Common Health Concerns for Pets
Pets spend a lot more time outside during the Spring and Summer months.
Below is a list of more common problems that may occur during the warm seasons.
Common causes of allergic reactions include insect bites and/or stings, drugs, such as antibiotics or accidental ingestion of human medications, and rarely vaccines.
Signs of allergic reactions include:
- Swelling and/or redness around the lips and/or eyes
- Swelling around the face and/or neck
- Hives or areas where hair sticks up in a circular pattern
- Pale gums
- Difficulty breathing
- Severe itching, staggering, weakness, collapse
All allergic reactions have the potential to be life-threatening. Contact your veterinarian to discuss treatment at home with Benadryl® (diphenhydramine) and using cool compresses to help decrease minor local swellings. Swellings that involve the face (eyes, ears, nose, and/or throat) should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Warm weather may cause pets to overheat. Pets that are less than 6 months of age and older than 7 years will be more prone to having heat stroke. Other predispositions to heat stroke include pets that are overweight, brachycephalic breeds (Pugs, Bulldogs, etc.), large breed dogs, and pets that are ill or are recovering from a recent illness. Pets should not be left unattended in cars, even with the windows cracked, locked in small rooms with poor ventilation, nor should they undergo heavy exercise.
- Excessive panting in dogs, open mouth breathing in cats
- Bright red gums
- Weakness, collapse, loss of consciousness
- Hot to the touch, though this is an unreliable indicator
If you think your pet is having a heat stroke, move them to a cool area, rinse cool water over their paws, and contact your veterinarian immediately. To prevent heat stroke, be sure to give your pet plenty of breaks between play, always have an area of shade for them to rest in, offer fresh water at all times, and never leave them unattended in a car.
Slug Bait (Metaldehyde Toxicity)
Spring and summer months are a common time for gardening. Slug bait is toxic to both dogs and cats, and it’s best to keep pets away from treated areas and/or use slug bait that is labeled as safe for pets.
Signs of slug bait ingestion include:
- Exposure to slug bait
- Panting, fast heart rate, anxiety
- Muscle tremors, twitching, stumbling when walking
- Hyperthermia (fever)
- May result in death if left untreated
Your veterinarian may recommend you induce vomiting if you know your pet has ingested slug bait recently. There is no home remedy for slug bait toxicity and pets that are suspected of ingesting slug bait and/or are exhibiting any of the above-mentioned signs should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Rat Poison Toxicity (Anti-Coagulation Form)
Many rat poisons are designed to reduce and/or eliminate the ability to clot blood. This means that if an animal has ingested rat poison, they are more likely to bleed, which may be visible in the form of bruises but, more seriously, may cause internal bleeding.
Signs of rat poison (anti-coagulation form) include:
- Exposure to rat poison
- Bleeding of the gums, blood in vomit or stool, coughing blood
- Pale gums, weakness
If left untreated, rat poison may cause severe bleeding leading to death. Check with your veterinarian prior to inducing vomiting, then bring your pet to a veterinarian immediately.
Sunburns are more likely to occur in light and white color breeds and are more common on the ears, above the eyes, and above the nose.
Signs of sunburn include:
- Redness and tenderness on the ears and nose
- Ulceration may occur
You may use sunscreen on pets with white on their ears and face. Avoid getting sunscreen in their eyes, and do not apply to areas that they may lick.
Please see Dogs, Ticks, and Tick-Borne Parasites for information regarding tick diseases, how to remove ticks, and statistics of tick-borne diseases in Washington State. Ticks may carry diseases that may require treatment with antibiotics. Our recommendation at Cherry Valley Veterinary Hospital is to either test the blood for tick-borne diseases and/or treat them with antibiotics.
Pads may become worn and ulcerated if they are not adequately “toughened” up prior to walking and/or running. Dogs that are going to be running on sand or pavement are more likely to have abraded paws. You may apply doggy booties to help prevent abrasions. There are some liquid products as well that may be applied to the paws prior to exercise to help reduce the chance of pad abrasions.
Signs of abraded pads:
- Red or ulcerated areas on the pads
- Sore or painful pads
- Licking paws
Some pad abrasions may need pain medication and antibiotics to help speed the healing process. Prevent pets from licking at their paws, as this may cause secondary infections.
Fleas are a commonly known parasite of dogs and cats.
Not only do fleas cause itching and irritated skin, but they can also transmit a type of tapeworm.
If your pet has a tapeworm infection, you may see white, rice-shaped structures in the feces or around the anus. Tapeworms can be diagnosed by looking at a fecal sample under a microscope and are easily treatable with oral dewormer.
Fleas can be treated and prevented using a topical or oral product prescribed by a veterinarian. Over-the-counter flea products are less effective, and some have been shown to be toxic to pets. Cleaning the environment by vacuuming is helpful in controlling the flea population. Veterinary products for the house (sprays and foggers) may be needed to stop the flea cycle. It’s essential that all pets in the household are treated for fleas, even if you only see fleas on one pet.
While some don’t seem to mind fireworks, there are others that are very fearful. Here are some tips to help ensure that you have a safe Independence Day with your pet:
- Exercise your pet on the morning of a day that will have fireworks. Take them on a long walk or play fetch.
- Confine a fearful pet in a place with no windows. Dogs may try to jump out and cut themselves.
- Do not tether a fearful dog outside as they may choke themselves or slip their collar and run off.
- Some dogs may do well with a distraction, such as a new toy.
- If your pet has a history of being fearful of fireworks, sedatives and/or anti-anxiety medications may be prescribed by your veterinarian. Medications are tailored to each pet and environment.
BBQs are common in the warm season, and it’s important to watch your pet’s diet carefully. Avoid table scraps, especially bones which may cause gastrointestinal upset. Be sure to keep garbage and compost areas secure as well to prevent pets from ingesting potentially toxic items. If your pet does ingest something that is not normally part of their diet, then contact your veterinarian. You may also refer to the toxicity section of the website.
Flies lay eggs that develop into larvae (maggots), which then mature into flies. It takes a mere 8-12 hours for maggots to develop once the fly has laid her eggs. Flies are attracted to feces (especially diarrhea), urine, skin infections, eye drainage, and open wounds.
Most commonly, maggot infestations occur under mats, in wounds, and around the tail of animals with diarrhea.
Maggot infestations can cause infection and possibly sepsis (infection of the blood), which is life-threatening. Wounds that contain maggots require veterinary care to clean the wound and remove the maggots. It is best that animals with wounds be kept inside and let out early in the morning or later in the evening when there are fewer flies out. Routinely bathing and brushing your pet, as well as picking up their feces, will help to decrease the attraction of flies to your pet.
Common Challenges and Solutions
As the cold weather sets in, pet owners need to be vigilant in ensuring the well-being of their furry companions.
Below is a list of more common problems that may occur during the colder seasons.
The winter season can exacerbate existing allergies or introduce new ones for pets. Common allergens include mold, dust mites, and indoor irritants. Symptoms of allergic reactions in pets may include itching, redness, sneezing, and digestive issues.
- Itching or redness
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
Ensuring the well-being of pets during the winter season involves proactive measures, including regular grooming to eliminate potential allergens from their fur. This practice not only keeps their coats clean but also reduces the likelihood of allergic reactions triggered by substances such as mold and dust mites. Additionally, maintaining clean and well-ventilated living spaces is crucial to minimize the presence of indoor irritants. Pet owners should prioritize regular cleaning routines, focusing on areas where pets spend the most time. Adequate ventilation helps improve air quality and reduces the concentration of allergens indoors. For a more comprehensive approach, consulting with a veterinarian for allergy testing and appropriate treatment is recommended.
Winter often brings about changes in routine and exposure to potential toxins. Antifreeze, rock salt, and certain winter plants can be harmful to pets if ingested. Symptoms of toxicity may include vomiting, lethargy, and seizures.
- Difficulty breathing
- Increased heart rate
Storing antifreeze and other chemicals out of reach to prevent accidental ingestion, as these substances can be highly toxic to animals. Furthermore, cleaning a pet’s paws after outdoor walks becomes essential to remove salt and other de-icing chemicals that may irritate their sensitive paw pads. Being aware of toxic winter plants and keeping them out of reach is equally important, as some common seasonal flora can pose risks if ingested by pets. In the event of suspected toxicity, immediate veterinary attention is crucial.
Contrary to popular belief, fleas can survive in colder temperatures. The warm environment inside homes provides a haven for fleas to thrive during winter. Pets may suffer from itching, redness, and hair loss if infested.
- Excessive scratching or biting
- Hair loss
- Red and irritated skin
- Flea dirt (small black specks) on the fur
- Visible fleas
It’s crucial for pet owners to maintain year-round flea prevention to guard against infestations, as these pests can thrive even in colder temperatures. Regular vacuuming and cleaning of pet bedding play a key role in minimizing the presence of fleas and their eggs within the living environment. Consistent cleanliness helps break the flea life cycle and reduces the risk of re-infestation.
Dry Skin and Paw Pads
Cold winter air can lead to dry, cracked skin and paw pads in pets. This can be uncomfortable and may lead to infections if left untreated.
- Redness and itching
- Excessive licking or chewing
- Cracks or sores on the skin or paw pads
Pet owners should prioritize providing a balanced diet that is rich in essential fatty acids, as these nutrients contribute to healthy skin and coat. Additionally, using pet-safe moisturizers becomes essential to prevent dryness and cracking, particularly in sensitive areas like paw pads. Regular application of moisturizers helps keep the skin hydrated and minimizes the risk of discomfort or irritation. In extreme cold weather, it’s crucial to limit outdoor exposure for pets.
Hypothermia and Frostbite
Cold temperatures pose a risk of hypothermia and frostbite for pets, especially those with short coats or smaller breeds.
- Slowed breathing and a lowered heart rate
- Pale or discolored skin
- Cold to the touch
- Swelling and pain in the affected areas
Protecting pets from the harsh elements of winter involves thoughtful consideration of their clothing and exposure to outdoor conditions. Pet owners should invest in appropriate winter clothing for their furry companions, especially for breeds or individuals that may be more susceptible to the cold. This could include insulated jackets or booties to safeguard against freezing temperatures.