By Dr. Freya Javeri Kharawala*
As the mercury rises, so do the cases of many ailments in our pets. Loss of appetite, digestive upsets, heat stroke, and dehydration are some of the conditions we commonly see in the height of summers. Besides these, there are many skin conditions that are more likely or are aggravated in summer months. These can be prevented or controlled to a large extent with right precautions.
Hair Shedding: It’s a common misconception that all dogs shed their coats every summer. All dogs will go through a phase of hair shedding every six months. It may or may not coincide with summer in your pet. Keep a track of when your pet’s hair fall increases. This phase should not last more than a month. During this time, increase the frequency of brushing your pet from ‘once a day’ to ‘twice a day’ routine. Neglecting to brush your dog’s coat adequately can lead to intense itching further causing secondary bacterial skin infections. If shedding is excessive or prolonged, it may be a sign of a nutritional inadequacy and could indicate that your pet needs to be dewormed or his diet needs to be changed. Consult your veterinarian for the optimum nutrition for your pet and the need for dietary supplements if required.
Ticks and Fleas: Though ectoparasites are a problem for our pets throughout the year, there is often a surge in tick and flea infestation in summers. Whereas ticks are noticed by most of us when we groom or interact with our pets, many may miss seeing fleas since they do not stick to the body. Look out for flea dirt, which are actually flea faeces that appear as small black specks on the dog’s body. Besides causing some serious disease conditions, both ticks and fleas cause intense itching, which leads to secondary dermatitis. We are fortunate now to have so many options for tick and flea control available in India like sprays, spot-ons, tablets etc. These choices can often be confusing to many pet owners and hence it is always recommended to take advice of your veterinarian. Along with control of ticks on your pet’s body, it is very important to control ticks in the environment (your home and garden) where they reproduce.
Bacterial and Fungal Skin Infections: The heat of summer months causes many dogs to seek cooler areas to rest in. Dogs will seek out damp areas in garden or dig up soil and lie in it. They may often spill their drinking water to create a wet area to sleep in. Prolonged exposure to dampness can lead to skin infections. Keeping your pet cool and dry through the summer months will ensure your pet doesn’t have to suffer recurring skin infections.
Frequent Bathing: During summers, many owners tend to bathe their dogs too frequently believing that it will help them cope better with heat of the summer. A bath once in fifteen days with a mild dog shampoo is adequate to keep your dog’s skin clean and healthy. More frequent shampooing can lead to dry, itchy skin and subsequently secondary skin infections.
Allergies: Many dogs are sensitive to allergens in the environment in summer months. Allergic dogs will show intense, generalized itching and reddening of the skin especially after having gone outdoors. Continuous itching will eventually lead to secondary skin infections. Though difficult, it’s important to try to find out what triggers your pet’s allergies. For instance, if you have identified that after your pet walks in a particular area he comes home red and itchy, avoid taking him back there. Also consult your veterinarian for appropriate treatment.
Sun Exposure: Lighter coloured dogs and smooth-coated breeds are more prone to sunburn. This appears as red skin or hair loss usually on bridge of the nose, tips of the ears, skin around the lips, and at any place where skin pigmentation is low. Avoid taking your pet outdoors between 10 am to 6 pm during summers.
Foot Pad Injuries: Various surfaces outdoors can get unbearably hot during summer days. Roads retain heat even after sunset. Walking on very hot surfaces will cause serious injuries to your dog’s foot pads. During the summer, exercise your dog in early hours of the morning and very late evenings. Check temperature of the road by touching it with the palm of your hand. If it feels too hot, don’t allow your pet to walk there.
Summers may be a challenging time for us and our pets, but exercising a little caution goes a long way in preventing unnecessary suffering for our pets.
* Author is a practicing veterinarian at Dr. Chirag Dave’s Pets’ Clinic in Ahmedabad. She is an all-breeds Championship and Obedience judge and a Council Member of The Indian National Kennel Club. She and her husband live in Ahmedabad with their five dogs and three birds.