By Sheila Fitzpatrick, DVM
Now that summer has officially arrived, so has the season for an increase in trips to the emergency veterinarian. There are many common emergencies we see at our hospital which we would love to help folks become aware of and potentially prevent.
For starters, as the weather improves, we are all out playing with our pets and naturally, we want to let our pets off leashes. We see a lot of dog bites because of this, so we urge pet owners to be cautious of the types and personalities of the pets around us. Whether we are at the park or walking down the street, it is important to never trust the other dog until you get to know the owner and the pet. We see large lacerations, bite wounds and eye injuries, to name a few.
The most important thing is to get the wounds cleaned up, and get to the veterinarian for antibiotics, before bigger problems arise! But to help prevent such injuries in the first place, keep your pet on a leash!
Exposure to wild animals also poses an increased risk in the summertime. First, skunks and raccoons carry rabies, so again, keep your pet under control even in the forest, to prevent potential exposure. In addition, be sure your pets are up to date on their rabies immunizations to prevent the potential for acquiring rabies, which of course, can be transmissible to humans!
Porcupines are also out in full force in some areas, and when pets approach them, they can get hundreds of quills in their faces and extremities. Do not try to pull them out! Immediately take your pet to the vet for proper sedation, as the quills can migrate internally and cause life threatening health concerns
Orthopedic injuries are also common in the summer. Many folks like to throw the Frisbie or chuck the tennis ball. Activities which involve running, stopping and turning around, make your pet prone to tearing the Anterior Cruciate ligaments (ACL) in the knees of your pet. If you are playing with your pet, and suddenly he or she is holding up a rear leg, chances are there has been an injury to those ligaments. Immediate rest and an appointment with the veterinarian are important, as these ligaments may require surgical repair to avoid future arthritis and painful joints.
Another very common orthopedic injury in pets in the summer is torn tendons, secondary to running over metal edging. We all love our perfectly landscaped lawns, but many unknowing pet owners put in metal edging around their flower beds, which is very sharp. When a pet runs over it, it can cut the underside of the legs and slice tendons in half in a split second. This is an emergency, so get to the veterinarian immediately, while applying pressure to the wound to avoid blood loss.
Finally, pets have access to more “people food” in the summer due to outside grilling and deck parties, some of which can be dangerous. Onions, for example, are very toxic to pets. Pork rib bones can cause life threatening obstructions. In addition, alchoholic beverages, if sipped by a pet, can cause severe lethargy and even coma. So be smart grillers and campers and be cautious about what your pets are getting into!
Sheila Fitzpatrick, DVM, is a graduate of Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and owns Mountain Mobile Veterinary Service in Eagle and Vail, CO. She’s a 1983 graduate of Ellicottville Central School and a frequent visitor to Ellicottville to see family. She provides this column as a public service.