AUBURN UNIVERSITY – Americans will be celebrating July 4 with food, fireworks and being outside, and it’s important to remember that while owners are enjoying summer, they need to be mindful to keep pets safe as well.
Auburn University veterinarian Dr. Sara-Louise Newcomer says owners should take the same care with pets as they do children around grills, fireworks and in hot weather. One of two veterinarians who provide wellness care in the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Community Practice Clinic, Newcomer offers some advice on caring for your pet during the dog days of summer.
“Many breeds of dogs are predisposed to overheating, but all animals can suffer from heat exhaustion, especially in summer’s mid-90-degree weather,” she said. “Risks of heat exhaustion are increased with activities outside, but also with traveling in the car, particularly when left in a parked car for any period of time.”
Dogs who have flat-noses (called brachycephalic), like English bulldogs, French bulldogs, Shih Tzus and pugs; heavily-muscled dogs like pit bulls and boxers; large breed dogs; and any overweight animal is at an increase to suffer from overheating due their poor ability to dissipate heat.
“Dogs with health problems like laryngeal paralysis (an airway cartilage abnormality that results in loud, noisy breathing or a change in bark) are also predisposed to heat stroke,” she added. “And, dogs who regularly carry tennis balls in their mouths are also at risk because their airway is partially blocked, which can prevent adequate panting and cooling.”
Signs of heat stroke in animals includes constant panting, slowing down, collapse, dark red gums, little urine production and lethargy. “If any of these signs occur, pet owners should cool their pets immediately by using a source of lukewarm to cool water, not cold water,” Newcomer advises. “Put the animal in a pond or pool, or use a garden hose to wet the animal.
“And, owners should immediately call their pet’s veterinarian.”
Fireworks can be another danger for animals. From sparklers to bottle rockets, flames from fireworks can injure people and pets, and fumes and other chemical agents in fireworks can be potentially harmful to animals.
While July 4 festivities wouldn’t be the same without fireworks, caution should be used. Common sites for pets being burned from fireworks include the face, muzzle, lips, tongue and paws. A pet that ingests fireworks, the heavy metals or other materials can have vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, jaundice, tremors, and seizures.
“The loud noises from fireworks also scare many animals so make sure your pet is in a safe and secure place to prevent them from running away,” Newcomer says.
Even some of the most common July 4 picnic foods – like corn, grapes, raisins and fatty meat scraps – can be harmful to pets. “While corn is not toxic to pets, the cob can easily become lodged in a dog’s esophagus or intestines, often requiring surgical removal,” she says.
Although grapes and raisins are treats for people, even a few can cause sudden kidney failure in dogs and, potentially, cats, she says.
Dogs, like people, can become sick from fatty meats. “When dogs eat large amounts of fat and grease, they may suffer from pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), which is painful and potentially life-threatening,” Newcomer says. “Certain breeds, especially miniature Schnauzers, are more likely to develop pancreatitis.”
About Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine
The country's seventh oldest veterinary college and the oldest in the South, Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine is one of the nation's preeminent institutions for research, teaching, diagnostics, and comprehensive medical care for animals. The mission of the college is to prepare individuals for careers of excellence in veterinary medicine, including private and public practice, industrial medicine, academics and research. The college has 125 faculty members and a current enrollment of 487 DVM and graduate students. Online: www.vetmed.auburn.edu.