Here in South Alabama the summer has come early and with that a whole slew of new dangers to our animals. When I first moved here, I grilled our veterinarian on the things I needed to look out for when it came to keeping my pets safe.
- Fungi - He said I needed to watch out for poisonous mushrooms, while most of those that we see in yards are not a problem we do see Death Cap mushrooms growing in our area. It's so very important to teach your pup the "Leave it" or "Drop it" command because as we know most dogs and cats explore with their mouths. I do a daily sweep of our yard especially after it rains to make certain there are no new fungi growths in the lawn. If I see anything growing, I carefully remove it, and discard it and thoroughly wash my hands afterwards.
- Plants – Oleander, sago palms, poison sumac and bittersweet nightshade are all very common around yards in Baldwin County. Avoid planting any of these and beware when doing your yard walk that birds deposit the seeds of the bittersweet nightshade and they self-seed. I've found several of these growing throughout our acreage. Cats love to chew on plants and these are killers. The Sago Palm is extremely toxic to dogs, cats and children if ingested.
- Heat & Humidity – No escaping this one for any of us. With temperatures already climbing into the mid nineties in early May we're in for a long, hot summer. Many breeds of dogs have an undercoat that aids in keeping them cool so it's not suggested to shave breeds such as Akitas, Chow-Chows, Australian Shepherds, Labradors, Pekinese, and Pomeranians should not be shaved to keep them cool. Also, for those of us near the water our UV rays are extremely dangerous for both us and our furry friends, so a dog friendly sunscreen is recommended. Fresh, cool water and shade are musts if dogs are outside for any period. While on walks beware of the asphalt temperature. Dogs can easily burn their pads; a rule of thumb is if you can't keep your hand on the pavement for five seconds don't walk your dogs on it. Sand also heats up quickly and can be just as dangerous for those of you planning a walk on the beach. The humidity here drives up the temperature by 5-10 degrees so to keep your pets safe just plan on leaving them at home in the coolness of their air conditioning. Even early morning and late evening walks come with high humidity which makes your animals at risk of heat exhaustion/stroke
- Spiders and Snakes – Cats are extremely susceptible to black widow and brown recluse bites. Cats are all about fun and of course its fun to paw at a spider however this can have dangerous and even life-threatening consequences. Unless the bite is on the nose it may be difficult to see the bite under their fur. Black and brown widows and brown recluse spiders have fangs and strength capable of piercing their tough skin. Animals are also more prone to get an infection if a spider bites them so it's crucial to know how to identify a bite. Signs of a spider bite on an animal include swelling at the site of the bite. The eyelids, earflaps, nose and lips are vulnerable places on a dog because they are not covered by a thick coat of fur and their tissue is thinner than on other parts of the body. If swelling occurs, they may have difficulty breathing.
If the bite occurred in an area that is not covered by fur, you'll see redness, swelling and indications of pain such as licking the affected area almost immediately. You may even be able to see the bite's puncture marks. Bites are seldom fatal in dogs unless bitten several times, however cats are more susceptible to venom and can readily die if not treated.
Alabama isn't lacking the poisonous variety of snakes, spring, and summer lead to more baby snake activity. Baby snakes have no bite inhibition and are far more likely to keep biting their victim thus delivering a more venomous and toxic bite. It's important to understand if you're a veterinarian carries anti venin and to be aware that there is a tremendous cost for it.
Being aware of hidden dangers during the summer will keep your pets safe and allow you to enjoy your summer together.