It's summer again which means vacation time for us and for our four-legged friends. Whether you choose the beach or the mountains, here is some advice on how to be prepared for all the little unexpected events that could ruin the vacation for the whole family, including the dog!!!
The first thing, whatever the destination, is to remember that our dogs' bodies are different from ours. In fact, unlike us, the ability to regulate their body temperature is far less than ours.
Heat control is achieved somewhat through sweating, and a little at the paws, but for the most part it happens by panting. Of course, it happens a little through the expulsion of urine and faeces.
It is safe to say that our dogs are very sensitive to the heat.
How can we help them?
We definitely should avoid going out during the hottest hours of the day. If we walk on the sidewalk or on the asphalt we should check the temperature; if it is too hot for us, it is too hot for them as well.
Obviously never leave them in the car, either in the sun or in the shade during the hottest hours of the day (with temperatures above 19-20 ℃).
Do not over-compensate though, pay attention to air conditioners set on 18 ℃ or similar temps. Sudden changes in temperature can give them conjunctivitis and tracheitis.
We should often give them fresh, room-temperature water (not cold) and split its daily food between two meals - once early in the morning and the other in the evening.
Forego the walk in the afternoon, even in the shade, as physical activity can cause them to over-heat quickly, so it's best to go out in the afternoon just for toilet needs and then back inside again.
Warning: do not use super-chilled towels on our friends, or any kind of rapid cooling system – too stressful on dogs' systems.
So if we are going to the mountains/woods and the fresh air - it should be enough not to go walking under the sun - but what if we are at the beach? Our friend would be happier staying at home during the hottest hours, rather than staying under an umbrella , especially if he doesn't like to swim.
How do you recognize a heat stroke?
The symptoms can change according to the severity of the hypothermia. If the dog has frequent superficial breathing, the tongue is out in a desperate effort to cool down, exhausted. The symptoms can range from a listless, comatose state to a stupor, with an inability to move easily or at all, epileptic seizures, coma, and in worst case, death.
What should you do immediately?
Obviously the dog has to be taken out from the sun and put in the shade. If the dog is conscious it is important to let them drink fresh water and to cool their extremities. Do not put them in ice water or pour ice water on them. Although it does lower their temperature, it can cause many other problems due to induced vasoconstriction.
Those treatments must be done as soon as possible, but most importantly, it is necessary to bring the dog to the nearest vet.
If we are at the beach or in the mountains, often, in the areas that allowed it, it's wonderful to free dogs from the leash (remember to put on a tag with the dog’s name and your phone number on the dog collar or the vest for security). However, sometimes they eat something they shouldn't or drink sea water and then comes the joy of vomiting and/or diarrhea.
If you have seen what they have been eating (and you're sure that it's not toxic), the first thing to do is take away all food, and be sure to have appropriate lactic cultures for them. We should keep an eye on them, checking how often they vomit and have diarrhea. Usually if they have been drinking sea water - shortly thereafter they will stop purging and things will return to normal.
Remember that it is summertime and that they can dehydrate easily during these times (and puppies even more so), if they show just diarrhea then leave the water at their disposal.
Anyway, it would be wise to call the local vet as a precaution, and if vomiting and diarrhea do not abate, then do not hesitate to bring the dog to the vets.
If your dog has eaten a foreign object (like a fish hook) do not try to induce vomiting as you would likely end up worsening the situation. If you see the fishing line coming out of the mouth or from the anus, do not pull out, it could cause big damage to your friend. In that case go immediately to the local vet - they will find and remove the foreign object.
If we are walking the dog and it gets hurt, examine the depth of the injury. If it's superficial you can sterilize the wound by yourself (it would be better not to use hydrogen peroxide, but diluted purell or betadine). If it is bleeding a lot or the wound is deep, wash it with clean water, cover with a bandage (or clean cloth) fairly tight and go straight away to the nearest vet, especially if it won't stop bleeding.
Often our dogs come into contact with insects or other kinds of animals, and sometimes those animals aren't too happy about the meeting and try to fight back.
In case of bug bites you can see the location of the bite starts to swell. Often the bites are on the snout making dogs howl in pain. In these cases we can put a cold cloth or ice on the bite for a bit of immediate relief. It may even be necessary to go to the vets because sometimes dogs, like people, can have allergic reactions to certain insect bites. Swelling can be much more severe and dangerous (especially if around the mouth or the throat).
If you are going to a remote area, before leaving you can ask your vet for a prescription for fast-acting corticosteroids (some corticosteroids for humans are not animal-tested, so it's better not to risk using those kind). Remember not to use them before first consulting your vet or the local one).
Finally, let's talk about the dreaded snake bites (particularly vipers). These bites are very painful and often dogs will start howling as soon as it's been bitten. It's not always easy to see the two puncture wounds, but that doesn't mean that the dog hasn't been bitten!!!
The severity of the bite depends partly from the dog's weight and in part from how much venom has been injected from the snake (viper size, type, etc).
The location of the bite will swell, certainly, but as the symptoms increase, the dog seems to be down, then in pain, in the end they can't stand and begin to become unresponsive. In this case, do not try to do anything - do not try to suck the poison - call the nearest vet immediately and bring your dog there ASAP. The sooner you can get the vet to administer the anitvenin, the greater the chance there will be a full recovery.
- Before you leave, get informed. Find the number of a local vet you can count on.
- Remember if your pet is taking medication – bring enough for the entire vacation.
- Prepare a 'doggy first aid kit' for your four-pawed friend: antiseptic, bandages, gauze, eye dropper to use as an eye wash, thermometer, lactic cultures and any medication that your vet might prescribe.
Have fun, use common sense, and it will be an amazing vacation for everybody!