In the heat of the summer, when Austin dogs play hard at our local dog parks and swimming holes, they often encounter limestone river bottoms and rough, rocky trails. All too often, they can inadvertently injure their foot pads. They may not even show any signs of pain until they get home or try to get up the next morning. Austin dogs can sustain severe abrasions their footpads while they are playing, causing painful, stinging raw areas, often with large areas of normal pads starting to come off in thick flaps. They sometimes scrape up all four of their foot pads and are unable to walk on their feet back to the car or get up from their bed the next day, and sometimes they can even have bleeding from the exposed areas. This can be a surprise to owners, because many dogs who experience this are already going running or walking regularly for exercise on pavement and sidewalks. They seem like their feet should be "used to it"...
Their foot pads are thickly callused and just like our feet, they get softened after being in the water for a while. When dogs run and splash through the shallows, their softened feet commonly run on top of submerged limestone surfaces. Normally, their dry feet would tolerate limestone flats well when walking on dry trails. But when their feet are already softened, and they are distracted having fun, they can vigorously scrape up their feet without realizing it, until the damage is already done. Injuries to their feet also probably feel less sensitive to them, since their feet are nice and cool under water. Also, dogs usually don't develop blisters first that can serve as warnings that damage is occurring the way people often do.
Dogs with wet feet can also rub them raw when they head back to the car, walking on rocky trails or climbing over larger boulders. Just like with our feet when we get blisters, the new skin underneath is often extremely sensitive and stings painfully. Dogs can even be so painful on their abraded feet that they can't even bear weight on their feet at all. This can be difficult if you need all four feet to walk around on!
If you are with your dog at the dog park, trail, or lake, and they are swimming, especially if they are running through shallow water with a limestone bottom, be sure to periodically check your dog's feet for signs of abrasion or redness. If it looks like the pads are forming flaps around the edges or the black pigment is coming off revealing pink skin underneath, it's important to get them home. It might help to let their feet dry out with a rest in the sun first before hiking back to the car. When you get home that night and when you get up the next day, you might want to check their pads to see if any flaps or raw areas have occurred.
If your dog does have sore, abraded areas, or loose flaps of footpad callus, or they are unable to bear weight on their foot and are limping, bring them to your veterinarian to have them examined. They may not cry or lick their feet, but they may be reluctant to walk on their stinging pads. There are a lot of things we can do to help them be comfortable, to not be in pain, to protect the pads until they heal, and to prevent infections in the raw areas, so please have them checked out anytime foot pad injuries occur.
Texas summers are extremely hot and when you’re wearing a fur coat, they can be down-right unbearable. This summer make sure your pet has access to water, a shady place outside, and is not left in a vehicle unattended.
Pets can get dehydrated very quickly, so make sure to provide plenty of fresh, clean water at all times. If your pet is going to be outdoors, make sure he or she has a shady place to rest out of the sun. It’s also important not to over exercise your pets during the summer time. Just like a car, you pet can overheat.
• Excessive panting or difficulty breathing
• Increased heart and respiratory rate
• Mild weakness
• Stupor or even collapse
• Bloody diarrhea and vomit
• Elevated temperature
Animals with flat faces, such as Pugs, Pekingese, and Persian Cats, are even more susceptible to heat stroke because they cannot pant as effectively. Senior and overweight pets are also most susceptible and should be kept in an air-conditioned room as much as possible. A parked car can quickly have a heat index in the 100s even if the windows are down. Leaving a pet in a parked car during the summer can lead to a fatal heat stroke.
Now that it’s summer time and you’re taking the cover off of your backyard pool, make sure pets are not left unattended around it. Not all dogs are able to swim. Pool water with chlorine can also cause stomach issues if consumed. If you’re going to be taking your dog out to the lake on a boat, make sure he or she wears a floatation device. Once your dog has been swimming, make sure to rinse him or her off! Chlorine or salt from the water can cause skin issues.
The Great Outdoors
The grass is growing and the bugs are crawling, so you’re likely using lawn and garden insecticides and bait to kill critters before they come in your home. These things can be really harmful to dogs and cats if ingested. Make sure to keep them out of reach and follow the manufacturer instructions before allowing your pet out onto a lawn that has just been treated. Things like citronella candles, oils, and insect zappers need to be kept away from pets as well.
Remember that many foods are drinks are also toxic to animals. Alcoholic beverages and artificially sweetened drinks can have severe repercussions for your pet. Make sure your pet avoids foods like chocolate, grapes, raisins, onions, and garlic. Even just snatching a hot dog off of the picnic table can cause your pet to have extreme digestive upset.
Finally, with the Fourth of July just around the corner, be mindful of your pet around fireworks. Not only are fireworks themselves harmful to pets if they are ingested, but they are also very scary to pets and can cause severe burns. Fireworks contain things like arsenic that can be detrimental to their health if consumed. Make sure that your pets are kept in a safe place so that they do not escape or come in contact with a lit firework. Many animals will panic and run when they hear fireworks going off. Your pet should be wearing a collar with tags and even microchipped so that if your dog or cat gets out, you and your pet can easily be reunited.
We at Austin Vet Care hope that everyone has a safe and happy summer!
Pets Suffer from Allergies Too
Have you ever seen a dog incessantly scratching or maybe licking his paws? Chances are that pet was suffering from allergies. Allergies are a very common problem we see in both cats and dogs. This article will discuss symptoms, diagnostics tests, and treatments relating to all types of allergies but mainly focus on allergy issues that affect the skin.
How Do We Know It’s Allergies?
The most common symptom we see with allergies in dogs is scratching. Common areas that are affected are the abdomen, chest, armpits, and paws. Often times, skin infections and ear infections occur secondary to allergies. With skin infections there will be redness, rash and often scaling areas on the skin. Ear infections typically results in redness in the ears and the ears often appear dirty with dark brown debris present in the ear canal. Dogs and cats will typically paw at their ears and shake their head when an ear infection is present. So a history of scratching with the appropriate physical exam findings can give us a strong suspicion that we are dealing with allergies.
What Are They Allergic To?
There are 3 main categories of things dogs and cats develop allergies to:
1) Environmental airborne allergens like pollens and molds. If the symptoms occur during one season of the year every year then it is likely an airborne pollen or mold. A skin test where small amounts of specific environmental allergens are injected into the skin can be performed to identify allergens. If there is redness and mild swelling at an injection site then we know that the pet is allergic to that specific allergen.
2) Allergens in their food - usually the proteins/meats. When symptoms become non-seasonal then we can be dealing with a food allergy or possibly multiple environmental allergies where there is no longer a seasonal component. With food allergy dogs and cats are typically allergic to the proteins (meats) in a diet. It most often occurs when a pet has been fed the same food for awhile and over time they become hypersensitive to some of the ingredients. When food allergy is suspected a food trial with a special diet is done. The hypoallergenic diet is fed for a 10-12 week period and if allergy symptoms resolve then food is the likely culprit.
3) Fleas. Monthly flea prevention is an easy way to protect your pet year round.
How To Help With the Scratching
When a pet is intensely itchy from allergies there are several options to help them get comfortable. It is important to first address any infections that may be present since skin and ear infections add to the intensity of the scratching. Next we consider medications that specifically help with the symptom of scratching. Antihistamines, steroids and a newer medication called Apoquel are all options to try and get a pet relief from the scratching. Antihistamines are safe but often do not provide adequate relief when the scratching is intense. Steroids are very effective and can be safely used for short periods of time. Apoquel is similar to steroids in efficacy but is safe to use for a much longer period of time. Apoquel is a good drug to use if the symptoms are lasting longer than a few weeks. Other things that might help are medicated shampoos and omega3 fatty acids.
There are 2 ways to end the allergy symptoms once and for all.
1. Avoid the problematic allergens completely. Avoidance of allergens is what is done with a food trial where either a hydrolysed protein diet is fed or a food that has a protein source the pet has never eaten before is fed. If the new food results in allergy symptoms resolving then an answer has been found and as long as the pet doesn’t eat the food ingredients they are allergic to then the symptoms should stay away.
2. Desensitize the pet to those allergens. When allergy skin testing has been done and identified specific environmental things a pet is allergic to then desensitization can be tried. This is done by giving allergy shots or allergy drops in the mouth. The shots and drops contain small but increasing amounts of the things the pet is allergic to. The idea is that over time they will become no longer sensitive to the allergens. It does not always work but definitely worth a try if a pet has allergy symptoms several months out of the year and a food trial has not worked.
Don’t Hesitate to Call Your Vet for Help
Allergies can be a very frustrating problem for cats, dogs and owners of these pets. With scratching and infections the pets can become very uncomfortable and sometimes even painful. The symptoms can continue for long periods of time in many cases. Please give your vet a call if there is a suspicion your 4 legged friend may have allergy issues so the problem can be addressed safely, effectively and as soon as possible.
Ask just about any dog owner and they will tell you they have their four legged friend on heartworm prevention every month. But what about their frisky feline or their frolicking ferret? And what really is a heartworm, and how are they spread? We are very lucky now in veterinary medicine to have so many drugs on the market to protect all of our best friends-or at least those that walk on all fours.
So what exactly is a heartworm? Heartworms are parasites found in the heart and the main blood vessels of the lungs of infected dogs and ferrets. They can and do live in the hearts of cats as well; however, the cat’s heart is not favored by the worms. This means that the heartworms will find another place to live inside the cat, including the brain. Infected dogs, cats, and ferrets may die unless heartworm infection is diagnosed and specifically treated, however the infection can be easily prevented.
How are heartworms spread and is my pet at risk? The heartworm life cycle starts with an infected pet. The mosquito bites the animal and picks up baby heartworms (Life Stage 1, or L1). The baby heartworms mature in the mosquito (through L2 to L3) and the mosquito injects the L3 stage into our pets. The L3 matures in the skin and tissues (through L4) on the way to the heart and lungs where they finish maturing (through young adult to adult). The adults mate and produce more L1’s for the next mosquito to pick up when it bites. If a mosquito that has bitten a positive dog then bites your pet, your little critter will likely be infected with heartworms. All pets that are not on preventative medicine are at risk, since the disease can be spread by one infected mosquito.
How would I know if my pet were infected? If a pet is positive for heartworms a few clinical signs may or may not be apparent. Symptoms can include weight loss, trouble breathing, or evidence of heart problems. However, these signs can also be indicative of other health issues. A heartworm test can be run on a dog simply by taking a few drops of blood and using a quick in hospital test. Cats are a bit trickier, however. We are able to test for exposure to the worms in cats, but it is very difficult to detect the presence of the worms themselves. A more conclusive diagnosis relies on analyzing the cat’s symptoms. Many cats will have difficulty breathing or asthma-like symptoms, and chest x-rays can be taken as well to help evaluate cardiac conditions.
Can my pet be treated? Luckily, dogs can be treated if a blood test shows they are positive for heartworms, although the treatment can be long and uncomfortable. Cats unfortunately are not so lucky. To date, there is no approved treatment for heartworm positive cats, thus their lifespan is greatly shortened if they become infected.
What needs to be done in order to prevent this from happening to my pet? The answer is quite simple-monthly prevention. There are quite a few options on the market and the dosing is very easy-either a monthly chewable pill or a topical treatment. Two of the best products and most often recommended are Trifexis, a tablet given with food for dogs, and Revolution, a topical dose for cats and ferrets. Both excellent ways of preventing heartworms, they also serve as flea prevention and even keep away those internal parasites that are, unfortunately, too often found as well.
One of the best things you can do for your pet is to protect them from heartworms and, as we say, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Keeping your pet healthy and safe will undoubtedly ensure a lifetime of rewards-for you and for all of your shedding, chewing, eating, wild, purring, barking, and overall happy loved ones.