Summer may be over on the calendar, but we’ve got plenty of high mercury days remaining in Austin. As Austin temperatures remain high until well into the school year, remember to keep your dog safe from common seasonal issues. Here are four to watch out for.
Just like humans, dogs can suffer heat stroke with exposure to high temperatures – something we’re familiar with in Austin. Dogs with a dark or dense hair coat and those with with flat faces (or short muzzles) cannot pant as effectively. Other risk factors include age, obesity and heart and/or lung disease. Remember that your dog has very few sweat glands and can’t naturally cool itself down as easily as you can.
When a dog has a spike in body temperature the extreme heat stress can both impair breathing and injure organs. The condition can be fatal if left untreated.
There are many signs that can point to heat exhaustion or heat stroke in dogs, including excessive panting, difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling, mild weakness, stupor or even collapse. Symptoms can also include seizures, bloody diarrhea and vomit, along with an elevated body temperature of over 104°F. If you see these more severe symptoms, especially the high temperature, see your veterinarian right away. If signs of heatstroke are present, your dog should be immediately cooled to a rectal temperature of 103.5°F.
Like many other dangerous pet parasites, heartworm is carried by mosquitos. A single mosquito bite can infect your dog, which makes Austin’s hot, wet climate particularly dangerous for dogs. When a mosquito carrying heartworm bites a pet, miniscule larvae can be deposited into the bloodstream. After six months, these larvae mature into adult heartworms. Adult heartworms can grow up to 12 inches long and usually lodge themselves into your pet’s heart, lungs and blood vessels.
Early heartworm can have no symptoms but as the disease progresses, mild symptoms such as a persistent cough, lethargy, decreased appetite, weight loss and a swollen belly from excess fluid can occur. Because the symptoms can be difficult to detect it is important that you take your dog into your vet for heartworm detection regularly and take the preventative treatment that they recommend.
Fleas and Ticks
Austin’s warm and humid climate also makes it the perfect breeding ground for fleas and ticks, outdoor parasites which can cause a host of problems for our pets, and for us. Ticks can transmit a host of diseases to your dog, including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Bartonella, and Lyme Disease. Likewise, fleas can cause painful itching and flea-allergy dermatitis. Fleas have also been known to carry tapeworm.
As with most pet health issues, prevention as a part of overall wellness care is far easier and more cost effective than treatment. The best proactive measure you can take to protect your dog from these parasites is keeping them on a year-round parasite preventative that your vet recommends.
Dog Park Hazards
Lawn sprinklers and periods of heavy rain like we had in Austin this past spring can leave lots of puddles and standing water which can be dangerous for thirsty dogs. Street water can mix with dog feces, so when your dog bends down to get a big gulp of water, they may be unknowingly ingesting pathogens like Giardia. If your dog suddenly has a bad case of diarrhea after a rainy day out at the park, they may have contracted Giardia, an intestinal parasite caused by a common protozoan parasite. Dogs become infected with Giardia when they come in contact with infected feces, directly or indirectly. The most common symptoms of Giardia are diarrhea, vomiting, and weight loss. While Giardia can be temporary, if the symptoms are ongoing, call your veterinarian since they can cause dehydration, deteriorating health and potentially death.
Another disease that they should be protected from when they play with other dogs is Canine Distemper, which is caused by a very contagious virus. Puppies and dogs usually become infected through virus particles in the air or in the respiratory secretions of infected dogs. Infected dogs typically develop runny eyes, fever, snotty nose, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and paralysis. It is often fatal. See your veterinarian if symptoms persist and get your dog the canine distemper vaccine. It is considered a core vaccine that is recommended for every puppy and as a booster for adult dogs.
Unvaccinated dogs and puppies younger than four months old are the most at risk for Canine Parvovirus-2 or parvo. Parvo is typically spread directly from dog to dog, but contact with contaminated stool, environments, or people can also spread the disease. The virus most often affects the lymph nodes, blood stream and small intestines of dogs. Some also see an affected heart. It can be fatal if not noticed or treated quickly. Once a dog or puppy is infected, there is an incubation period of three to seven days before the onset of first symptoms. Fortunately, there is a vaccine for parvo and it is administered to puppies and adult dogs as as a booster.
No matter the weather, the staff at ZippiVet can keep your dog happy, healthy and ready to play. Book an appointment today at either our north or new south location.
We love our dogs, from whether they are roly-poly puppies or distinguished seniors with gray coats. As your dog gets older, they need special care and it’s extra important that you make regular veterinary visits. Here’s what you need to know to care for your senior dog.
What risks do senior dogs face?
As your dog ages, health issues may arise, including the deterioration of their skin and coat, loss of muscle mass, more frequent intestinal problems, arthritis, limited mobility, obesity, dental problems and/or a decreased ability to fight off infection. As your dog heads into their senior years, they may not be able to run as fast, jump as high or have the stamina they once had.
Stressful situations and abrupt changes in daily routines should be avoided. If a drastic change must be made to an older pet’s routine, try to minimize the stress by introducing the change in a gradual manner.
What qualifies as a senior dog?
Dogs may begin to experience physical changes between seven and 12 years of age. Like people, each dog ages at different rates, so yours may stay spry well into double digits. Mixed breeds and many smaller dogs tend to live longer. A small dog of less than 20 pounds might not show any signs of aging until they are age 12 or so. A 50-pound dog won’t “seem” old until approximately 10. Larger dogs begin to show their age at age eight or nine.
How do you exercise senior dogs?
Older dogs tend to be less active than they were in their younger days. Degeneration of joints due to long-term wear and tear happens naturally, but can be exacerbated by obesity. Certain breeds are more prone to congenital issues like hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and rheumatoid arthritis as they age. When your dog is experiencing limited mobility as a result of age or obesity, you may need to adapt your playtime routine.
While indoors, provide your senior dog with an environment full of both physical and mental stimulation to help them feel more youthful and active. Provide their treat toys (like a Kong) to dispense meals in smaller doses to improve both physical and mental function (by making them work for their snack) and to promote weight loss in heavier dogs. If you have stairs, ramps can help an older dog keep moving around the house without causing them too much pain.
Keep your dog healthy with regular outdoor walks throughout the week. Several shorter walks might be a better fit for a senior dog. Find a comfortable distance for them to walk each day.
Swimming is another option to help exercise older dogs without hurting their joints as they age.
Though dogs with physical limitations may want to keep playing, chasing balls and jumping like they did in their youth, senior dogs may not have the stamina anymore and they may also be more sensitive to hot and cold temperatures. Limit exercise and keep older dogs well hydrated and in the shade on our 90°F days. Avoiding heat stroke in the Austin climate is important.
Before starting your senior dog on any exercise routine, check in with your veterinarian on how to safely be physically active and discuss how to work with any health issues they may have.
What do you feed senior dogs?
As dogs age there are metabolic, immunologic and body composition changes that follow. Some of these changes may be managed with their diet. Special senior dog foods help them maintain their health and optimum body weight, slow development of chronic disease and minimize current diseases.
- Importantly, studies have shown that the protein requirement for older dogs does not decrease with age. Feed older dogs diets that contain optimum levels of highly digestible protein in order to help maintain a good level of muscle mass.
- Older dogs may be prone to put on body fat, even if they eat less, due to reduced energy expenditure or a change in their metabolic rate. Feed your senior dog a diet with a lower calories to avoid weight gain.
- We may recommend increasing a senior Dog’s Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) intake through food or supplements. GLA is an omega-6 fatty acid that plays a role in the maintenance their healthy skin and coat.
- Aging can affect a dog’s intestinal bacteria, which can result in symptoms of gastrointestinal disease. Senior dog diets should contain fructooligosaccharides (FOS) to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria.
- Antioxidants, including vitamin E and beta-carotene may help eliminate free radicals, the particles that may damage body tissues and cause signs of aging. A senior dog’s diet should contain higher levels of these antioxidants.
- A dog’s breed, size and health help your vet determine when it’s time to start buying senior dog food.
Keep your dog healthy with routine care and veterinary exams to assess the presence or progress of any chronic disease. If you’re unsure about what to food or supplements to feed your senior dog or how to give them exercise and care at home, ZippiVet is ready to help you seven days a week. Schedule an appointment online and keep your old dog happy and healthy!