Pet Wise: Avoiding dangers during the dog days of summer

This summer has certainly been one of extreme weather conditions: from sweltering temperatures to record breaking rainfall. These conditions may affect our health and safety as well as our pets. Predicting when temperatures and precipitation levels will finally return to normal is almost impossible, therefore we need to keep our pets safe and comfortable during prolonged periods of heat and wet weather.

The feces of many wild creatures contains microscopic organisms that can cause gastro-intestinal disorders and distress such as coccidia and giardia (both contagious to pets), as well as internal parasites like hookworms, tapeworms and roundworms. These nasty lifeforms can live in soil and water and may be absorbed through a pet’s skin from simply walking on fecal-contaminated areas.


Puddles and streams contaminated with rat urine might contain the potentially deadly leptospirosis bacteria , which causes kidney failure and can be transmitted by contact with skin. Dr. John Kable (Airpark Animal Hospital) recommends that Carroll County dogs receive the leptospirosis shot as a core vaccination to prevent infection in dogs, their owners, veterinary staff and kennel workers.

Pet owners need to be aware that the baylis ascarlis roundworm is carried by raccoons that defecate in “latrines” (like sandboxes) and is especially dangerous to children. Because dogs can carry this type of roundworm, Dr. Kable recommends that dog owners administer a broad spectrum heartworm product on a monthly basis year-round to help prevent the spread of roundworms, hookworms and whipworms, as well as fleas and heartworm disease.

Pet owners should also be aware that giardia, internal parasites (worms) and leptospirosis are contagious to humans.

On those rare days of sunshine and somewhat tolerable temperatures we may be tempted to maintain our lawns and gardens but must also keep in mind the safety of our pets by doing the following:

  • Keeping pets indoors when operating yard and garden maintenance equipment such as lawnmowers, hedge trimmers, and weed eaters that may inflict serious injuries (even from a distance) when rocks, twigs and other debris become projectile objects.
  • Closely monitoring pets when they are outdoors especially if you have a water garden or other water feature that may tempt a pet to drink bacteria-laden water or take a fatal plunge.
  • Inspecting your property thoroughly and removing decomposing black walnuts (sometimes carried and dropped by squirrels) that grow molds that can cause tremors and seizures after a dog eats them.
  • After weeding and dead-heading spent flowers or trimming trees and shrubs, thoroughly clean up any plant debris because many popular landscaping plants are toxic to pets. The ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center’s list of toxic plants can be viewed on its website:

Because rain stimulates the growth of toadstools, mushrooms and other fungi, some species are toxic to pets when ingested. Therefore a thorough inspection and removal of all traces of mushrooms or other fungi may need to be conducted daily.

When walking dogs in the neighborhood, parks or on trails:

  • Always walk them on leash.
  • Carry and use poop bags, and properly dispose of your dog’s feces.
  • Don’t allow your dog to drink from or walk through puddles or streams. Avoid ponds where waterfowl gather because such areas might contain feces and urine contaminated with harmful bacteria.
  • Always rinse your dog’s paws and body thoroughly after a walk if puddles could not be avoided.
  • Never walk your dog on a dark asphalt surface during the day because it can burn a dog’s paw pads. Imagine how it would feel to walk barefoot on that surface!

Eventually the sweltering temperatures and soggy ground conditions will pass, and soon we will be complaining about freezing temperatures and frozen precipitation!

Enjoy the remainder of your summer with your pets!