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The4th of July and the days immediately following are historically the busiest days of the year for U.S. shelters, but a bit of preparation before our nation’s birthday is key to preventing lost pets. Paying heed to these six preventive tips can help you keep your dogs and cats safe and sound this holiday:
1. Plan the day. Though it might be fun for you (human) to keep things spur of the moment and off the cuff on a day like the 4th, a lack of a plan can be super-duper stressful and ultimately detrimental to your pet. Take a few minutes now to map out the potential plans for the day: pool parties, cook-outs, visiting friends & families, and, most especially… fireworks. For each potential activity, decide ahead of time where the dog and cat will be and think critically about if that situation is going to be stressful for them (or stressful for you because of them), and then decide on your plan of action to eliminate those stress points so you provide a safe and pleasant experience for your furry family members.
2. Check your pets’ external IDs. Is the writing on their ID tag legible (or scannable if you have a digital ID tag like a PetHub QR ID)? Is their license up to date and visible? Is their collar (or harness) well-fitted so it won’t be easy to back out of, but is still comfortable to wear? Remember — external IDs are the FASTEST way for your pet to get home if they go AWOL (absent without a leash). Don’t rely on microchips or even a GPS collar alone to protect your pet. Make sure they are protected with a current, easy to read and access external ID tag and reliable collar/harness that is worn at all times.
3. Update your microchip data. Speaking of microchips — when was the last time you double checked that the registration for the chip was up-to-date? If it has been more than a year, then that is too long. Your best bet for making sure everything is ready-to-go is to take a quick trip down to your vet and ask them to do a microchip check. They’ll scan your dog or cat, check the data so you can verify everything is current and also let you know if the chip has migrated in the animal’s body. This type of sanity check should be done once a year, and the weeks before a hectic holiday like July 4th is a perfect time.
4. Know your pet’s stress points. Unless your dog or cat is brand new to your home, you likely know if they scare easily with loud noises and lots of commotion. If you are not sure, take some time in the next few weeks to acclimate them to the noises they will hear that night. Also, consider looking into products like Thundershirt and iCalm which can often help alleviate stress during situations like fireworks. Most important of all… refer back to step #1: plan ahead so you have things set up ahead of time for your pet to be comfortable, secure and safe during all activities on the big day.
5. Watch those table scraps! Cookouts will be plentiful on the 4th, and the opportunities for your pooch to swipe hot dog or five will be abundant. A bit of a (healthy) treat here and there is fine — but it is easy for a pup to overindulge as we celebrate around him. Be very mindful of Fido while he roams the picnic crowd, set expectations with your guests ahead of time so they aren’t sharing their plates with him and remind yourself of foods that are toxic and either ensure those foods are always out of his reach or avoid having them at the event altogether.
6. Keep them contained. Most likely, your pets will not be joining you for the big fireworks display after dark (and they most likely prefer that!). Before you leave the house to head to the big show, ensure all doors, windows, and exit points are secured and escape-proofed. Avoid leaving your pets outside while you are away, as this is just begging for an attempt to escape the booms and flashes. The best solution of all is to safely crate your pet. To give them even more comfort, leave an article of clothing with your scent on it to help soothe them, and sound-proof the room they are in as much as possible. And please, come home after the event as soon as you can — it’s been a stressful night for your furry family members and they need some hugs and cuddles.
By taking the time in the weeks ahead of a big, loud, overwhelming holidayJuly 4th you can circumvent a lot of stress and danger for your four (or three!) legged companions.
By Dr. Becker
When your dog starts acting strangely or seems a little inexplicably “off,” it’s often impossible to know whether to take a wait-and-see approach, or hit the panic button. This is especially true when the symptoms are characteristic of certain benign conditions as well as life threatening disorders.
The following symptoms fall into the category of Do Not Ignore. They may or may not indicate a serious underlying disease, but they should be investigated immediately by your veterinarian or an emergency animal clinic.
1. Loss of appetite, weight loss. Often, loss of appetite is the very first sign of an underlying illness in pets. There can be many reasons your dog isn’t hungry or refuses to eat, but not eating can begin to negatively impact his health within 24 hours. And for puppies 6 months or younger, the issue is even more serious.
Weight loss is the result of a negative caloric balance, and it can be the consequence of anorexia (loss of appetite) or when a dog’s body uses or eliminates essential dietary nutrients faster than they are replenished. Weight loss exceeding 10 percent of your dog’s normal body weight will be a red flag for your vet. There can be several underlying causes, some of which are very serious.
2. Lethargy, extreme fatigue. A lethargic dog will appear drowsy, “lazy,” and/or indifferent. She may be slow to respond to sights, sounds and other stimuli in her environment.
Lethargy or exhaustion is a non-specific symptom that can signal a number of potential underlying disorders, including some that are serious or life-threatening. If your pet is lethargic for longer than 24 hours, it’s time to make an appointment with your veterinarian.
3. Coughing. Coughing in dogs, unless it’s a one-and-done situation, generally indicates an underlying problem. Examples include a possible windpipe obstruction, kennel cough, bronchitis, pneumonia, heartworm disease, heart failure, and tumors of the lung.
All causes of coughing require investigation, and in most cases, treatment.
4. Fever. If your dog’s temperature spikes, it usually means his body is fighting an infection. The normal temperature in dogs is 100.5 to 102.5 degrees F. If your pet feels warm to you and his temp is higher than normal, make an appointment with your veterinarian.
5. Difficulty breathing. A dog in respiratory distress will have labored breathing or shortness of breath that can occur when she breathes in or out. Breathing difficulties can mean that not enough oxygen is reaching her tissues. Additionally, dogs with heart failure may not be able to pump enough blood to their muscles and other tissues.
Respiratory distress often goes hand-in-hand with a buildup of fluid in the lungs or chest cavity that leads to shortness of breath and coughing. If your dog has sudden undiagnosed breathing problems, she should see a veterinarian immediately.
6. Trouble urinating. This includes discomfort while urinating, straining to urinate, and frequent attempts to urinate with little success. If your dog cries out while relieving himself, seems preoccupied with that area of his body or is excessively licking the area, you should make an appointment with your veterinarian right away.
There are several underlying causes of urinary difficulties, some of which can result in death within just a few days.
7. Bloody diarrhea, urine, vomit. Digested blood in your dog’s poop will appear as black tarry stools. Fresh blood in the stool indicates bleeding in the colon or rectum. Either situation is cause for concern and should be investigated as soon as possible.
Blood in a dog’s urine, called hematuria, can be obvious or microscopic. There are a number of serious disorders that can cause bloody urine, including a blockage in the urinary tract, a bacterial infection, and even cancer.
Vomited blood can be either bright red (fresh), or resemble coffee grounds (indicating partially digested blood). There are a variety of reasons your dog might vomit blood, some of which are relatively minor, but others are serious and even life threatening.
8. Pacing, restlessness, unproductive retching. When a dog paces and seems unable or unwilling to settle down, it can signal that he’s in pain, discomfort, or distress. One very serious condition in which these symptoms are common is gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV), also called bloat. Another sign of bloat is when a dog tries to vomit but brings nothing up.
Bloat is a life-threatening condition that most often occurs in large breed dogs and those with deep chests.
9. Fainting, collapsing. When a dog collapses, it means she experiences a sudden loss of strength that causes her to fall and not be able to get back up. If a collapsed dog also loses consciousness, she has fainted.
Either of these situations is an emergency, even if your dog recovers quickly and seems normal again within seconds or minutes of the collapse. All the reasons for fainting or collapsing are serious and require an immediate visit to your veterinarian. They include a potential problem with the nervous system (brain, spinal cord or nerves), the musculoskeletal system (bones, joints, muscles), the circulatory system (heart, blood vessels, blood), or the respiratory system (mouth, nose, throat, lungs).
10. Red eye(s). If the white area of your dog’s eye turns bright red, it’s a sign of inflammation or infection that signals one of several diseases involving the external eyelids, the third eyelid, the conjunctiva, cornea, or sclera of the eye.
Redness can also point to inflammation of structures inside the eye, eye socket disorders, and also glaucoma. Certain disorders of the eye can lead to blindness, so any significant change in the appearance of your dog’s eyes should be investigated.
Some symptoms of illness in dogs are best handled by simply giving them a chance to run their course, for example, a temporary GI upset resulting from indiscriminate snacking.
Other symptoms can be so sudden, severe and frightening that you know immediately you need to get your pet to the vet or an emergency animal hospital.
The 10 symptoms I’ve listed above are less definitive, so I hope I’ve provided you with some guidance in the event your own pet develops symptoms that point to a potentially severe or life-threatening illness.
“But, it’s not that hot,” you say to yourself. “What is up with Thor?”
Thor is probably on his way to having heatstroke, which means he is quickly losing his ability to regulate his body temperature because of an overabundance of heat. Dogs don’t sweat the way we do – they only have sweat glands in their nose and pads of their feet. And their only real recourse when they are overheating is to pant, which sometimes isn’t enough. Add to that the fact that their bodies are covered in fur and their paws are usually in direct contact with hot concrete or asphalt … and well, it’s easy to see how they can get much hotter than we can – fast.
And since heatstroke can quickly lead to irreversible damage to major organs like the kidneys, liver, heart, brain – and can even cause death – it’s important to know the signs.
Normally, a dog’s body temperature is somewhere between 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit, slightly higher than for humans. A dog will start to experience heatstroke at over 105 degrees. At around 106 to 108 degrees, organ damage can occur. Always keep a rectal thermometer handy for your dog and check his temperature if you suspect heatstroke.
Dry gums that are pale or grayish
Bright or dark red tongue or gums
Rapid or erratic pulse
If the overheating isn’t stopped, your dog’s breathing will slow or stop, and he can have seizures or fall into a coma. Obviously, we don’t want any of that to happen. So, what should you do if you think your dog has heatstroke?
Whenever the weather gets warms, it’s a good idea to pay special attention to how your dog is doing. And know your dog: Breeds with “flat faces” like Pugs and Boxers, elderly dogs, puppies and sick dogs are at even greater risk of overheating. Things progress quickly when it comes to heatstroke, so as soon as you detect a problem, act quickly.
Since heat is the obvious problem, the goal is to get him out of it and away from direct sunlight.
Get water on his inner thighs and stomach where there are more large blood vessels, and on the pads of his feet. Use running water via faucet or hose and avoid submerging your dog in a tub or pool because this could cool him too fast and cause other problems like cardiac arrest and bloat. Also, avoid cold water or ice because these will cause the blood vessels to constrict, slowing blood flow and the cooling process.
To help cool your dog, you want to make sure the water you’re putting on him can evaporate. To that end, you’ll want to avoid covering him up with a wet towel or blanket because rather than allowing the water to evaporate, this will create a sauna effect – which you don’t want. Keep him out of enclosed areas like a kennel; instead, keep him near flowing air like from a fan or air conditioner.
Encourage your dog to stand or walk slowly while he’s cooling down, so that his cooled blood can circulate throughout his body.
If he gulps down too much water too fast, it can cause vomiting or bloating.
…if he doesn’t want water, but avoid human performance drinks.
Once your dog has started to cool down, you can stop your efforts and take him to his vet right away. You don’t want to continue trying to cool down your dog for too long or you’ll risk him getting hypothermia. Your dog will need a veterinary exam even if he seems fine because there may be underlying damage to his organs that you can’t see. Even if he seems normal, the effects of heatstroke can continue for 48 to 72 hours following the initial heatstroke. According to William Grant DVM, the most common cause of death following heatstroke is disseminated intravascular coagulopathy (DIC) which is blood coagulating throughout the body; it can occur hours or days after the heatstroke episode.
In addition to cooling down your overheated dog and taking him to the vet, consider giving him one of these homeopathic remedies to help in his recovery.
Aconitum napellus 6C to 30C
This is a good first choice at first sign of heatstroke. If your dog needs this remedy, he may also seem very fearful or anxious. Give three pellets every 10 minutes for up to three doses. If he doesn’t seem better, try one of the other remedies listed.
If the dog needs this remedy, he may seem very weak and his muscles may be trembling. Give three pellets every 10 minutes for up to three doses. If the dog is not any better, try the next remedy.
Glonoinum 6C to 30C
You may see vomiting and weakness. His gums may be pale, red or have a bluish cast. Give three pellets every 5 minutes.
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About Jessica Peralta