Summer Woes for Pets

 -  10

by Dr. Brian Green, DVM

P.-18-DOGS-HEATThere are many issues that threaten the well-being of our pets year-round, but there are several things that happen with much greater frequency as the summer continues.  Some important things to keep in mind:

»Dogs or Cats in Cars

First of all, if you are contemplating going anywhere by car with your pet, you need to make sure they will spend no time in the car with the engine off.  Even if the windows are open significantly, the ‘greenhouse effect’ is such that the interior of the car can surpass 120 degrees within a very short time.  Heat stroke is inevitable, and often fatal, so just don’t do it.  I repeat, just don’t do it.

While it looks kind of cute to have your dog’s ears flapping the wind with his head out the window, trauma to the ears or ear infections are common, so just don’t do it.

Small dogs on the lap of the driver is never a good idea.  It is a distraction at best, and dangerous in case of sudden stops at worse, and is a potential cause of accidents.  Cats roaming free in the car have been known to curl up under the brake pedal unbeknownst to the driver.  Not good.  Just don’t do it.

»Lilies are Deadly

While beautiful in the garden, all species of lilies are extremely toxic to cats.  It is very common for cats to go into acute renal (kidney) failure after ingestion of just a small amount.  The pollen, petals and leaves are all considered dangerous, so if you like to have cut flowers in the house, avoid all lilies including daylilies if you have pet cats.

»Heartworm Disease

While principally considered a dog disease, this deadly worm infestation has been diagnosed in cats as well. This is a mosquito-vector disease, but some flea and tick spot-ons repel them as well.  Hearts are not a great place to have a few hundred worms, and the heart gradually begins to fail, so prevention of this disease is important.   A simple monthly chewable treat is nearly 100% protective and kills many of the intestinal worms dogs typically pick up as well.

»Lyme Disease

In our area, most people are aware of Lyme disease.  The tick population in Westchester County is enormous, and the risks are real. The disease causes significant pain in joints.  Caught early, it is actually quite readily treatable with an antibiotic, and recovery is usually within hours to a few days.

While many flea and tick products are extremely effective at repelling the ticks that carry Lyme disease, resistance to some products has developed, so you should speak to your veterinarian for recommendations.  Newer oral products work quite well at killing ticks, but obviously the tick must bite the dog before dying, which may be objectionable to some.


Barbecues?  Dangerous?  You bet!  While you are having fun with family and friends, most dogs and some cats are busy scavenging for leftovers.  Many don’t know that perhaps the deadliest thing on the table is corn.  Corn cobs are probably the most common cause of intestinal obstruction in dogs and anything on a bone is probably second.  Fruit with pits, and anything yummy on toothpicks pose some obvious dangers themselves.  Before the guests arrive, come up with a plan to secure garbage in a way that the most talented scavenger’s efforts will be foiled.


Keeping in mind that dogs and cats do not sweat, provisions for extreme heat need to be made.  If they are to be left outside, make sure there is shade available.  A source of water is also highly desirable for dogs and cats spending any significant time outdoors.  An inflatable wading pool filled with cold water is a perfect way for a hot pooch to cool off.  Leaving an outdoor spigot dripping is another way dogs and cats can get a quick refreshing drink.

For dogs in particular, tongues protruding while panting rapidly may be a life-threatening emergency.  Immediately get the dog out of the heat, put her in a cool (not cold) shower or fill the tub and scoop the cool water over her head.  If she continues to pant heavily with tongue out, it should be considered an emergency and veterinary care should be sought immediately.

There are many other things to be aware of when the weather turns nice, but common sense and regular visits to your vet for checkups and advice go a long way to keeping your pets happy and healthy.  And knowledge of local emergency facilities such as found at can save valuable time and lives.

Dr. Brian Green is chief medical officer and owner of Sleepy Hollow Animal Hospital.

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