Midsummer Veterinary Blues: 4 Common Problems

Summer is in full swing! Here are a handful of common pet health problems that give veterinarians (and pet owners) the midsummer blues.

mid-summer-vet-blues
Beware the summer heat. By: Ken Bosma

Ah, summer. The long-awaited family vacation. Lots of relatives and picnics and dogs and hot, humid food.

I mean hot, humid weather. I mean the dogs eating the hot, humid food. Or getting over-heated in the hot, humid weather. Or getting salt water in their ears. Or pool water in their ears. Or, wait! What do they mean by hot summer fun, anyway?

Here are some common summer pet problems we see at our hospital and how to avoid them.

1. Diarrhea

Whether it’s from too much picnic food, too much dog-sitter food, too much rancid food, too much heat or too much stress, dogs get more diarrhea in the summer.

DIY Treatment for dog diarrhea: Fast the dog. 18-24 hours is the rule of thumb. Begin a bland diet: boiled hamburger or chicken and white rice is a safe choice. If your dog has protracted diarrhea, is vomiting or is very lethargic, call the veterinarian.

I stopped at a roadside barbecue shack for a brisket sandwich recently. Delivered to my car window came two meals, the brisket for me and beef bones and pork rinds for my dogs, for free. I could only envision ZeeZee pooping out pork rind stew à la crap! My sandwich had to wait a while until my appetite returned.

2. Pet Sitters and Kennels

Most pet care givers try their best to do a great job, and owners try to provide the best care when not taking all the kids on vacation.

To help keep your vacation from being ruined by a frantic call from your fur nanny, leave detailed notes of expectations, even if you think you’ve gone over everything verbally. This includes:

emergency form for pets
Click to download a print-friendly version of this form.
  1. Name, phone number and driving instructions to the family veterinarian and emergency hospital.
  2. Credit card number to pay for it. Your own vet may extend credit in your absence, but a referral or emergency hospital will not.
  3. If you are leaving an aged or special needs pet, make sure the pet sitter or kennel is fully aware of how extensive the care has become. You might be used to your incontinent, gagging, severely arthritic dalmatian, but this could be too challenging for someone unfamiliar with a geriatric pet.
  4. It’s always a good idea to check with your vet and make sure that she will board/hospitalize your pet while you’re away if necessary. Many of my clients write me a letter to have in their file with specific instructions in case of emergencies.

This video explains more about pet sitting:

3. Rabies

There she goes again with the rabies thing. Dr. Deb is like a broken record.  Well, the summer means more pets getting into fights or coming in with “bite wounds of unknown origin.” This is particularly true with cats.

Last week, a sweet young kitty came home with weird, neurological signs. He was acutely blind, circling, vocalizing, hyperventilating, and he was not up to date on rabies. Although it is more likely that his acute meningitis was caused by toxins or other infectious or viral diseases, his unvaccinated status put me and his owner in a terrible situation.

On top of this, the owner’s roommates began to panic about the kitty not being vaccinated. This panic was largely unwarranted because nobody had been bitten or scratched. The poor guy was grief-stricken about his cat, and the rabies situation and roommates on his back only made matters worse.

It is not difficult to keep your pet up to date on rabies. Although I believe in giving your pet the minimal amount of vaccinations, please pay attention to your local rabies requirements, particularly if your pets travel farther than your living room.

4. Heat-Related Maladies

I’m talking about real heat waves and protecting your pets. Recently, the Northeast suffered an entire week of temperatures above 90 degrees and disgusting humidity. Neither humans nor beasts were used to this.

We Northerners are dumb when it comes to hot weather. Our blood is too thick, and we do stupid things because we’re only comfortable in snow and sleet. Here’s a mere sampling of what came in to my office:

  1. Large dog went for a long hike on the hottest day of the year. She ended up cooked, all paw pads burned, with heat stroke. She survived. But it took a week of intensive care.
  2. Baby rabbit out in a hutch in days of temps near 100 degrees. Cuterebra larvae burrowed holes into his little body, and he became extremely dehydrated.
  3. Maggots on an old sheltie. Description not necessary. No gross-out patrol intended here, folks, but a little bit of poop adorning your dog’s butt fur is unappealing at any time — but in a heat wave, it means fly strike.
  4. Geriatric dog brought on vacation with respiratory problems in a lake home without air conditioning. It was a steep climb down to the lake, where the owners took him to get cool Given the overweight dog’s arthritis and laryngeal paralysis, he became very ill on his summer vacation. Rental lake houses and cabins in areas like Vermont or the San Juan Islands are not five-star hotels. They aren’t designed with heat waves in mind. “Pets Allowed” may not always be very “Pet Friendly.”

Enjoy the rest of the summer with your fur friends, whether at home or on vacation. Take a lesson from our Southern friends and stay inside during the hottest hours. Don’t go hiking up a mountain in the midday sun. Save that for the beautiful fall.

Most summer veterinary emergencies can be avoided or certainly kept to a minimum with good ol’ common sense. Let’s hit the beach!

Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD

View posts by Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD
Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD, is a small animal and exotics veterinarian who has split her time between a veterinary practice in Pelham, Massachusetts, and her studio in New York City. Dr. Lichtenberg is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine with 30 years of experience. Her special interests are soft tissue surgery and oncology.

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