your Pets
Summer is a great time to be a pet. The days are long and most kids are out of school. That leaves plenty of time for lots of attention and some serious fun.

But summer can also be dangerous. Playing or exercising a dog in the heat can bring on a lethal case of heat stroke. Burrs, foxtails and awns from parched grasses can cause painful infections, and the chemicals we use to keep our beautiful summer yards green and control pests can poison our pets.

Prevention is the best way to protect your pet, of course. Always keep an eye out for potential hazards, and do your best to minimize or remove them. Keep pets cool and calm in the hottest part of the day, and check frequently for plants and insect problems — ticks are nasty in the summer. Finally, use household chemicals sparingly and according to label instructions, and store them properly and securely.

If your best intentions aren’t enough, though, you may be taking an emergency trip to your veterinarian.

It’s often hard to decide what’s worth worrying about and what can wait until you can get your pet in during regular — and less expensive — hospital hours. I’ve spent enough time in emergency clinics to know that sometimes people waste their money through lack of knowledge, bringing pets in for such things as worms. (One time while working at an emergency clinic, I met an extremely upset woman who was convinced the tapeworm fragment coming out of her cat was the pet’s intestines coming out.)

Other folks take too lightly such things as vomiting, which can be a sign of something deadly serious.

Anything is worth a call to the veterinarian if you’re not sure, but some things definitely require urgent attention, no matter the day or hour. Among them:

  • Seizure, fainting or collapse;
  • Eye injury, no matter how mild;
  • Vomiting or diarrhea, anything more than two or three times within an hour or so;
  • Allergic reaction, such as swelling around the face or hives;
  • Any suspected poisoning, including antifreeze, snail or rodent bait, or human medication;
  • Snakebite;
    — Thermal stress, a pet that has been too cold or too hot;
  • Any wound that’s open and bleeding, or any animal bite;
  • Traumatic injury, such as being hit by a car;
  • Breathing problems, including chronic coughing or near drowning;
  • Straining to urinate or defecate.

Sometimes an animal may seem fine, such as a dog after being hit by a car or a cat shaken by an attacking dog with no puncture wounds. But the story inside may be quite different, with internal injuries that need immediate veterinary attention. Any delay can cost your pet his life.

Most everything else can wait until morning, or even Monday if it’s the weekend, but here I must add a plea on your pet’s behalf: Just because something can wait, doesn’t mean it should wait. If your pet’s in pain, take him in. You know he’d do the same for you. Some of the signs of an animal in pain include panting, labored breathing, lethargy, restlessness, loss of appetite, aggression, hiding or crying out.

When in doubt on your pet’s illness, call a veterinarian, no matter the time of day or night.

A final note on veterinary emergencies: Do you know where to go if you have one? Check with your veterinarian to see if the hospital is open 24 hours a day, or if staff is always on call in case of an emergency.

If your veterinarian does not offer after-hours care, the hospital usually works with one that does. Learn the location of the nearest emergency-care center, and put the phone number in a place where you can find it. Make sure you know how to get there, too.

The last thing you need to be doing with a sick pet at 2 a.m. is trying to find the phone book and asking for directions.