With the warmer weather finally here, nothing is better than getting outside and enjoying the sunshine – this goes for our pets too!! However, it is important to remember that whilst we are enjoying the great outdoors there are some potential hazards to be aware of.
During the summer, nothing may seem more pleasurable than a stroll with your dog and it can be very tempting to play a game of catch with a stick. Unfortunately, stick games do not always end well and stick injuries are reasonably common. At best, the dog may suffer a puncture wound and/or some uncomfortable bruising but sticks have the potential to cause very extensive injuries and even death.
When a dog suffers a stick injury they are often very painful and inflamed around the area and sometimes, actively bleeding. We will often have to stabilise, then anaesthetise the patient to carry out investigative procedures. These investigations may include Xrays, ultrasound scans, surgery and maybe referral to a specialist for advanced imaging and removal.
The biggest concern with stick injuries is that there is damage to the nerves and blood vessels around the head and face, or that the stick may have entered the brain or chest as any of these scenarios can have huge implications. Once we have ruled out the above, we attempt to remove any large pieces of stick. Whilst the larger pieces of stick may be successfully removed, it is often the smaller fragments and splinters that cause persistent, long-term problems. Splinters can be extremely difficult to locate and remove. In the short term, they cause pain and irritation, however long term these foreign bodies can causes abscesses and travel through the body causing further complications.
There is a huge variety of stick alternative toys available – please say no to sticks!!
Grass seeds are a nuisance for our pets over the summer months and we frequently see patients requiring extractions and other treatment due to these seeds. Although they can affect any species or breed of animal, it is dog breeds with fluffy ears and feet (i.e. spaniels) that are most commonly affected. Grass seeds grow in abundance throughout meadows and woodland over the summer months and have pointy arrowhead tips. As the dog is moving around the seed attaches itself to the animal’s fur and tracks itself towards the skin. The sharp tip of the seed can easily break through the skin and this allows the seed to travel around the body. Typically, grass seeds are seen in the feet and ears of dogs, but other areas can be at risk to. A seed that has entered a dog’s interdigital space (between their toes) can quite easily track through their foot, leg and even into the chest and abdomen.
Grass seeds can be extremely painful for the patient and should be removed as soon as possible. A seed in the foot can cause swelling, infection and lameness. They are often difficult to locate and extract and the patient will usually need a sedation and many bandage changes – we often apply a bandage before attempting extraction to try and draw the seed out and afterwards to ensure the area is kept clean and prevent the dog from licking it.
Another common place to find grass seeds is down the ears. Dogs will usually shake, rub and scratch their heads and may have a head tilt. Due to the shape of the seed it naturally travels down the ear canal towards the ear drum, therefore sedation is necessary to remove it. If seeds are not removed there can be very uncomfortable and cause a nasty infection.
Whilst it is not always entirely possible to prevent grass seeds, here are few tips to help protect your pet:-
Keep your pet’s fur clipped short during the summer months – especially around the feet and ears. It obviously helps keep them cooler in the warm weather too!
Check your pet all over if they have been out and about – this applies to cats too, although they are less likely to get grass seeds it is not unheard of. We have even extracted grass seeds from patient’s eyes, so make sure you check everywhere thoroughly.
Boots – you can buy boots to protect dog’s paws. These can not only protect from grass seeds, but also hot pavements in the summer and snow/ice in the winter but it may take a while for your dog to get used to walking in them.
Remove any loose grass seeds caught in the fur to stop them working their way into the coat and skin.
Wasp and Bee Stings
For our pets, it may prove difficult to resist the temptation of playing with or catching insects so bites and stings are reasonably frequent during summer – bee and wasp stings are top of this list! Stings often occur on the paws and legs or in the mouth and around the face and like with humans, they can be pretty painful. It is not always possible to see a ‘sting’ left behind but there will nearly always be localised swelling and the animal will paw, bite, or rub the area.
For stings on the paws, owners can remove the sting with tweezers and apply an ice pack to help reduce pain and inflammation.
For stings on or around the face it is advisable to bring the animal straight to a vet for an urgent appointment. Some pets can have an anaphylactic reaction to stings and any swelling around the face and neck may potentially block the airway.
When the sun is shining, some dogs love nothing more than a swim. Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection which is spread in the urine and survives in water. It can be fatal. Clinical signs include vomiting, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, eye discharge, high temperature and increased urination. Kidney damage and liver disease often follows and even if a dog manages to recover from the initial disease, they may still subsequently die from kidney failure. Leptospirosis is Zoonotic, which means humans can get it too!
Please ensure your pet’s vaccinations are up to date and be cautious where they swim and drink.
It is advisable to avoid stagnant water, such as lakes and ponds and only allow dogs into free-flowing water. Avoid water altogether if your dog has any wounds or sores.