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Avoid Sticky Emergency Situations for Pets This Summer

Pet Column for the week of July 23, 2012

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Related site - Chicago Animal ER

Office of Public Engagement
2001 S. Lincoln Ave.
Urbana, Illinois 61802
Phone: 217/333-2907
Holly Richards
Information Specialist

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy … as long as you take proper precautions for your pets’ well-being. Dr. April Finan, a veterinarian at Chicago Animal ER, a West Loop practice operated by the University of Illinois Chicago Center for Veterinary Medicine, identifies several scenarios she’s seen frequently that could have been prevented.

“By far the biggest summertime worry is heatstroke. People don't realize how hot it gets in cars and even outside on covered porches,” says Dr. Finan. “I cared for one very sick dog that had been outside all day in 100-degree temperatures. The dog’s owners thought that it would be fine because it was an ‘outdoor’ dog.”

Dr. Finan stresses that even if a dog spends most of its time outside during the year, it needs to be protected from extreme weather conditions. Thankfully, this patient recovered—after three days of intensive care in the hospital.

“Another interesting summertime issue is adverse reactions to over-the-counter flea and tick products,” notes Dr. Finan.

In recent years retail stores have begun offering anti-parasite medications for sale without a prescription. Sometimes the products aren’t properly labeled or are counterfeit versions of familiar name brands.

“These products very commonly cause local and systemic reactions,” she says. In addition, a life-threatening emergency can occur when pet owners apply dog-specific flea medication to cats. Although it may be tempting for owners to buy flea and tick treatments directly from stores, it isn’t worth the risk, according to Dr. Finan.

“Until the sale of these products becomes more safely regulated, I recommend that owners purchase them from a veterinarian and administer them only as prescribed to keep pets completely safe,” she says.

Dr. Finan has also treated an unusually large number of young dogs with canine parvovirus this summer. “Parvo,” as it is commonly known, is a contagious, often deadly, viral disease that typically affects dogs between 6 weeks and 6 months of age. It is nearly impossible to protect a young dog from being exposed to the virus, which is why most veterinarians suggest that puppies get the parvovirus vaccine.

“It’s sad to see this many dogs presenting with parvo, a costly and life-threatening illness that could have been avoided with a relatively cheap vaccine,” says Dr. Finan.

Beginning as early as six weeks of age, both puppies and kittens should be started on a vaccine schedule that can keep them safe from a number of illnesses. Annual wellness visits to the veterinarian to ensure that vaccinations are current and to detect early signs of disease can help avoid more expensive emergency care later on.

“Other summertime emergencies we see arise because dogs are out and about more often in the nice weather. We see a few dog bites every day this time of year, many requiring surgery,” says Dr. Finan. She advises owners to stay alert to the dangers of busier, bustling sidewalks and more heavily attended dog parks.

One of Dr. Finan’s favorite emergency room stories has a much happier ending. Owners brought in a limping dog with a large “mass” on the bottom of its paw. On closer inspection, Dr. Finan realized the mass was a big dirty wad of hardened bubble gum stuck between the dog’s toes.

“I just plucked it off and sent them right back out the door,” she laughed. “It’s fun to see a quick-fix case like that every now and then.”