“It Was Just for a Minute!”

Sadder words were never spoken.

WHY?

Because an errand meant to take that proverbial minute is 60 seconds too long when a dog is left unattended in a hot car.

WHY?

Because, even on mild summer days, with a car parked in the shade and the windows cracked, the INSIDE temperature can rapidly reach dangerous levels.

WHY?

Because a car acts like a greenhouse, trapping and magnifying the sun’s strength and heat. Both the air and upholstery temperature can rise so rapidly that a dog can’t cool down.

 WHY?

Because a dog’s normal body temperature is about 102° F. Raise it briefly by only two degrees, and heat exhaustion, brain damage, even death may occur.

WHY?

Because, unlike humans, dogs don’t sweat. They can only cool themselves by panting and releasing heat through their paws.

Despite repeated warnings in the media, flyers distributed by animal welfare groups, and word of mouth, countless animals still die needlessly each year from heatstroke. Despite the axiom that one person can’t make a difference, in this type of situation, one person can make ALL the difference. And that person may be YOU.

If you see a dog in distress inside a car parked on the street or in a parking lot, note the make and model of the car, as well as its license plate number. Call the police, your local ASPCA branch, Humane Society or animal control immediately.

While 28 states have enacted laws that specifically prohibit leaving dogs in hot cars, most prohibit “Good Samaritans” from taking action to free a trapped dog. Only 11 states have granted these concerned citizens the legal right to use any means necessary (this includes smashing a window) to save that dog. They are Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

Watch the dog for the more obvious signs of heatstroke: exaggerated panting (or the sudden stopping of panting); an anxious or staring expression; restlessness; excessive salivation, tremors and vomiting. While waiting for help, you may – while being aware of the possible legal implications – choose to act on your own.

If a window is opened or a door unlocked, extricate the dog cautiously and carefully — either alone or with assistance. Then, get him into an air-conditioned car or nearby building. Otherwise, lay him down in a cool, shady place. Wet him with cool water, but never apply ice to his body. Fan him vigorously to speed the evaporation process, which, in turn, will cool the blood and reduce his temperature. Give him cool water to drink or even ice cream to lick.

Hopefully, by now, help will have arrived, and you may have saved some neglectful owner’s pet.

A gentle reminder: don’t YOU become that same neglectful owner.

Remember there’s no such thing as ”just for a minute.“

Carefree Dog Road Trips

As creatures of habit who crave their creature comforts, dogs don’t always make the best road trip companions. But by mapping out your dog’s trip along with your own, you can curtail his bad “backseat driver” behavior, and turn a potentially negative experience into a paws-itive one.

Consider the following suggestions to smooth the way for everyone – humans and canines alike:

Remain calm. Since dogs are adept at sensing their owners’ stress, don’t raise your voices or display any overt signs of your own pre-trip jitters and concerns.

Be certain to make reservations ahead of time and ONLY at pet-friendly motels or hotels along your route.

Put together a doggy travel bag equipped with a first aid kit and any essential medications, food and bottles of water (more can be purchased along the way), food and water bowls, grooming brushes, disposable pee pads, poop bags and small plastic trash bags, treats and toys, towels and blankets. And for you: disposable plastic gloves, hand sanitizer, liquid dish soap and disinfectant.

Never medicate an overly anxious dog without first consulting your vet. Many OTC calming agents are dangerous for pets, and if you do use a medication prescribed by your vet, always try it out on your dog at home first to test for any reactions and/or side effects.

If your dog tends to get car sick, avoid feeding him between two and three hours prior to your departure. But if he travels well and has an appetite, feed him the same food that he eats at home during the trip and keep his water bowl only partly filled to avoid spilling.

Have your dog travel comfortably by keeping him in a large carrier or traveling crate (if more than one dog, each should ideally have his own carrier or crate) with full contact information attached. Set the carrier/crate in a well-ventilated part of the car, out of excessive drafts and away from direct sunlight. Place a familiar blanket or a worn T-shirt with your scent on it inside the carrier/crate. Rotate various toys throughout the trip to keep him mentally stimulated and happily occupied.

Carry photocopies or a USB stick of your dog’s medical records in a flat plastic zippered pouch showing, at the very least, that he’s up to date on all of his essential vaccinations. Make certain that his collar carries a nametag with all pertinent ID (microchips are, of course, the best and only permanent form of identification), and that his leash is attached to it whenever you remove him from his carrier/crate or from the car itself.

Never allow your dog to get out of the car at “rest stops” unaccompanied. Always keep him safely leashed while walking him about for both exercise and potty breaks. And above all, never leave your dog in the car unattended — on either hot or cold days.

As they say, forewarned is forearmed. Hopefully then, armed with these suggestions, you and your dog can share a road trip to remember – fondly.

Keeping Your Dog Heartworm Safe

A single bite from a single infected mosquito can cause an otherwise healthy dog to develop heartworm disease and potentially die.

A heartworm is a parasitic worm (Dirofilaria immitis) that lives in the heart and pulmonary arteries of an affected dog. The worms travel through the bloodstream, damaging arteries and vital organs as they go, before arriving at the lungs and heart approximately six months after that initial mosquito bite. Several hundred worms can live in a single dog from between five and seven years, and if left untreated, can prove fatal.

The best protection against this insidious disease? Prevention. Prevention is both safe and effective, whereas treating the disease itself is complicated, costly, and can, like the disease, have serious, even fatal, effects on the stricken dog.

Preventives work by killing the heartworm larvae before they can grow and mature into adult heartworms. Although a variety of preventives are now available to conscientious pet owners everywhere, the first step in the prevention process is a visit to the vet.

Most vets recommend yearly testing for heartworm in dogs older than 6 months, usually in late spring. If your dog is heartworm negative, inexpensive, chewable pills are available with your vet’s prescription. The pills, which are palatable to most dogs, must be given to your dog monthly, and are manufactured by several companies. These pills can also be given to dogs under 6 months of age without a blood test.

Besides pills, there’s a vet-administered injection called ProHeart 6 whose effectiveness lasts for 6 months. There are also specially designed, chemical preventive products that you apply directly onto your dog’s skin. Application of these topical preventives should begin June 1st and continue for six months. Some heartworm preventives contain additional ingredients that will control other parasites, such as roundworms or hookworms, while the topical preventives prescribed by your vet will protect your dog against fleas and ticks as well.

If you choose the vet-prescribed pill, you can opt to give it to your dog only during mosquito season (from spring through the first frost), but the most recent recommendation from the American Heartworm Society is to keep giving them all year round. And remember, although your dog may not go outside, mosquitoes can still get INside.

For those preferring to NOT use either the pill or the topical preventive, homeopathic veterinarians advise testing your dog for heartworm twice yearly.

In short, consult with your vet. Protect the dog you love against these invasive, potentially fatal parasites, and this summer, all of you can rest, assured.

Tick Alert: Dog Owners Beware

With the arrival of spring comes the arrival of an annoying and possibly fatal pest: the tick.

While ticks aren’t generally a problem in Colorado, exercise caution on trips to the high country to keep from returning with any unwelcome “hitchhikers.”

What was once considered a nuisance found only in the wooded countryside has been persistently and increasingly invading cities both large and small. Now ticks can be as close as your neighborhood park or your neighbor’s backyard.

What, precisely, is a tick? A tick is a fairly common, external parasite that embeds itself in the skin of both animals and humans. Once it lands, it inserts its mouth parts into the skin and feeds on the blood. And that single tick has the potential to pass on multiple diseases.

Deer ticks and Western Blacklegged ticks can carry Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which animals (and humans) can contract.

Prevention and early detection are the best ways of protecting your dogs against Lyme disease. The intent is to stop it before any symptoms appear. Should the disease progress, symptoms can include stiff, painful and swollen joints, and a limp that comes and goes, often appearing to switch sides. Some dogs have an arched back and a stiff walk. More serious, however, are fever, difficulty breathing and kidney failure. Heart and neurological problems are rarer.

To help protect your pet, there are several preventatives available – such as K9 Advantix – which stops ticks BEFORE they bite, killing, not only all of the major tick species, but acting as a flea treatment as well.

Such preventatives are particularly important for high-risk animals such as hunting dogs, cottage dogs and dogs hiking through fields. But it’s important to remember that dogs can pick up ticks in the city as well.

When bitten, the skin of some pets may become red and irritated around the site, while others may not even notice the parasite attached to them. It is imperative then, that you inspect your dog thoroughly when returning from areas known for ticks.

Should you find a tick on your dog, it must be removed very carefully to ensure that the mouthparts are fully removed. If left behind, they can abscess and cause infection. Kill the tick by placing it in a zip-lock bag and pouring rubbing alcohol over it. For the uncertain owner, special tick removal devices are available, while the squeamish can have their vet remove the tick instead.

Some experts now advise that when your dog is tested annually for heartworm disease, the same test should include screening for Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis (both bacterial infections). A positive test result enables you to start treating your pet early — before the onset of any symptoms.

Never was the expression “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” more true than in the case of tick prevention.

Allergy Alert! “Itch” that Time Again

Has your dog suddenly started scratching himself or biting certain areas of his body? Chewing on his feet? Rubbing his face back and forth across the carpet?

If so, he may be suffering from seasonal allergies. These reactions to an obvious, but invisible itch is his body’s way of responding to molecules called “allergens.”

The major culprits: trees, grasses, pollens, molds and ragweed. The main cause: inhaling these irritants through the nose and mouth.

Unlike humans, most dogs’ allergies manifest themselves as skin irritations or inflammations known as allergic dermatitis. Left untreated, your dog’s constant scratching can lead to open sores and scabs, hair loss and hot spots. Ear infections, running noses, watery eyes, coughing and sneezing may also occur.

To determine the source of your dog’s allergy, ask your vet to conduct a series of tests: intradermal, blood or both.

Once a specific allergen has been identified, you can try the following:
Avoidance: for pollens, keep your dog away from fields; keep lawns short; keep him indoors when pollen counts are high; vacuum and wash floors with non-toxic agents instead of regular household cleaners containing chemicals.
Topical therapies: frequent baths with an oatmeal-free shampoo; foot soaks to reduce tracking allergens into the house; topical solutions containing hydrocortisone to ease the itching.

Diet: one low in carbohydrates like grain, or low in fat; put omega-3 fatty acids and/or coconut oil in his food; add a combination of the naturopathic supplements quercetin, bromelain and papain to his meals.

Drugs: antihistamines, cyclosporine or steroids.

As always, consult your vet before starting any form of treatment. Monitor your dog’s behavior closely and report any improvement or worsening in his condition.

It may take several attempts before the proper treatment is found. But when it is, your dog will be much more comfortable — and so will you.