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!