All Pets Veterinary Clinic
SUMMER PET CARE TIPS
Summer is rapidly approaching and with it comes a set of pet problems that are unique to the
season. This article will discuss some of the more common summer pet problems including: heat
stroke, fly bites, hot spots, maggots, hit by car, sunburn, and fleas and ticks.
Over heating and heat stroke can result in a short period of time when it is hot and humid
outside. Animals that are deprived of water, shade, and adequate rest after exertion may be
at an increased risk for over heating and heat stroke. Signs of heat stroke include prolonged
elevated body temperature, open mouth breathing/panting, shaking, trembling, collapse, seizures,
and death. Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency. Treatment is aimed at lowering the
body temperature without overcooling, treating secondary shock, and preventing secondary organ
damage. Heat stroke can be prevented by providing adequate shade and water for outdoor pets,
limiting excessive activity, and keeping long haired pets shaved.
Many pets that are outdoors will have problems with flies. These pests will often bite at the
ears of animals and cause small crusty sores on the ear tips. Several commercial fly ointments
are available to keep the flies down to a minimum. Treating fly strike wounds involves gently
cleaning the sores and applying a triple antibiotic ointment. Fly strike wounds may mimic other
diseases including skin cancer and autoimmune diseases, thus, consultation with a veterinarian
is recommended if conservative treatment does not result in the resolution of signs.
Hot spots are scabby, raw, bloody lesions that occur in response to skin irritation. Any type
of skin irritation (trauma, parasite related, allergies, etc.) can result in a hot spot.
Treatment includes removing all hair and debris from an area wider than the hot spot, cleaning
and drying the wound, and applying a topical medication. In some instances, oral antibiotics,
steroids, or pain medications may be used as well. If the underlying cause is not addressed,
hot spots are likely to persist or reoccur. Thus, finding and eliminating the cause is an
important step in case management.
Flies are often attracted to open wounds, sores, and moist skin. If wounds are left unattended
and/or animals are left outside for prolonged periods of time flies will often congregate and
lay eggs in the open flesh. When the eggs hatch, the immature fly or maggot will feed on the
flesh and debris. Animals with maggot infestations are often presented to veterinary clinics
in very poor condition-they are weak, dehydrated, and toxic. Thus, maggots can be life threatening.
Aggressive removal of maggots and eggs and treatment of any resulting wounds is necessary.
Prevention is easy! Keep animals clean and dry, shave long haired pets that will spend time
outside, and examine pets for wounds and seek treatment early.
Hit By Car
Animals are more likely to be hit by cars in the summer months because they often spend more
time outside. Injuries from pet versus automobile accidents can vary tremendously and range
from mild bruises and cuts to broken bones and devastating internal injuries. Some injuries
may not be obvious in the short term and thus a veterinarian should examine animals that have
been hit by a car as soon as possible. Tips to prevent animals from being hit by a vehicle
include: double checking fencing and pens to make sure they are escape proof, walking animals
on leashes, and neutering males so they are less likely to roam.
Short haired, shaved, or thin-coated pets may be prone to sunburn if they are allowed to stay
outside without adequate shelter from the sun. Signs can vary, depending on severity, and may
include red skin, blisters, and secondary skin infection. In most cases, the skin along the
top of the back is the most likely to be affected. Treatment will vary depending on the
severity of the burn and may include topical and/or oral medications. Sunburn is easily
prevented by preventing prolonged exposure to direct sunlight and by providing adequate shelter.
Fleas and Ticks
External parasites, fleas and ticks, are common summer time pests. Flea infestation can result
in signs ranging from mild irritation to severe skin allergy and hair loss. In addition, fleas
can transmit some diseases, like Hemobartonella, and result in anemia due to blood loss in
smaller animals. Ticks can also transmit diseases such as Ehrlichia, Lyme Disease, Babesia,
and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Recent advances in parasite medications have made prevention
and treatment of external parasites very easy. Some products recommended for external parasites
include Advantage, Frontline, and Revolution.
Summertime brings a whole new set of challenges for pets and pet owners alike. Following a few
basic tips can help keep the summer enjoyable for everyone! Remember, never leave pets
unattended outside for long periods of time, especially in extreme temperatures (hot or cold).
Be sure to provide adequate shelter and water for pets that spend time outside. Examine your
pets for signs of problems on a regular basis. With a little extra care and attention, summer
pet tragedies can be avoided.
The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not
intended to take the place of your regular veterinarian. Please do not hesitate
to contact your regular veterinarian if you have questions regarding your pet.
Karen Blakeley, DVM, MPH
18 May 2003