Veterinary Summer: Back in Full Swing

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Help your veterinary practices ramp up for the summer season with products and services their clients will want.

After a two-year hiatus, we’re all happy to see most summer activities back in full swing this season. With everyone anxious to get back to their favorite summer pastimes or travel, many folks will want to include their pets in those adventures. Summer pet safety and traveling with pets is all about preparation and education, so discussing ways your clinics reach out to pet owners and making sure they have the products on hand for prevention and treatment will set them up for a successful summer.

Whether pets are vacationing with the family or staying behind for boarding, they’ll need to be up to date on vaccinations, and their owners will likely need to have records of those shots with them. Besides core vaccines, boarding facilities will likely require Bordetella and possibly canine influenza vaccinations. Lyme and other tick-borne diseases are spreading to new areas of the country. Veterinarians may recommend a Lyme vaccine for dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors or accompany their owners on camping or hiking trips where black-legged (deer) ticks are found.

Of course, preventing ticks and fleas is paramount in the summer, but consumer studies have shown that many pet owners have misconceptions about proper prevention of fleas and ticks or aren’t giving their pets preventives regularly. You can help your clinics provide customers with accurate information along with their recommendations for the best preventives during appointments, via text and on social media. My previous column included information on ticks you can reference for those conversations.

Besides the creeping and crawling varieties, ponds, lakes and standing water can harbor a variety of parasites that are dangerous to pets and people. Giardia, coccidia, campylobacter, crytosporidia and leptospira can all cause severe gastrointestinal issues and diarrhea. Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease passed in the urine of infected animals that can be transmitted from pets to humans and may lead to acute kidney failure. Lepto cases have been rising due to a warmer, wetter climate and have become more common in urban dogs since the wildlife species who carry it are common in urban and suburban areas. Veterinarians should inform pet owners of the potential risks for lepto in their area and recommend vaccinations based on the dog’s activity.


Yellow lab in a lake with human owner perching on a rock representative of veterinary summer season.
Many vacationers will want to include their pets this summer.


The Great Outdoors

Outdoor exercise is great for dogs both mentally and physically, but dogs can rapidly overheat in summer temperatures – particularly large or very small dogs, brachycephalic (flat nosed) breeds, senior and overweight pets, or dogs with a dense coat. Vets routinely treat dogs for heat-related incidents when temperatures reach 80 degrees. An increased body temperature can quickly lead to heat stroke causing cerebral edema, seizures or coma, which is often irreversible. Veterinarians can help keep pets from a life-threatening emergency by educating pet owners about the dangers and signs of heat stroke and reminding them of the basics: the canine cooling system is much less efficient than ours; access to fresh water and shade is essential; and never leave pets in a car unattended in warm weather. Be ready to discuss any rehydration products you carry as a recommendation for owners of active dogs to take along on hikes, hunting or other activities.

Summer weather can take a toll on pets in other ways. Pink-skinned dogs and horses are susceptible to sunburn, particularly on the face and muzzle, so sunscreen is essential to keep them protected. At outdoor summer events I invariably see a few people walking their dogs on hot pavement or asphalt, apparently unaware that just one minute on hot asphalt can blister the paw pads. Clinics can use social media to remind dog owners of the “Five Second Rule” for asphalt: If you can’t hold the back of your hand on hot asphalt for five full seconds, it’s too hot for your pet to walk on. For dogs that trek on rough or rocky terrain, pad creams or booties can protect paws.

Even a simple walk around the neighborhood can present hazards during the summer months. Pet owners should look out for potential toxic agents from lawn treatments like fertilizer, insecticides and pesticides, bait for moles and gophers, and antifreeze leaks on streets and driveways. Even backyard barbecues can result in a trip to the vet if a pet gets too many table scraps or grabs something they shouldn’t off the picnic table. (Case in point: my childhood cat who once came to the back door with a pork chop from someone’s grill.) Dogs may sample everything from citronella candles to garden mulch (cocoa shell mulch is particularly toxic to dogs) to the compost pile in the backyard. Remind your customers to order their preferred products to treat vomiting, diarrhea and pancreatitis, along with vomit-inducing treatments like STAT!Syringe or Clevor.

Beat the heat and the stress

Those backyard barbecues may include fireworks, or they could be cut short by a thunderstorm – two summertime events that so many dog owners dread. Reactions to the sounds of storms and fireworks range from mild signs like hiding or panting to uncontrolled shaking, destruction and pets hurting themselves. It may not be just the booms of thunder that cause storm phobia in dogs, but possibly even changes in barometric pressure or static electric fields.

Whether pets are stressed from fireworks, storms or travel, be prepared to discuss the types of calming products you carry, including prescription medications, pheromone products, anxiety wraps and homeopathic drops or treats. Shelters see an influx of lost pets on July 5. Microchipped pets are 50% more likely to return home safely, so make sure your clinics have their preferred brand of microchips in stock.

Pets are part of the family and that means people want to bring their animals along whenever they can. Particularly during the “dog days” of summer, the best place for a pet is often at home in the air conditioning with a big bowl of water. It’s essential for owners to understand the hot weather health risks that can harm their pets. Helping your veterinary customers provide the information and products to prevent those issues will ensure a safe and healthy summer.


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