Summer Hazards


Foxtails are the dried seed heads of grasses. For dogs, they can become a serious medical problem because they stick between the dog’s toes, or between the pads on the bottom of the paw, or they can get into the ears, eyes or nose. In dogs with thick coats they can stick in the fur. Once they attach, they actually work their way into the skin and cause infected draining tracts.  In the ears they can be very painful. Dogs may be shaking their head frequently or pawing at their ears. In the eye, a foxtail can cause extreme discomfort, ulceration of the cornea, and swelling of the conjunctiva. In the nose, violent sneezing occurs immediately, sometimes with blood. Foxtails in the paws become more serious if the foxtail gets below the skin. Foxtails on the body are the most concerning, as on rare occasions they can migrate into a body cavity and cause a severe infection of the chest or abdomen, which can sometimes be fatal. The best prevention is to check the dog daily for foxtails if there is any chance of exposure. Pay special attention to the spaces between the toes, the bottom of the paws, the anal and genital areas, and the underarms. The foxtail season extends from spring until the first real rain in the fall. The foxtail plants grow in the spring, then go to seed, then the seed heads dry up and disperse.


Animals that have light-colored noses and thin, very short, or missing fur are most in need of protective sunscreen, or sunblock. The groin, inside legs, and abdomen can also need sunscreen because hair is very thin there and UV light can reflect off of concrete surfaces to affect that skin.  Also, dogs who like to expose their belly to the sun may need sunscreen. Pets with light skin and short or thin hair coat are particularly prone to sunburn or skin cancer. Pets who have suffered hair loss from allergies, hot spots, disease, surgical preparation, or radiation can benefit from sunscreen. Using a pet specific sunscreen, apply to the bridge of the nose, ear tips, skin surrounding the lips, and any area where pigmentation is low.


Everyone knows someone with hay fever. Airborne pollens, molds, dust particles, etc. are inhaled and soon the sneezing and sniffling begins. In dogs (and cats), these same allergens cause the animal to get itchy skin. However, in animals allergens are not only inhaled but in contact with the skin and can cause severe itchiness often leading to secondary skin infections which makes the itchiness worse. Exactly how we get from particles floating in the air to itching and scratching is not entirely understood.  All dogs that go off-site hiking in an area that exposes them to potential allergens should be rinsed off or bathed to mechanically wash away allergens that may be on the fur.

Heat Stroke

An increased body temperature caused by environmental conditions is called hyperthermia, heatstroke, and heat prostration.  It is a life-threatening condition and requires immediate treatment.  A dog’s normal body temperature is 101.5°F plus or minus 1 degree. Any time the body temperature is higher than 105°F, a true emergency exists.  Heatstroke generally occurs in hot summer weather when dogs are left with inadequate ventilation in hot vehicles.  However, heatstroke may also occur in other conditions, including:

  • When an animal is left outdoors in hot/humid conditions without adequate shade.
  • When exercised in hot/humid weather.  
  • When left in a car on a relatively cool (70°F) day; a recent study from Stanford University Medical Center found the temperature within a vehicle may increase by an average of 40 degrees Fahrenheit within one hour regardless of outside temperature. 

Other predisposing factors may be obesity and/or other diseases affecting their airway. Brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds (Pekingese, Pug, Lhasa Apso, Bulldogs,etc.) are unable to cool themselves effectively by panting resulting in an increased body temperature that may be fatal. Initially the dog appears distressed, and will pant excessively and become restless, they may drool large amounts of saliva, they may become unsteady on their feet.  The gums may be blue/purple or bright red in color, due to inadequate oxygen.

What to Do

  • Remove the dog from the environment to a shaded & cool environment and direct a fan on them
  • If possible, determine rectal temperature and record it.
  • Begin to cool the body by placing cool, wet towels over the back of the neck, in the armpits, and in the groin region.  You may also wet the ear flaps and paws with cool water.  Directing a fan on these wetted areas will help to speed evaporative cooling.  Notify the veterinarian immediately.

What NOT to Do

  • Do not use cold water or ice for cooling. 
  • Do not overcool the pet. For dogs with a body temperatures greater than 105°F, a reasonable goal of cooling is body temperature to 102.5-103°F
  • Do not attempt to force water into their mouth, offer fresh cool water if they are alert and show an interest in drinking. Let them drink small amounts first. If they try to drink a lot they may reflexively vomit it.
  • Do not leave them unattended for any length of time.

Rapid cooling is extremely important. While ice or cold water may seem logical, its use is not advised. Cooling the innermost structures of the body will actually be delayed, as ice or cold water will cause superficial blood vessels to shrink, effectively forming an insulating layer of tissue to hold the heat inside. Tap water is more suitable for effective cooling. Severe hyperthermia is a disease that affects nearly every system in the body. Simply lowering the body temperature fails to address the potentially catastrophic events that often accompany this disorder. Prompt veterinary care is absolutely essential.


There are over 1900 flea species in the world, but only one is important to us: Ctenocephalides felis, the cat flea, the flea found on cats, dogs, rabbits, and other species. A heavy flea burden is lethal, especially to smaller or younger animals. The cat flea is not at all selective about its host and has been known to kill dairy calves through heavy infestation. PETS WILL NOT ITCH FROM THEIR FLEAS UNLESS THEY ARE ALLERGIC TO FLEA BITES.
Conditions caused by flea infestation include:

  • Flea Allergic Dermatitis-fleas do not make animals itchy unless there a flea bite allergy, but a single flea can initiate an allergic response.
  • Flea Anemia- fleas drink blood and lots of fleas can drink lots of blood. Fleas can drink enough blood to cause anemia, an inadequate amount of red blood cells and when it is severe enough, it is a life-threatening condition and can be fatal.
  • Feline Infectious Anemia a disorder caused by a tiny red blood cell parasite, Mycoplasma haemofelis, transmitted by fleas.
  • Cat Scratch Fever/Bartonellosis does not make the cat sick but the infected cat can make a person sick. 40% of cats will at some point in their lifetime carry the bacteria (Bartonella) that causes Cat Scratch Fever in people. Classic cat scratch disease presents as tender and swollen regional lymph nodes, some patients have fever, headache, chills, backache and abdominal pain. It may take 7 to 14 days, or as long as two months, before symptoms appear.
  • Common Tapeworm infection (not harmful but unappealing)


Ticks are more than a disgusting nuisance -- they present a serious health risk for people and pets. Tick-borne diseases can be difficult to diagnose and treat, and harder still to live with. Prevention and quick removal are the best strategies by far. Ticks are skin parasites that feed on the blood of their hosts.  Ticks like motion, warm temperatures from body heat, and the carbon dioxide exhaled by mammals, which are why they are attracted to dogs, cats, rodents, rabbits, cattle, small mammals and humans.  The bite itself is not usually painful, but the tick can transmit diseases and cause tick paralysis (removing the ticks leads to rapid improvement of the paralysis). It takes several hours for an attached tick to transmit disease, so disease transmission is prevented by promptly removing ticks.

Don't use methods such as applying alcohol, petroleum jelly or the tip of a hot match to remove them. They don't work. Instead get a hold of the tick as close to where the mouth is attached and apply steady, even pressure to remove the pest -- no twisting required. Once out, put the tick into alcohol to kill it and then dispose of the dead ticks.

Tick Borne Diseases in the United States-all can affect both humans and animals

  • Anaplasmosis is transmitted by tick bites primarily from the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) in the northeastern and upper midwestern U.S. and the western blacklegged tick (Ixodes pacificus) along the Pacific coast.
  • Babesiosis is caused by microscopic parasites that infect red blood cells. Most cases of babesiosis in the United States are caused by Babesia microti. Babesia microti is transmitted by the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) and is found primarily in the Northeast and upper Midwest.
  • Ehrlichiosis is transmitted by the lone star tick (Ambylomma americanum), found primarily in the south central and eastern U.S.
  • Lyme disease is transmitted by the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) in the northeastern U.S. and upper Midwestern U.S. and the western blacklegged tick (Ixodes pacificus) along the Pacific coast.
  • Rickettsia parkeri Rickettsiosis is transmitted by the Gulf Coast tick (Amblyomma maculatum).
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) is transmitted by the American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis), Rocky Mountain wood tick (Dermacentor andersoni), and the brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sangunineus) in the U.S. The brown dog tick and other tick species are associated with RMSF in Central and South America.
  • STARI (Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness) is transmitted via bites from the lone star tick (Ambylomma americanum), found in the southeastern and eastern U.S.
  • Tickborne relapsing fever (TBRF) is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected soft ticks. TBRF has been reported in 15 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming and is associated with sleeping in rustic cabins and vacation homes.
  • Tularemia is transmitted by the dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis), the wood tick (Dermacentor andersoni), and the lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum). Tularemia occurs throughout the U.S.

More fun tick facts

  • 22,000 the number of eggs a single female tick can produce
  • Up to 2 years (some species)-the length some ticks can survive WITHOUT feeding

PREVENTION IS THE KEY to flea and tick control!!!

Monthly spot-on products (Frontline Plus, Advantix-dogs only)

New product-Seresto an 8 month collar that works like most topical products. It has a sustained release technology, active ingredients slowly and continuously released over 8 months

  • Repels and kills ticks
  • Kills fleas within 24 hours and prevents infestations


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