By Dr. Cindy Bressler
The Hamptons serves as a beautiful backdrop for us in the summer with its gorgeous beaches and striking landscapes. With the beauty of our surroundings also comes a set of safety concerns for us and for our pets.
AT THE BEACH…
The Sun can be just as harmful to pets as it can be to us. Hair should not be shaved completely to keep animals cool because it exposes more of the skin to the sun’s harmful rays.
Sunscreen with an SPF of 45 or greater should be placed on areas with less or no hair including the abdomen, nose, and tips of ears. If your pet suffers from severe sunburn, please contact your vet immediately. Sunscreen for dogs is available through the Hamptons Canine Concierge.
Dogs should be rinsed off after a day at the beach. Do not allow extended exposure to the sun. Make sure your pet has access to shade and fresh water at all times.
Skin Cancer affects dogs and cats as well. Melanoma commonly occurs in dogs and cats but it is controversial whether the sun plays a role in these tumors in animals.
There is another type of cancer called squamous cell carcinoma, which is seen in dogs and cats and is thought to be related to sun exposure. Cutaneous hemangiosarcomas may also be caused by exposure to UV radiation. Any suspicious growth should be brought to the attention of your Vet.
The beach serves as a summer playground for your dog. Running on the sand can cause irritation to the delicate skin on the paws. Always rinse your dog’s paws when they get home from the beach and check the pads and the skin around the toes for redness and inflammation.
If you see any of these signs or if your dog is constantly licking his or her paws, skip a few days at the beach and allow the inflammation to heal. If the swelling is severe, if the paws are really red or if your dog is limping, contact your Veterinarian for treatment.
The sand can be VERY HOT early in the morning from Campfires that were not extinguished properly from the night before. Try to recognize and avoid these areas for both you and your pet’s safety. Severe burns to the feet or paws can occur. If you see blisters or redness or if your dog is limping or chewing his paws, your pet may need medical treatment.
Saltwater can cause dryness or irritation to the skin. Red patches, bumps or dry skin may cause discomfort to your pets. Some skin conditions may be helped with the ocean water. Every case is individual so if your dog has a particular condition, ask your vet for advice.
Eye irritation is commonly seen in the summer as a result of overexposure to saltwater or chlorine. If your dog’s eyes are red or if he is rubbing or pawing at his eyes, he may need treatment. You may also see a white or yellow ocular discharge. It is a good idea to rinse out their eyes with an over the counter eyewash after a long day of swimming.
“Hot Spots” or moist dermatitis is very common in the summer. This is moist inflammation of the skin secondary to scratching, chewing, biting or rubbing an area of a localized reaction to an allergen, insect bite or bacterial infection. This is commonly seen on the head, under the ears, on the neck, above the tail or on the back of the body.
You will see an area of sticky matted hair on top of red skin that is painful to your pet. Your pet will need medication and treatment with this condition.
Quick Safety Tips:
- Pets should always be supervised when swimming in the ocean. Life Jackets for Dogs are very important.
- Heatstroke is extremely common in the summer. Never leave dogs in cars in the summer and do not take your dog for a run when it is hot outside.
- Exercise with your dogs very early in the morning or in the evening if it has cooled down.
- Pets should wear reflectors in the evening.
For Sunscreen, Lifejackets and Reflectors contact The Hamptons Canine Concierge 631-255-8556.
AT THE POOL….
Constant exposure to chlorine can cause skin irritation and dryness. Changes to the hair color may also be seen. Bathe your pet with a gentle pet shampoo and conditioner after continuous exposure to chlorine.
It is a good idea to give your dog and cat Omega 3 Fatty acids (fish or flaxseed oil) to help control inflammation or dryness of the skin. There are many benefits to Omega 3 Fatty acids as they prevent inflammation in many areas of the body. Consult with your Veterinarian especially if your dog has allergies prior to supplementing with Omega 3 Fatty Acids.
Ear infections are one of the most common problems seen in the summer. Dogs that swim in the Ocean or the Pool accumulate a lot of water in their ears which predisposes them to ear infections. Always dry your dog’s ears with cotton after swimming or after a bath.
Ask your groomer to dry the ears well after grooming. If your dog is scratching his ears or shaking his head, he may have an infection. Redness or an unpleasant odor may also be present. Seek medical attention.
Quick Safety Tips:
- One of the most common emergencies that we see in the Hamptons is drowning. Do not assume that your dog knows how to swim.
- Pets must be supervised in the swimming pool at all times. They must be taught how to swim, how to find the stairs to exit the pool and should wear a lifejacket.
- They tire easily when treading water. Sensors and Monitors are available to alert you if your dog has fallen into the pool.
IN THE BACKYARD….
Allergies to plants, weeds, fleas, and dust mites may be more prominent in the summer. Look for signs of redness, pimples, scaly skin discoloration and hair loss. If you see any of these things or if your dog or cat is scratching or biting themselves a lot, contact your Vet.
Treatments range from antihistamines, antibiotics or antifungals for secondary infections to diet changes and special shampoos. In severe cases, a consult with a Veterinary dermatologist may be necessary for allergy testing.
Dogs and cats may jump onto surfaces containing decorative candles or citronella candles. They may catch on fire or burn themselves from the flame or from hot wax that spilled onto their skin.
Burns may be superficial or deep. With superficial burns, redness, swelling and blisters may be seen. Deep burns will be very painful. The skin may appear white and the hair may fall out easily. Immerse the area in cool to lukewarm water to prevent additional damage from heat and contact your vet immediately. Severe burns can be fatal.
Animals with burns should be evaluated by a medical professional in order to determine the severity.
BBQ or Grill
Dogs and cats may jump up onto the grill to eat the food that is cooking. Burns may be seen on the paws or on the face or in the mouth. Check your dog and cat and have your vet examine them if the burn is severe or if they are painful, limping or won’t eat.
Dogs accompany their owners to the beach or to backyard campfires. Please keep them away from the hot sand or the fire. Make sure they don’t pick up a burning piece of wood to play with. Do not let them sit in the direction that the smoke is blowing. Check for burns on their feet, legs and mouth. Corneal ulcers may develop from debris or excessive heat. Contact your Vet with questions.
Please be careful with your pets around fireworks. Accidents involving fireworks are seen every summer. Keep your pets far away from fireworks. If burns occur, seek emergency help immediately.
Bee Stings are common during the summertime. Severe swelling of the face especially around the eyes, nose and lips is seen. A very severe allergic reaction may occur and can lead to difficulty breathing. Always keep Benadryl in your home for emergencies and contact your Vet if you see any swelling.
Your dog or cat may need other medication besides Benadryl. This could turn into a life-threatening emergency. Make sure that the Benadryl you use contains the antihistamine diphenhydramine as the ONLY active ingredient. Do not use Benadryl cold or sinus medications.
Mosquito bites and fleabites can cause severe itchiness or redness with secondary infection. Flea and tick control with a topical product like Frontline Plus or Advantix should be used during the summer months. The lawn may be treated as well to prevent fleas and ticks.
There are good organic sprays (Essentria IC3) available from local gardeners. Flea allergy dermatitis causes hair loss or thinning of the hair with red small bumps or pimples. Dogs are usually very itchy from this.
Dogs are usually not affected by Poison Ivy but can transfer the toxin from the plant to you from their hair coat. If you know that your dog has been in contact with poison ivy, bathe him with a gentle shampoo. If he is itchy or if his skin is red, seek medical attention.
Quick Medical Tips:
- Always use Flea and Tick Prevention.
- Signs of Lyme disease and other tick borne diseases include fever, lameness, lethargy, loss of appetite, weakness, bruising or hemorrhages on skin, weight loss, abnormal bleeding (nosebleeds, bleeding under skin that resemble spots or patches of bruising) enlarged lymph nodes, pain and stiffness, coughing, discharge from the eyes and/or nose, vomiting and diarrhea inflammation or bleeding in the eye, neurological symptoms including incoordination, depression or paralysis.
- Seek immediate medical treatment.
*** Pet CPR Courses are important and knowledge of Pet CPR can save lives. You should also have a Pet First Aid Kit in your home. Information on Pet CPR and First Aid Kits are available through Hamptons Canine Concierge 631-255-8556.
Also by Dr. Cindy Bressler: How Do I know If I Have An Emergency With My Dog?