Colorado State University Veterinarians Offer Pet Care Tips During Summer Months

Note to Reporters: The following helpful tips for pet owners are provided as a service of Colorado State University veterinarians based in Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. For additional information or for individual interviews with a veterinarian, contact Emily Wilmsen at (970) 491-2336 or

Heat Stroke First Aid

Pets can suffer from heat stroke, and the affliction can be deadly. Pets can overheat on hikes or while left outside and, even though it may not seem like a hot day, direct sun on a pet left in a car can be deadly. Pets become more susceptible to heat stroke as they age because their ability to pant – their only means to regulate their temperature – decreases. Signs of heat stroke include rapid breathing and heart rate, along with altered consciousness. They may move slowly or fail to respond to their name.

Despite an intuitive instinct, heat stroke can turn into a dangerously low body temperature if the overheated pet is cooled off too quickly. Pet owners should never try to cool a pet by dipping him in water or cooling him with a hose.

When suffering from heat stroke or when simply too hot, some animals, such as dogs, lose their ability to regulate their own body temperature. Cooling them too quickly can lower their body temperature to dangerous levels. Instead, offer the animal plenty of water and get him into shade or into a cool building or vehicle.

Garden Health Hazards

Common items in lawns and gardens can be a danger to cats and dogs.

Landscape lawn edging and dogs don’t mix. Sharp lawn edging materials protruding from the ground, or hidden under layers of grass and mulch, can cause deep cuts to dog pads. The sharp metal edges can cut skin and tendons down to the bone. Proper medical care for these cuts can cost hundreds of dollars. Cuts can take several weeks to heal and disrupt pet mobility and quality of life. Sharp metal and plastic lawn edging material should be properly covered with a rubber rolled edge or removed from landscapes that dogs frequent.

Cats and dogs can become very ill if exposed to lawn chemicals. Follow labeled instructions for specific chemicals, and allow several days to pass before allowing pets onto chemically treated landscapes. Ensure that all lawn and garden chemicals are stored properly – in child-proof and pet-proof containers. Some chemicals, such as snail baits, are particularly attractive to dogs and extra precaution should be used to store them in a pet-proof container out of the reach of a pet.

First Aid Tips for Snake Bites

Playful and curious cats and dogs are often attracted to snakes. Venomous snake bites are a common reason for veterinary emergency room visits around the nation. There are geographic differences in the types of snakes, so pet owners should talk to their veterinarians about specific risks. Pets can be exposed to snakes in their own backyards or while on a recreational activity.

The best first aid for any pet bitten by a snake is quick action – getting the pet to an emergency veterinary clinic as quickly as possible is key. If a pet is bitten while away from home, try to decrease the pet’s activity level as much as possible while en route to the emergency clinic. For example, if a bite occurs on a hike, consider carrying the dog to the vehicle if possible.

Veterinarians caution that people should always protect themselves when handling a pet with a snakebite or other painful trauma as cats and dogs in pain may scratch and bite at people trying to help.

Swelling around the face and front legs are often a sign of a snake bite. Snake bites can be extremely toxic to pets. Depending upon the kind of snake, veterinarians will treat pets with fluids, pain control, and, if necessary, antivenin.

First Aid Kit for Pets

First Aid kits are a good idea to have on hand for pets, particularly those who enjoy recreation and outdoor activities. A pet first aid kit should include:
– Gauze, tape and a pair of scissors
– An extra leash and collar
– Extra prescription medication
– Antiseptic wipes
– Hydrogen Peroxide
– A pair of disposable gloves
– Large, flexible adhesive bandages
– Tweezers
– Muzzle
– Blanket
– Sterile, non-adhesive pads
– Saline eye wash
– Antibacterial ointment
– Leather work gloves (to protect the pet owner from bites)
– Digital thermometer
– Kaopectate or Pepto-Bismol (antacids approved for use in dogs and cats)
– Phone numbers to local emergency pet clinics and the poison control center, and information about the pet, such as vaccinations and medical history.

Pet owners should get to know the health of their pet by regularly checking his temperature with a digital thermometer held under his ‘underarm’ to establish a baseline temperature that is normal for the pet. Owners should also get familiar with the pet’s resting and active heart rate by holding their hand over the left side of his chest. Check the pet’s gum color to become familiar with its normal shade. Any changes in these baseline measurements indicate that the pet needs a veterinary checkup. Ask a veterinarian to illustrate checking normal vital signs.

Dog-on-Dog Violence

Veterinarians at Colorado State University say emergency trips to the veterinary hospital for dog-on-dog violence increase during summer months. This may be because dogs are outside more often as their owners enjoy the warmer weather.

By taking a few precautions, incidences of dog-on-dog injuries can be reduced. Keep dogs on leash at all times. Dog owners should get feel for their dog’s response to unfamiliar dogs, and act accordingly. It’s best to always have both dogs on leashes for the first contact between two dogs unfamiliar with each other.

Seek medical treatment for dogs even if the skin is not broken when a bite occurs. The jaws of a dog are extremely powerful. Bites can cause serious internal injuries invisible on the exterior of the dog.

First Aid for Pets Injured on a Roadway

Dogs and cats are often struck by a vehicle and injured, more often so in warm weather months. Careful handling is required by first responders to such an accident.

Some of the worst bites to humans are the result of their own animals when the animal is injured and in pain. First responders need to take care to prevent being bitten by the painful, distressed animal. If possible, put a soft muzzle on the animal. If no muzzle is available, gently wrap the injured animal in a blanket or towel to ease movement. Many animals hit by vehicles have severe back injuries, so use extreme caution when lifting of moving the animal.