Summer Days, Summer Dangers for Dogs

It's more than just heatstroke pet owners need to heed in warm weather.

When the mercury rises, most people know . Fortunately, this scenario is neither common, nor the typical cause of . With the dog days of August upon us, Patch consulted local veterinarians and animal control staff about some of the less obvious summertime hazards to dogs.

 • Skunking. According to Dr. John Gallagher and Dr. Meredith Re, who run a local mobile veterinary service, Good Shepherd Veterinary Services, if your dog is sprayed by a skunk, be advised that tomato juice does not help.

Dr. Gallagher advises using a mixture of baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and Dawn liquid soap, and be sure to complete this process before bringing your dog inside. “If your dog’s fur is dark, expect to have a ‘bottle blonde’ afterward,” added Dr. Gallagher, referring to the hydrogen peroxide. He also suggested replacing the dog's collar.


“Best thing to do is call your local animal control officer,” said Dr. Re. “Typically, a rabies vaccine booster will be recommended because it is sometimes difficult to tell if the dog and the skunk fought.”

Skunk spray is noxious.  According to Dr. Re, children have been known to be sent home from school the day after their dog gets skunked.

Dogs cannot seem to resist sniffing a skunk. So, when they get sprayed, it’s normally in the face. Skunks are nocturnal, so the time to be most wary is at dusk.

Flystrike. Flies are attracted to fecal matter, urine, wounds and skin infections on dogs and cats. This is especially true for older, less mobile pets. They will lay eggs in the coat, and maggots will result. If a dog has a dense coat, like a Newfoundland, it can be more difficult to notice them.

As embarrassing as it is for pet owners, this situation is not uncommon. “It is not a bad idea to clip your dog's coat early in the summer to help keep the skin clean and monitor for skin conditions that may attract flies,” suggested Re. 

Greenwich Animal Control officer Suzanne Carlin adds that dog feces left in the grass or along the sidewalk is also attractive to flies, who land and leave their eggs, especially in the hot weather. People can step in it and track it along with the eggs or even maggots into their homes. Also, some dogs eat it and can become very sick.

“Owners should use monthly heartworm prevention tablets as well as a topical tick and flea product on their dogs,” advised Carlin. “Also, all dog owners are responsible for cleaning up after their dogs.”

Sunburn. Not unlike fair-skinned humans, dogs are susceptible to sunburn, especially those with thin hair coats and pink noses. They can get skin tumors such as melanomas from excessive sun exposure.

Canine friendly sun block is available at pet stores and can be applied to a dog’s muzzle and ears.

Hyperthermia (heat stroke). Older dogs, overweight dogs and dogs with short snouts (Brachycephalic dogs) like Boston Terriers, Bull Dogs and Boxers, are more susceptible to overheating, yet it can happen to any dog and it can happen quickly.

Best advice when it’s hot out is to walk your dog early in the morning and later in the evening.

“Six a.m. and 6:00 p.m. is the rule of thumb,” said Dr. Re. “Do not go outside and play ball with your dog in the middle of the day. Also do not leave your dog outside in the direct sun.”

However, direct sunlight is not the only cause of heat stroke. “High temperatures and humidity are also a factor,” added Dr. Gallagher. 

Dogs release heat through their tongues and foot pads. According to Dr. Re, “a dog’s tongue will widen to expand its surface area to release more heat.”

If you suspect your dog is overheated, it’s NOT a good idea to immerse him in a cold bath or turn the garden hose on him. The cold will cause vasoconstriction of skin blood vessels, thus insulating the inner body and trapping the heat. It is best to apply room temperature water to the paws, and wrap the neck and belly in wet towels.  You can also direct a fan at the dog to help cool him off.

Unlike people, normal temperature for a dog is 100°-102.5° which is why they’re so nice to curl up with to watch TV on the sofa. A temperature of 105° indicates heat stroke.

It’s a good idea to keep a thermometer handy. You can take your dog's temperature rectally, so it is smart to have a dedicated dog thermometer. 

If you suspect your dog is suffering from heat stroke, begin to cool him off and contact your veterinarian immediately. 

• Safe Playtime. You can still give your dog something to do if it’s too hot to play outdoors. Take your dog swimming if you have a pool or travel to Lake Mohegan in Fairfield for the public dog beach.

A lot of dogs like to play with ice cubes.

“You can even freeze chicken broth in ice cube trays or buy the frozen poultry-flavor dog treats at the supermarket. They look just like ice cream cups,” said Dr. Re. “You can even freeze rawhide or peanut butter, whatever treat your dog likes.”

If your dog has a skunk, flystrike, sunburn or overheating situation, call your veterinarian immediately. 

The number for is (203) 594-3510. In Stamford, Cornell University Veterinary Specialists are open 24 hours, at 203-595-2777. To contact Drs. Gallagher and Re of Good Shepherd Veterinary Services call (203) 505-1911 or (203) 803-5038 or email gsvmobile@gmail.com Good Shepherd vets make house calls throughout lower Fairfield County.



IMG 8067 Dr. Meredith Re and one of her Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Buttercup, one-year-old.


IMG 8068 Dr. Re and Dr. Gallagher’s Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Buttercup and Biscuit, are happy to play indoors on a hot July afternoon.


IMG 8072  Dr. Re and Dr. Gallagher with family pets Buttercup and Biscuit (Cavalier King Charles Spaniels) and Trout, a 14-year-old Lab mix rescued from a trailer park when he was a flea-covered puppy.


IMG 8110 Buddy, a senior dog from Greenwich, ventures outdoors on a hot August afternoon. Note how the dog’s tongue "spoons" to release heat.


heavens sake August 06, 2011 at 04:50 PM
Great suggestions. Also remember to walk pets on grass during extremely hot days. Concrete, slate and especially asphalt become hot enough to cook eggs.
Gale Stafford August 06, 2011 at 05:58 PM
This wonderful couple came to our home to help us say goodbye to our beloved 11 year old Golden Retriever, Cassidy, in our back garden last Sunday. They were incredibly caring and sensitive.


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