Summer In The Forest
Every year we see several dogs with stick injuries. These are dogs that have either caught sticks which have been thrown for them, or they have run onto sticks jutting out of the ground where they have landed. The level of injuries vary; from mild where there is a hole in the tongue or under the tongue which needs nothing more than painkillers and time to heal, through to wounds which pour blood and require general anaesthesia to treat them, to more life threatening damage. Sometimes fragments of wood become imbedded deep within the muscle at the top of the neck where the initial stick injury has gone through the back of the mouth into the tissue behind. This can cause a recurrent abscess which is often lodged behind the major blood vessels and nerves and makes surgery very difficult. On occasion CT scans and MRI scans are necessary to find the tiny splinters which cause the problem and treatment may run into thousands of pounds. Worse still, although rare, is when the stick penetrates through the roof of the mouth or through the spinal cord causing death. There are now rubber stick-like toys which can be used instead of the real thing so please do not throw sticks for your dog, no matter how tempting it can be!
This can occur at any time once the weather warms up. We always think of dogs in hot cars in the sunshine but the temperature inside a vehicle can go up rapidly even when it is cloudy or the car is in the shade. Dogs pant to cool down so if the air is humid, panting fails to work and the dog will rapidly overheat even if there is water available and windows slightly open. The most susceptible dogs are those with heavy coats, those with short noses and those with underlying heart and chest problems but any dog could be affected. A dog running around outside on a hot day or sitting on the beach in the sunshine may also develop heatstroke. Remember they do not perspire effectively and what may seem like a cool breeze to a person will not help a dog in a fur coat! The rise in body temperature causes brain damage and death could occur rapidly. The most important thing is to cool the head down and take for veterinary treatment as soon as possible to prevent irreversible damage.
Adder Bites can occur any time from the end of April onwards. Sometimes you will see your dog leap backwards and catch a glimpse of the snake, sometimes you just become aware of a swelling on the nose, face or feet with a dog which is off colour suddenly. If the bite is on the tongue or lip and enters the bloodstream rapidly then the dog may collapse suddenly because the venom damages the heart or brain. Generally speaking big dogs cope better than small dogs but it does depend on how much venom is injected and where the strike is. Limbs and feet are much safer than noses and lips as the skin is thicker and the blood supply not as good.
If you suspect an adder bite, do not wait around to find some Piriton – if given orally it takes a long time to become absorbed and is unlikely to be strong enough on its own. Transport your dog to your local veterinary surgery as soon as possible to seek expert treatment which may involve administration of antiserum and a stay in a veterinary hospital.
Another common emergency in the spring and summer is dogs which have eaten discarded fish bait, or stolen it from some fisherman on the beach. The bait is usually on a barbed hook and once imbedded is difficult to remove and needs to be cut out. Do not just cut the line as this is a useful aid in finding where the hook is especially if it has been swallowed completely. The easiest to treat are those in the lip, but the hook can get caught in the tongue, the throat, the oesophagus or gullet or somewhere along the intestines. It might involve minor or major surgery to treat it so need expert attention promptly.
Small seeds can cause big problems especially in those dogs with long fluffy coats. These seeds, especially the ones which behave like wheat awns, will travel into and through the skin especially between the toes and inside the ears or nose but they can get trapped anywhere. They cause ulcers if they get in the eyes and abscesses if they penetrate the skin. Please keep a check on your dog's coat and preferably trim the fur between the paws and inside the ears to give your dog more protection from these little problems.
Rat Poison and Slug Bait
Still the commonest cause of poisoning in dogs. Sometimes the manufacturers' labels are misleading and state things like "safe when used according to the manufacturers' instructions." Both rat poison and slug bait are highly dangerous and often seem highly palatable to dogs especially puppies. Please, please, please do not store these products where your pets could get at them. If you have to use them then ensure there is no way your pets could get access to them once they have been put down. There are specific antidotes for rat poison but the bait put down for rats is getting stronger and therefore more dangerous for your pets. Metaldehyde in slug bait is rapidly fatal, resulting in inco-ordination, convulsions and coma and not easily treated.
Have a great summer with your dogs but just be aware of some of the dangers out there. I would always suggest you consider insurance cover for your beloved companions. The cost of some of these summer problems soon mounts up, especially if more modern advanced techniques are necessary, and knowing you are able to afford the very best care for your dog takes some of the worry away when faced with these situations.