It’s that time of the year again….how did that happen so quickly? The sun is (mostly) out, and with it there are days at the beach, BBQ’s, holidays and festivities. Our pets are likely to enjoy all the extra attention from friends and relatives or they may accompany us on our holidays.

While we are caught up in all the summer fun though, it is important to keep in mind that summer is the busiest time for vet hospitals for some very good reasons. Here are some things to stay on top of when it comes to your pets this season, so that they can enjoy the holidays just as much as we do.

1.  Watch what they gobble: Our pets love a Christmas feast as much as we do. In fact, we often see patients that have eaten something silly, causing them to become sick.  Nothing ruins a holiday like having to spend it in our waiting room with a vomiting dog!  When pets eat fatty foods such as bacon,sausages and sweets, it can trigger a condition known as pancreatitis.  This is a very painful and debilitating condition whereby the pancreas becomes inflamed, causing vomiting and a lack of appetite leading to dehydration and illness.  Most cases are treated with hospitalisation, antibiotics and IV fluids, but severe cases can be fatal.

Fatty foods aside, certain foods such as onions, chocolate, raisins and many others are actually toxic to pets.  So while you enjoy your meal, treat your pet to something pet-friendly such as a raw bone or doggy treat, and ask visiting relatives nicely not to feed the pets human food or leave it lying around within reach. Don’t forget-the ham bone belongs in the bin, not the dog!

2. Remember that things that are not food can seem edible:  In addition to eating inappropriate foods, some dogs (think Labrador!) have a knack for eating things that really shouldn’t be eaten by anybody!  While you are celebrating the holidays, your pooch may do the same by gulping down something that may get stuck in his or her gut causing an obstruction. Some holiday related things that I have had to fish out of doggy intestines include wine corks, skewers, fish hooks and corn cobs.  Believe me, spending Christmas Eve elbow-deep in a dog’s abdomen is no fun for the vet, the dog or the anxious owner!

3. Protect against nasty critters: In Australia, the heat tends to bring out some of those nasty creepy crawlies that we are well known for.  Paralysis ticks are a horrible little bug, and if we could choose one species to be extinct, if it was up to me, it would be this one.  They latch onto an unassuming animal and proceed to inject them with a poison that paralyses first the legs and then the respiratory muscles.
There are one or two good products available from vets to protect dogs against these ticks and they should be used in high risk areas such as national parks and near water bodies. Unfortunately none of these products are 100% effective and you should search your pet after visiting these areas, focusing on the head and neck.  If you notice any signs of paralysis such as weak legs, a change in bark, retching or breathing difficulty, veterinary care should be sought immediately.

Snake bites are also more common during summer and this should also be treated as an emergency.

4. Stay on top of routine treatments: Ensure your dogs are fully vaccinated. Diseases such as Parvovirus and Canine Cough (Kennel Cough) are more frequently transmitted in the warmer months. Parvovirus occurs mostly in young, inadequately vaccinated dogs and causes severe vomiting, diarrhoea and dehydration.  It is also a condition that can be fatal due to the profound dehydration and weakness it causes.  Vaccinations and worming can often be overlooked during the excitement of the holiday season so stay organised!

5. Beat the heat: Keep your pets cool during the scorching summer months.  Keep them indoors or provide plenty of shade outdoors.  Ensure there is plenty of clean drinking water within reach, and add ice cubes to it on hotter days.  Pets should not be left in cars on hot days and if this must be done, leave a couple of windows open a notch, don’t leave them for more than a few minutes and park the car in the shade. So with a bit of care and vigilance, your furry friends can enjoy the holiday season while staying happy, healthy and out of hospital!