As any pet parent knows, there are few sights more pathetic than a sick or ailing pup. They can’t verbalize what’s wrong, but they find ways to tell you that something just isn’t right. That’s certainly true for my oldest puppy, Brady, who is to the best of my knowledge, a half-Dane, half-Lab mix who weighs in at 83 pounds. He’s ten years old, but he’s as frisky and energetic as a five-year-old. When he’s not, it usually means he’s not well. He’ll mope around and follow me everywhere.
The last time this happened was in May. He was licking and scratching and losing his hair in spots. I gave him a bath with oatmeal soap every day, but nothing helped. Finally, I took him for a visit to our vet, Dr. Kristin Barrilleaux who diagnosed him with seasonal allergies and suggested antihistamines and cool baths with no soap. “Soap will dry out his skin no matter how soft it says it is on the label,” she explained.
She also provided the dreaded Cone of Shame to prevent Brady from scratching himself raw. Fortunately, I’d found a more comfortable, inflatable version which I put on him as soon as we got home. With that, his medication and some TLC in the form of a Kong full of frozen kibble, Brady settled comfortably on his bed.
In a few days, Brady was starting to get back to his old self, chasing his Frisbee instead of sulking after me. His recovery would have taken a lot longer had I postponed that doctor’s visit. However, you can’t run to the office at the first sign of any discomfort. To help you decide what to do when symptoms surface, I asked local experts for their advice. Here’s what they had to say.
SKIN SYMPTOM 911
Here’s how to handle some common summer skin maladies.
Fleas: Rush to the vet. Fleas can infest the human environment.
Open wounds beyond a scratch or small cut. Make an appointment. Open wounds are susceptible to bacterial infection.
Yeast infections on skin and in ears. If your dog is scratching and rubbing, it may be a yeast infection. Avoid swimming or bathing which can promote yeast growth. Call and talk to your doctor to see if the symptoms warrant a visit and a prescription. A yeast infection can easily spread with scratching
Sneezing, scratching or coughing. It’s usually safe to try Benadryl for first signs, after a quick call to your doctor.
DON’T promote yeast growth by letting your dog swim or eat sugary food.
DIGESTIVE DISTRESS 911
Stomach and gastrointestinal symptoms can look more serious than they are. Here’s how to know:
Retching without vomiting. Rush to the vet. A dog’s stomach can flip (“torsion”) and kill the dog.
Persistent diarrhea. Make an appointment. It can cause dehydration.
Bloody diarrhea. Call the vet. Not as bad as it seems and can often be treated simply with Flagyl. DO withhold food for 24 hours, then feed rice, wet food or boiled chicken for a few days. DON’T allow dehydration; powdered Pedialite is mixed with water and fed to your dog.
RESPIRATORY IRREGULARITY 911
There’s no time to waste when real breathing issues occur. Here’s how to spot the life-threatening ones.
Blue tongue (Cyanosis). Rush to the vet. It’s a very serious lack of oxygen to blood
Excessive panting, tongue hanging out. Call ahead and rush to the vet. It could be summer heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Coughing, sneezing, and lethargy. Don’t panic. Call first and see if your vet recommends an appointment or home TLC.
DO learn pet CPR in the event your dog stops breathing.
DON’T give alcohol or caffeine products to try to enhance breathing.
Top Summer Health Risks
Dr. Karen Becker of Healthy Pets and Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) suggests all pet parents be aware of these potential seasonal dangers.
Unattended Pets in Cars.
An outdoor reading of 75º can cause a car temperature to rise to 118º in one hour, and can result in heat stroke, brain damage, and ultimately death.
Hot blacktop can be very painful. If possible, walk your dog on the grass or dirt.
Working out in the heat is tough on people and pets, but pets are wearing a fur coat! Exercise your dog in the early morning or late evening, when it’s typically cooler.
Check your dogs for ticks if you’re in wooded areas, tall grass or brush. Use tick and flea prevention year-round in Kentucky. Fleas can become a huge problem since they infest your home.
Sprains and Soft-Tissue Injuries.
These are the most common injuries, especially after a dormant winter. Warm your dog’s muscles up by moderate exercise before they cut loose at the park or on a hike.
How to Choose Your Vet
Word of mouth is the most effective tool in selecting the human who will take care of your four-legged children.
Qualifications must be considered. Look for your vet’s displayed credentials, and it can’t hurt to check with the governing bodies if they claim to have special accreditations.
Location is important. Ideally, look for a veterinary office or hospital that’s just a few minutes from your home for safety and convenience. Mine is three short miles up Shelbyville Road in St. Matthews, so if an emergency occurs, we can get there in a hurry.
Cost is a factor for many of us. A list of procedures and their prices should be made available before you make your first appointment. I suggest you also price the OTC products like flea and tick medication, heartworm preventative, and both wet and dry special diet foods.
Environment counts. Tour the potential offices. Make sure they’re clean and bright, with appropriate ventilation and temperature. Interview the vets and their staff, as you’ll want every person working with your baby to be experienced, professional, and KIND.