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Protecting Pets From Spring and Summer Hazards

Dr. Julie Schell  BSc(Hons), DVM, CVA, ACVCHM, CVC

After seeing three different external parasites on three different patients all within three days, I was rudely awakened that spring has arrived!!!

These are some of the common spring and summer hazards that pets can be protected from:

1. Fleas – The first patient, a sweet 6 month old Australian Terrier puppy, presented with severe itchiness of her ears and head, shortly after poking her face into a badger hole while on a walk.  My team and I microscopically identified the military, brown, jumping bugs.  Fleas live on dogs and are quite species specific, meaning not many dog fleas will be able to survive on a human or a cat; however, dog fleas can live on badgers, coyotes, wolves, and dogs.  There are effective preventive medications from your veterinarian: either topical monthly products, or monthly or every 3 months chewable tablets to be eaten.  They can survive indoors year round on pets, but most pets are more likely to become infected during the spring and summer months.  This is because pets are more active at interacting with each other at off-leash parks where there are other dogs and wildlife, or at grooming facilities or daycare centres.

This is a good article about fleas:

2. Lice – I found lice on a dog last week who was itchy.  The owner thought she was just dirty from not having had a bath for a few weeks; however, during her chiropractic exam I found a single adult sucking lice, engorged full of her blood.  When one lice is found, there are usually others, in addition to lice eggs which will hatch and start sucking the pet’s blood.  They cause intense itchiness and usually live around the eyes and ears, but this lice was on her poor back!  Fortunately, your veterinarian also has shampoos and sprays and topical preventive mediations.

More information about lice:

3. Ticks – These little spiders not only have the ability to suck your pet’s blood (and if present in large enough numbers cause anemia and weakness) but they also are notorious for harbouring dangerous parasites and bacterias that cause severe disease in pets, namely: Lyme disease, Ehrlichia, Anaplasmosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.  The great news is that your pet does not have to suffer from ticks, as there are many topical and oral medications to prevent them.  Calgary definitely has ticks now, as do most other cities in Canada. Thus, prevention is essential.  If you do see a tick on your pet, do not touch it with your bare hands, as their saliva can carry Lyme Disease organisms and infect you. Wear rubber gloves and remove the tick with a special tick remover system available from your veterinarian, or tweezers, or bring your pet to your veterinarian right away for removal.  The tick should be saved in a strong plastic container and brought to your veterinarian for species identification, and to be sent to the government for testing for Lyme Disease.

This is an interesting information article on ticks:

4. Hot environments leading to heat stroke – A pet’s body temperature is warmer than humans. Normal core temperature is 37.5 to 39.5 for dogs and cats, and they only have 2 natural ways of releasing heat. They can pant or sweat to release excess heat, but they only have sweat glands on their feet.  There are special cooling bandanas your pet can wear around his or her neck, and also cooling beds that take away heat when your pet lays on them.  We also make a beautiful, cooling essential oil spray that has oils such as peppermint and lemon to swiftly and effectively cool your pet.  Offering a small children’s swimming pool for your dog outside is a great way for them to flop in water to cool off.  Always supervise if your pet is swimming, even in the backyard, to prevent drowning.

5. Swimming too far away from owner – Many dogs love swimming and it is great exercise; however, some get carried away by swimming in rapid currents or swimming clear to the opposite side of a large lake.  A safe way to keep your pet afloat and close to you, but still able to swim, is to put a pet life jacket on him or her, and attach a long leash that you can hold onto when you are in a boat or walking along the shore.

This is a video demonstration that we made about pet life jackets:

It is also important to wash your dog after swimming.

This is a video we made on bathing pets:

6. Mosquitoes – Not only are they uncomfortable to a pet when they bite to suck blood, but they can transfer Heartworm disease.  Monthly tablets or chewable medications can be given to protect pets from Heartworm disease.  We at Bow Bottom Veterinary Hospital also make an effective, safe essential oil spray that help prevent mosquitoes from biting you and your pet.

Check it out:

7. Dehydration – Always bring water with you when you are walking your pet or if your pet is outside in your backyard, definitely have fresh water available at all times.   Inside your house it is important to have many different water stations set up in many areas of the house. The more often your pet walks by a water station, the more likely he or she is to take a drink.  When the weather outside is hot and when a house is hot, or if the air conditioning is turned on, a pet’s water needs increase due to panting and sweating (releasing heat and moisture) or from convection losses (air conditioning currents).   When you are hiking or walking your dog, there are special back packs that can hold water bottles for pets, and there are lightweight compressible water bowls that your pet can also carry in his or her back pack.  Offer them water every 15 minutes, or more often if the weather is very hot.

This is an article on how to encourage your pet to drink water:

8. Plants – These are very abundant in the spring and summer months, and many pets can be allergic to them. Your veterinarian can test your pet for plant and other environmental allergies and work with you to prevent their immune systems from being so reactive.  Also, many toxic plants and mushrooms may be eaten by your pet. If you suspect that your pet has eaten a toxic plant or mushroom, bring him or her to your veterinarian right away.

This is a helpful list of dangerous plants:

9. Allergies – Pets are exposed to more allergens in the spring and summer, even if they stay indoors.  This is because as snow melts, snow mould develops, which can be tracked indoors to cats who stay indoors as well as pets who venture outside.  The spring and summer also provide excellent growing temperatures for plants which produce pollens that can cause hay fever-like symptoms or itchiness to sensitive pets.  Your veterinarian can help treat and prevent allergy symptoms in your pet including allergy serum injections, hypoallergenic food, herbal medicine, essential oil therapy, shampooing, topical sprays, acupuncture and chiropractic.

For more information contact us at

Thank you!


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