Enjoying your Dog in the Great Outdoors

Spring months are a special time to enjoy the great outdoors with your dog. When you and your dog are out in warm weather, you might encounter armies of fleas, ticks, stinging insects, fire ants or snakes. They are all ready to attack us -- and our pets -- and cause itching, illness or even death. The best way to combat these pests is to avoid them in the first place.

Discuss with your veterinarian the safest products or procedures to use toward preventing these unwanted guests. Some common preventive methods include:

  • Use flea, tick and heartworm prevention; some flea and tick preventives also contain a mosquito repellant.
  • Avoid standing pools of water and keep water bowls fresh, to avoid mosquitoes.
  • Don’t use ‘human’ mosquito repellants on animals, especially those containing the ingredient DEET, since they can cause neurological problems.
  • Watch for fire ant nests on the ground.
  • Don’t let your dog explore holes in the ground, logs or other objects where snakes or yellow jacket nests might be hidden.
  • After your dog has been in an area populated by ticks, thoroughly comb him within four to six hours to help prevent ticks from attaching.

Be on the Alert for Stings If you suspect that your pet has been stung or bitten by an insect, it’s always best to call your veterinarian immediately for advice on what to do.
Dogs are often stung on their face or paws and these stings can be extremely painful -- sometimes you can’t immediately tell what is wrong. A dog that has been stung will often become agitated and run around shaking his head or pawing at his collar. If stung in or around his mouth or throat, swelling can constrict his airway and be life-threatening. Multiple stings can also cause major problems, such as anaphylactic shock. Signs of shock can vary but may include depression, breathing problems, pale gums and a weak pulse.
If your dog is stung by fire ants, remove him from the area and brush off any ants remaining on him. Don’t spray them off with water, as that will cause them to hang on with their jaws and continue to sting.
Spider bites can be very dangerous to dogs. Although generally harmless, there are several varieties of spiders that can cause severe problems. Some spider venom contains digestive enzymes that can damage skin tissue, causing a wound to grow quickly with a secondary infection.
Ticks can also pose a threat to your dog’s health. If you suspect your dog has been exposed to ticks, inspect him thoroughly. Ticks can also carry and spread blood-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tick paralysis.
If your dog has been exposed to an area populated by ticks, thoroughly comb him within four to six hours to help prevent ticks from attaching. Ticks are most commonly found on the head, neck, ears, armpits and feet, although you should carefully check your dog’s entire body.
Your veterinarian can suggest proper tick removal methods. If you do find an attached tick, remove it promptly. Also, observe your dog for any lethargy, lack of appetite or other abnormal behavior. If you suspect your dog could have contracted a disease from a tick bite, ask your veterinarian for advice.
Springtime is an exciting, beautiful time of year we can enjoy outdoors with our pets but the unexpected can happen. Plan ahead for your dog’s unforeseen health emergencies. Be safe – not sorry!