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I love summer with my dogs. We go hiking, we fish at the lake and we share quality time around the fire pit. I bet you enjoy doing a lot of the same things with your dogs.
But summer can also be a nightmare for pet owners, with bee stings and bug bites, shore hazards and sunburn — and those are just a few of the seasonal dangers dogs encounter. Here’s a veterinarian’s-eye view of the things to watch for and how to handle problems, so that summer is fun not frantic. And keep in mind: If your dog encounters any of these summer hazards, be sure to have him checked out by a vet as soon as possible.
Bees, wasps, fire ants, mosquitoes, fleas and ticks are just a few of the painful pests of summer. Dogs who take a curious or aggressive interest in bees or wasps are likely to receive payback in the form of a painful sting on the nose or head area. Fire ants will march onto your dog without hesitation if he’s in their path and then sting in unison. Ouch! And mosquitoes, ticks and fleas can spread disease and cause other problems for your best friend.
Reactions to insect bites and stings can range from slight swelling and pain to anaphylaxis, a sudden, severe allergic reaction that can be fatal if not treated immediately. Mosquito bites can transmit heartworm disease. Tick-borne diseases include Lyme disease and ehrlichiosis, and fleas can pass on tapeworms.
If a bee or wasp stings your dog, look for the stinger and brush it out of the skin using the edge of your fingernail, a credit card or a butter knife. Try to avoid grasping the stinger with tweezers; doing so may release more venom into the wound.
Some stings are life threatening! A sting on the head or neck, especially one in the mouth, can cause dangerous swelling that affects the dog’s ability to breathe. That’s an emergency, and your dog needs immediate veterinary help.
If the sting is not on your dog's head or neck, treat the painful area with a soothing paste made of baking soda and water, or moisten a washcloth or gauze pad with cold water and apply it to the injury. Depending on the severity of the reaction, an antihistamine, such as Benadryl, can also help. Ask your veterinarian beforehand what the appropriate dose would be for your dog and write it down so you don’t have to guess. (And be sure to bring it with you if you go camping or on an RV trip.)
Iffire antsoverrun your dog, get him away from where they are attacking and carefully brush them off (you don't wantto make them angrier). Be sure to put on gloves before you do so — fire ant stings are extremely painful for you and for your pet. If there are only a few bites, you can treat them with a baking soda paste, a cold compress or Benadryl. If there is a bunch, you will need to get him to the veterinarian for treatment.
Finally, plan ahead for encounters with fleas, ticks and mosquitoes with preventives available from your veterinarian. Effective products come in lots of forms, including oral products, topicals and collars. The one you choose depends on your lifestyle, as well as the types of parasites in your area. Your veterinarian can help you choose the best one for your dog.
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