You’ve probably heard your share of summer time safety tips for your pets by now:
- Never leave your pet in a hot car.
- Beware of overheating and heat stroke in your pet.
- Protect your pet from fleas and ticks and mosquitoes.
The summer brings plenty of seasonal emergencies my way. Let me clue you in on a few of the less common summertime blues we see on a dog day afternoon.
1. Fish Hooks
Everyone knows cats are mesmerized by string. Fishing line is super fun for kitties if they find some.
Yesterday, a very pale-looking mother and daughter team ran into the clinic with their kitty who had apparently been fishing in their garage. Merlin had a pretty big 3-pronged fish hook protruding from his lower lip. Mom and daughter were panicky and just about needed an emergency room themselves.
Fish hooks are barbed and can’t leave the same way they entered. You cannot try to pull out a fish hook. It needs to be carefully removed from the animal. Luckily, Merlin was an amazingly cooperative patient. His body jewelry looked like salt water fishing tackle to me.
For all you fisher kings out there, put the tackle in the tackle box. That way, your cat (or dog) won’t look like he’s masquerading as a piece of bait for the Loch Ness monster.
Pets don’t need sunscreen, you say! Their fur keeps them protected from the sun, right? Although that may be partially true, there are incidences where you need to protect certain animals or certain areas on your pet’s body from the sun.
Certain breeds are prone to sun-induced diseases or conditions:
Dogs or cats that have previously been diagnosed with conditions such as solar dermatitis, skin cancer such as squamous cell carcinoma or conditions like discoid lupus should be protected from the sun.
Lightly haired areas such as the abdomen, nose, eye area and ear tips should be protected. Many pets actually love to sunbathe. Instead of aspiring to be the dog star in There’s Something About Mary, I guess they identified more with Magda.
White and lightly colored dogs and cats, just like fair-skinned people, should be protected from the sun.
Most pets seek shade on a sunny day, but animals can get sunburned. If your animal is at risk, take that long walk early or late in the day. Avoid the blazing sun and get Magda away from the pool during the peak sunbathing hours.
Which Sunscreen Should I Use?
No human sunscreens are approved for use in dogs and cats, but most veterinary dermatologists recommend a baby-safe, spray-on sunscreen for pets at risk.
Sunscreens themselves are not irritating to the skin of dogs and cats. It’s the licking that’s the problem. As of now, Epi-Pet Sun protector is FDA-approved for dogs and horses, but not for cats. Ingredients in many sunscreens break down to salicylic acid (aspirin), which is toxic to cats.
Don’t use zinc oxide products either on animals. Zinc is toxic if ingested.
Is There Safe Feline Sun Protection?
Avoid products with:
- Octyl salicylate
- Ethylhexyl salicylate
Products with titanium dioxide are OK to use on ear tips and noses of cats who have had a sun-induced skin tumor or who have inflammation of the ear tips or nose. For white kitties and kitties at risk, keeping them indoors is the best idea.
The safety of many sunscreens is currently being debated. Some research is claiming they can do more harm than good. The problem is your pets don’t tolerate floppy hats and swim shirts very well. While sensible humans can cover up, think of your pets as nudists who need protection!
3. Who’s Locked in the Shed?
Pets wander more during the summer months, specifically cats, and they can get locked up in a rarely used shed or outbuilding.
Obviously, there’s no way to safeguard against this if your kitty is an indoor/outdoor cat other than make him a totally indoor house cat. I will say that when these kitties are lucky enough to find their way out of bondage, usually in great need of a meal, great merriment surrounds the return of the prodigal puss.
If you lose a pet, go crazy with posters in your neighborhood, ads in your local papers or local internet listings. Knock on doors. Scope out barns and outbuildings. Pets can return home, even if they’ve been gone for many days. Don’t give up all hope.
The summertime heat can pose problems for your pet:
Not a weekend goes by, it seems, when there isn’t a quill emergency. In my article about quills, several folks wrote in saying they always pull out their own quills when their dog meets up with a porcupine. No need for a vet bill, they claim.
If your dog comes home looking like Billy the Quill-Hunter here, I think it’s a no-brainer that it’s more humane to have your vet anesthetize him so the quills can be removed quickly, efficiently and without pain.
Instead of the gardening we had planned for last Sunday, my husband and I de-quilled this pup for about 4 hours. Multiple little incisions had to be made to remove quills near the eye and in the pup’s carpal joint. He went home as if nothing had happened.
Ah, to be a frolicking beast in summer. Just watch out for fishing gear, the sun, exploring unknown vacation spots and porcupines!
This pet health content was written by a veterinarian.