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May 27, 2011 > Veterinary & Pet News: Pets in Summer

Veterinary & Pet News: Pets in Summer

As cool weather slowly fades and temperatures rise, families are preparing for another summer filled with outdoor fun. Children and adults will spend more time outdoors playing with their pets. To make the summer more enjoyable, be aware of various summertime hazards that can result in injury or illness to your pets.

Keeping your dog cool in the summer

While you are having fun, you will need to keep your dog cool to prevent summer heat related illness or injury. Just like people, pets can get sunburned. White and lightly colored pets can suffer sunburns just as we can. Long term sun exposure can lead to skin damage and, in some cases, skin cancers.

Every year, thousands of pets are afflicted with heat stroke. Dogs who have a thick coat, heart and lung problems or a short muzzle (pugs, English Bulldogs, Boston terriers, etc.) are at a greater risk for heat stroke. When humans overheat we are able to cool down by sweating. However, dogs do not sweat. They require panting for evaporative cooling. Unfortunately, this system can be overwhelmed on really hot days or with exertion. If your dog is overheating he will appear sluggish, unresponsive, and disoriented.

It is important to limit exercise or excessive activity on hot summer days. Don't leave pets in parked cars for any period of time. During the hot spell in May, I treated an English bulldog that had a temperature of 108.8 degrees! Fortunately, we were able to save his life and return him to normal function. If your dog exhibits any signs of heat stroke, treat it as an emergency and immediately take him to an urgent care facility.


"Foxtails" are a sharp cluster of grasses that can become a health hazard for dogs and cats. They are notoriously common in this area. Around this time of year, foxtails become dry and fall to the ground. They are then blown with the wind and easily attach to fur by their barbs. Muscular movements cause the foxtails to burrow into the skin and organs. Foxtails are also notorious for getting into the nostrils, ears, eyes, and mouth.

It is recommended to keep pets on established paths, avoiding brush. Combing fur immediately after walking helps dislodge and remove foxtails. If you suspect your pet has a foxtail, immediately take him to your veterinarian. Practically speaking, once a foxtail is imbedded somewhere it is probably not coming out. Presently, we are seeing 5-6 cases daily of foxtail-related problems.

Outdoor threats

Summer holidays are perfect for barbecues, pool parties, and picnics. It may be very tempting to share the leftover barbecue and potato chips, but they should be left alone. These can cause gastro-intestinal problems as well as pancreatitis. Keep your pet leashed when you leave your yard. There is usually an upswing of dog fights during summer as more pets are outdoors. Protect your pets from insects such as fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and flies by using monthly flea preventives.

With a little caution, summertime can be an enjoyable time for both you and your pet.

Dr Raj Salwan is a second generation Veterinarian and has been around Veterinary Medicine for over 23 years. His interests include Internal Medicine, Surgery, Emergency/Acute Care, and general small animal practice. He currently works at American Animal Care in Fremont and can be reached via email at or

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