Auburn University veterinarian: Pay special attention to pet safety during summer months

AUBURN UNIVERSITY – While celebrating July 4 with food, fireworks and outdoor activities, pet owners should be mindful of keeping their pets safe during the holiday festivities and throughout the summer.

Auburn University veterinarian Dr. Sara-Louise Newcomer, one of two veterinarians who provide wellness care in the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Community Practice Clinic, said pet owners should take the same care with pets as they do with children around grills and fireworks and in hot weather.

“Many breeds of dogs are predisposed to overheating, but all animals can suffer from heat exhaustion, especially in summer’s mid-90-degree weather,” Newcomer said. “Pets are at increased risk of heat exhaustion not only during outside activities, but also when traveling in the car or when they are left in a parked car.”

Newcomer said signs of heat stroke in animals include constant panting, slowing down, collapse, dark red gums, little urine production and lethargy and advises pet owners to call their pet’s veterinarian immediately if any of these signs occur.

“Owners should cool their pets immediately by using a source of lukewarm to cool water, not cold water,” she said. “Put the animal in a pond or pool, or use a garden hose to wet the animal.”

Some of the most common July 4 picnic foods – such as corn, grapes, raisins and fatty meat scraps – can be harmful to pets. Corn itself is not toxic, but a corn cob could become lodged in a dog’s esophagus or intestines and require surgical removal. Ingestion of even a few grapes and raisins can cause sudden kidney failure in dogs and, potentially, cats. Eating large amounts of fat and grease can cause dogs to develop pancreatitis, a painful and potentially life-threatening condition.

Fireworks can be another danger for animals. From sparklers to bottle rockets, flames from fireworks can injure people and pets, and fumes and other chemical agents in fireworks can be potentially harmful to animals.

Common sites of burns on pets from fireworks include the face, muzzle, lips, tongue and paws. Fireworks contain heavy metals, and signs that a pet has ingested fireworks include vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, jaundice, tremors and seizures.

“Since the loud noises from fireworks also scare many animals, make sure your pet is in a safe and secure place to prevent it from running away,” Newcomer said.

For information about keeping your pet healthy all year long with preventative care and annual examinations, go to the College of Veterinary Medicine’s website at http://www.vetmed.auburn.edu/news_summary?func=viewStory;assetId=tTPIDkqMT_3IOE9TSE4L0A#.UdMAo68o7cs.

(Contributed by Janet McCoy.)

Contact: Sara-Louise Newcomer, College of Veterinary Medicine, (334) 844-4690, (sln0005@auburn.edu), Janet McCoy, College of Veterinary Medicine, (334) 844-3698 (mccoyjl@auburn.edu), or Mike Clardy, Office of Communications and Marketing, (334) 844-9999 (clardch@auburn.edu)