Labor Day safety for dogs

Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer, much like Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer. And this summer in the mitten- much like the winter- has been a weird one. We have had record few days in the 90s and a large number of mornings that started out in the 50s! The lakes were too cold to swim in, and the actual hot summer days have been so humid you just walk outside and start sweating.

All that aside, people still want to participate in classic holiday fun- the BBQ. Why shouldn’t Fido participate too? Well he should with a couple quick tips for keeping our furry friends safe.

Food

Oh the BBQ food. It all smells so good. But cooked food from the grill can have bones that can hurt Fluffy’s insides, marinades that can damage the kidneys, or at the least cause a nasty case or diarrhea or vomiting. Or maybe your dog is like Reggie and just plain allergic to everything in site. Keep them away.

Jail Break

Parties can be chaos. This can be a perfect opportunity for your dog to plan their escape from the yard. Especially if they are not at their own house! They are wily, and many are good diggers.

Pool

It’s no secret Reggie loves the water. But he is getting older and doesn’t have the stamina he used to. I would never leave him unattended in water anyway, but this is especially important in a party situation. You might think with all the people around it’s no big deal- wrong! You wouldn’t do that with a child would you? Don’t do it with your dog. And don’t be shy about a canine life vest if your dog needs one.

Poisoning

There are some many things to get into at a party! Matches or lighter fluid contain cholates which can damage red blood cells and and cause difficulty breathing. Citronella candles, insect coils, and oils if ingested can cause stomach irritation and even central nervous system depression. If inhaled the oils could cause aspiration pneumonia. Short hair dogs dogs may need sunscreen but don’t ever apply human sunscreen- use a product made specifically for dogs. Don’t ever use insect repellant on dogs.

Traveling

Going to and from BBQ destinations often means you need to stop and pick up something for the host, for yourself, drop something off, pick someone up…Never leave your dog in the car. Temperatures in a car can rise to deadly levels in as little as 15 minutes.

Solution!

Assign someone to be the dog guardian. Have one person in charge of the dog for the course of the BBQ; they don’t refill the chip bowl or get more ice, they are only in charge of watching the dog, feeding the dog, picking up after the dog, etc. Likewise for the other host(s). They are not responsible for the dog, but are responsible for the chip bowl, the ice, etc. Or if you are the guest, take turns. This is especially important if you are in an unfenced area.

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Bloat in dogs

The unofficial start of summer has arrived, and with that comes new fun, new playtime, and unfortunately, new dangers. Bloat is a dangerous condition that can be deadly in under an hour, and is more common in summer.

A teammate of mine tragically lost her dog a few weeks ago to bloat. Bloat actually refers to two separate conditions, gastric dilation and gastric volvulus.

Gastric Dilation

In the first phase the stomach distends with gas and fluid- that feeling of being “bloated” that humans refer to. It usually develops suddenly, and in healthy active dogs. Bloat is caused by eating too fast, drinking large amounts of water too fast, or exercising too much before or after eating. These acts cause the dog to ingest or gulp air quickly. Deep chested dogs such as German Shepherds, Great Danes, St. Bernards, Labradors, Irish Wolfhounds, Greyhounds, Standard Poodle, etc. are predisposed to this condition. Small dogs are rarely affected by bloat. Signs of gastric dilation are a distended stomach, salivation, pacing, restlessness, attempts to vomit. If you tap the dog’s stomach it may sound hollow. The dog may walk in a stiff-legged kind of wobble, uncomfortable, be lethargic. To relieve the gas, a veterinarian must pass a tube down the dog’s throat into the stomach. There will be an immediate rush of air and possibly fluid bringing relief, and the veterinarian will “wash out” the dog’s stomach. When a dog has bloat they have a 70% chance of having bloat again.

Gastric Volvulus

Quite frequently, once the stomach distends with gas and fluid it rotates on its long axis which is called volvulus. When the stomach rotates it closes off the duodenum (the beginning of the small intestine) and prevents fluid and air from escaping the stomach. This also prevents the dog from being able to vomit or belch. The stomach becomes hugely distended, and any material trapped in the stomach ferments. Because of the twisting there is interference with blood circulation which results in necrosis of the wall of the stomach. If a dog is at the volvulus stage he might be approaching shock; weak pulse, labored breathing, weakness, delayed capillary refill time, and pale gums and tongue. The only way to correct volvulus is by emergency surgery and reposition the stomach, and possibly remove part of the stomach if some of the tissues have died (necrosis).

Solutions

This is incredibly serious, both stages are. If you suspect your dog has developed gastric volvulus, you probably have one hour. I was shocked to learn that. How many of us could recognize the signs of bloat and rush our dogs to the ER in less than an hour? Mortality rates can be as high as 90% at this stage, 50% with dilation. Many dogs don’t present with typical symptoms either. Dogs are known to be stoic creatures that don’t show pain. If you have a deep chested dog, feed your dog several smaller meals in a day, don’t let them drink large amounts of water at once, avoid fat and citric acid in your dog food, don’t exercise on a full stomach, and pay attention to the symptoms. And the most important- if you suspect bloat, take your dog to the ER. For additional reading, check out this informational article from the ASPCA.

Adventures in pet sitting

I’ve been pet sitting. And learning a lot. And practicing a lot. A couple weeks ago I wrote about how these new ventures are helping me deal with fear and Reggie. I am now beginning to see training and personality (and owners!) in a whole new way.

The range of ages I have seen is from 8 months to 9 years. The range of behavior has been nightmarish to pretty well behaved. Here are some of the lessons I have learned so far in my adventures.

Lesson #1: I am super protective

Ok I already knew this. For a variety of reasons I am always guarding Reggie. I watch him constantly in social situations looking for signs of seizure, discomfort, resource guarding, or anxiety. I am expert at reading my own dog- as any dog owner would be- but I fall short at reading other dogs. For example, Reggie rarely growls. If he does, there’s an issue. As his owner I am so conditioned to this that when another dog growls, as is common in play, I generally overreact and separate them- something that is not necessary. I need to lighten up a little.

Lesson #2: Others are way too lax

I have been amazed by how easy-going other pet parents are. Is that bad? I don’t know. If someone was watching Reggie I would certainly leave them information like where I was, phone numbers, and veterinary information. Of course I would also probably leave a three page outline of Reggie’s food, medicine, walk preferences, bed time, treats, favorite toys, etc. Refer to Lesson #1.

Lesson #3: Training and exercise are optional

Every household thus far does not walk their dog every day. I realize that I am an oddball in this regard, but I strongly believe that I should be the norm. Dogs need exercise, to expend their energy. Every breed is different and has different requirements as well. Training is essential to a happy, healthy dog, and a happy, healthy home. The ultimate tragedy is an untrained dog that gets away from you and meets its demise, or is unsocialized and gets into a fight (or fights) and must be put down because it has no emotional control. I am currently teaching a 130 pound puppy not to jump or nip; if this isn’t curbed as a 170 pound adult dog it will be more than a nuisance.

Lesson #4: I just love this

This is great. I love meeting so many new dogs. Different breeds, personalities, ages. Reggie has met some of them and truly, the interactions have been great. There have been a couple that I would not let Reggie interact with- my gut just said this would not be a good interaction and I’m ok with that. This is probably a better growth experience for me than for Reggie!