The holiday season is rapidly approaching and, for those of us with pets, there are a few extra considerations to take into account when we are out and about this summer.
Over the holidays, we treat a number of dogs injured in dog fights, most of which occur on the beach. These range from major life-threatening injuries, to less serious wounds requiring antibiotics and/or pain relief medication. Deep puncture wounds from dog bites may not be particularly visible or bleed much, but will commonly result in significant infection and pain, so you should see a Vet as soon as possible.
Embedded or Swallowed Fish Hooks
Sometimes dogs (or cats) will pick up old hooks when exploring the beach or wharf areas, particularly at low tide.
If the hook is in the mouth or skin check to see whether it is buried deeper than the barb. If not, the hook should pull out easily, but if the barb is embedded then a trip to the local Vet is required. In most of these cases the animal is administered a short-acting general anaesthetic, the barb is pushed through the tissue (rather than pulled back), the hook is cut in half and removed. Sometimes antibiotics are required.
If your dog swallows a fish hook and there is a length of trace leading from your dog’s mouth do not try to pull the hook out. You will only increase the likelihood of further damage. Cut the trace and tie the end loosely onto the dog’s collar. Although your dog may bite through the trace before you get to the Vet generally this is not of consequence.
At the clinic we will examine the dog’s mouth to ensure that the hook is not lodged in the back of the throat, then take x-rays to determine the location of the hook, and how to remove it.
Bee or Jellyfish Stings
Dogs can fall victim to bee or jellyfish stings. In our area, the small bluebottle jellyfish that wash up on the beaches in abundance over summer seem to cause the same stinging sensations on dog’s feet, as they do on human skin. This tends to result in a sudden onset of lameness without any visible lesions on the foot. Traditionally topical vinegar has been advocated for jellyfish stings, but the current recommendation for treating people is just to run hot (but not scalding!) water over the affected area. Occasionally, the Vet will give anti-inflammatory medication, but usually these cases will resolve without treatment within an hour or two.
Bee and wasp stings tend to occur mainly around the muzzle or face of dogs, and can result in severe swelling of the soft tissues. Sometimes the swelling will begin as discrete, circular lumps or areas of raised hair, which get larger and eventually join into a generalized swelling. Anti-inflammatories and anti-histamines will help in these cases, especially if given early.
Your pet can get sun burnt too!
The sun in New Zealand is particularly harsh, which can be problematic for lighter-coloured animals. Over summer ensure your pet has access to a cool, shady area, out of direct sunlight. If your pet has a thin coat and is affected by the sun or has pink/white areas on their body, you may like to consider using a pet sunblock powder. Areas on your pet that may be prone to sunburn are the muzzle/nose, ears, and abdomen.
Dogs on beach by-laws
While on holiday there are numerous hazards/considerations to be aware of. Different parts of the country have different by-laws governing where, and when you are allowed to walk your dog and where they are required to be on a leash. Some coastal towns have sections of beach where dogs are allowed to run freely, and other areas where dogs are not allowed at all. These should be clearly signposted, but if you are in doubt the local information centre should be able to help. It is also important to ensure that your dog keeps away from bird nesting areas, basking seals, or other wildlife.
Do not leave your dog unattended in a car!
Dogs die every summer your cars temperature is DEADLY.