Seasonal dangers and knowing how to avoid them

To keep our pets enjoying a healthy, happy, active summer, there are a few things to look out for which may help to avoid unnecessary harm from some of nature’s more toxic by-products. 

Blue-green algae 

As the weeks get warmer, our dogs may seek out ponds, lakes and all other types of water fun to cool off from the summer heat. Most of the time, they are perfectly safe in doing so, in fact, helping them to stay cool is essential for their health.

Also known as cyanobacteria, blue-green algae can form in rivers, streams, ponds and lakes. Technically, this isn’t an alga but a bacterium that starts to resemble algae as it clumps together. It tends to be found in stagnant or slow-flowing water and is more prevalent at the time of year algae typically blooms.

Recognising bacteria are present could save your dog’s life, so here are some simple tips to help you identify it. Ensure they don’t drink or swim in any of this type of water:

  • Look for brown clumps, a little like seaweed.
  • You may spot green flakes or brown dots.
  • Occasionally, you may spot foaming on the edge of the water, a little like sewage pollution.
  • Contaminated water may contain dead fish or other wildlife.

Signs of blue-green algae poisoning to look out for

There are a range of symptoms to look out for if you suspect your dog has been in contact with blue-green algae. The milder symptoms include dribbling, tiredness, vomiting and diarrhoea. The more significant complications from these toxins include effects on the heart and blood pressure, convulsions, problems breathing or organ failure. Signs can begin to be spotted within an hour, but may occur within minutes, or can sometimes be delayed by a few days. Many cases are life threatening and dogs can die very quickly.

Swift action is essential; act quickly. If you are worried that your dog has blue-green algae poisoning, it is essential that you visit your vet without delay, even calling ahead so that they can be prepared to treat your dog when you arrive. Blue-green algae often needs rapid veterinary intervention so this swift action is vital to help improve their chances of survival.

When walking your dog in areas with suspect water, please remember to keep them on a lead as they may be tempted to simply jump in and have fun. If you do spot blue-green algae and there is no local authority sign to say so, please do the responsible thing of reporting the water area concerned to the Environment Agency, who will be able to test the water and alert others to any harmful contaminants.

Toxicity from common plants and flowers

Many of our pets love to roam the outdoors, whilst others are home-lovers, preferring the comfort of the indoors. Whatever your pet’s preference, being aware of toxins, both inside and outside our homes, could literally save their lives. For an extended list of plants that are poisonous to pets, refer to www.petpoisonhelpline.com.  Or please read on for details of the most common poisonous plants at this time of year.

Be cautious of garden flowers including lily, geranium, nightshade, elder, hydrangea, lily of the valley and larkspur, all of which can cause the most distressing of reactions and ultimately prove fatal in some cases.

When walking dogs in fields of rapeseed, be aware of the potential risk of digestive disorders and skin reactions.  Instead, fields which are safe to take a ramble are sunflower fields, daisy fields and lavender fields.

Ragwort and foxglove, commonly found on walks across most of our summertime countryside, can also prove deadly to our cats and dogs.

Much as our four-legged friends like to bound through the fields, also be aware that awn, a bristle-like barb, found on the ear or flower of many grasses, can cause no end of misery should it become embedded in their coat or skin. It can even be inhaled or lodge in their ears, leading to complications.  Often owners can remove the awn and there is no further need to be concerned. However, once the grass awn has penetrated the skin, it can quickly migrate to other parts of the body and cause more serious clinical issues. If you have any concerns regarding grass awn and potential danger to your pet’s health, always consult your Vet for advice.

Stings

Finally, as with humans, we should all be aware that tolerance to bee and wasp stings varies and can sometimes cause quite severe reactions, which can be fatal. Any of us owning a pet knows only too well how curious they are when it comes to flying insects and the fun they have chasing, catching and eating them! There is always the chance that our beloved pet will have the misfortune of being at the wrong end of a sting. Here’s what to look out for if you think they may have:

  • Localised swelling
  • Licking or biting at the sting
  • Whining or crying
  • Hives
  • Drooling
  • Limping (if on paws)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • A rash
  • Collapse

If your pet shows any of the last three on this list of symptoms, please contact your Vet immediately and ensure they are seen without delay. If the reaction is mild, then simply treat with a solution of bicarbonate of soda mixed with water, cover, if possible, with an ice pack until the swelling reduces and keep an eye on any further allergic reactions emerging. If possible, try to remove the sting, making sure not to squeeze it.

Our Nurses and Vets are always on hand to advise on seasonal allergies and environmental hazards, so if in doubt, do not hesitate to contact one of the team. We’re here when you need us.

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