Tips to avoid a Labor Day trip to the vet.

Labor Day is here, and in tribute to the contributions of workers who have made our country prosper, many people (and their pets) are gathering to enjoy games, picnics, BBQs and other outdoor activities. While we are busy spending time with friends and family, and enjoying the last bit of summer weather, it is important to remember the safety and well-being of our pets.  

Our pets will naturally want to be included in the festivities, so we have to beware of potential risks and ensure they enjoy themselves as much as we do,” explained Jessica Romine, DVM, DACVIM, BluePearl, Detroit (currently osabbatical). Also, be aware that fireworks and other loud noises may be happening, which can trigger anxiety in lots of dogs and cats and be prepared to handle this as well.

Be mindful of these grilling dangers.

Oils from fat drippings and meats can lead to pancreatitis, which is inflammation of the pancreas, causing vomiting, diarrhea, intense abdominal discomfortIf ingested, charcoal for grilling can cause nausea, vomiting, inappetence, diarrhea, and even lead to gastrointestinal obstruction, which can be life-threatening. Assign a friend or family member to monitor the grill (and food) and look out for running dogs. A crash into the grill could cause accidental burn injuries for both people and pets. In addition, be sure there is a clear spot to place trash and leftovers, well out of the reach of curious dogs and cats. Dogs are notorious for finding corn cobs, kebab skewers, and other things left in a delicious-smelling garbage bin. You may also consider asking guests to keep plates well above dog-level, so they don’t go helping themselves while we’re still eating.

Keep a safe distance from open fires and monitor tiki torches.

Aside from the obvious risk of burn injuries, tiki torches pose other dangers to pets if chewed on and/or ingested. Tiki torches contain petroleum distillates, which can irritate pets’ skin and gastrointestinal tracts, and even cause chemical pneumonia or aspiration (when fluids fill the lungs) if vomited. Look out for symptoms of excessive drooling, hard swallowing, vomiting, prolonged/severe coughing, and redness or ulceration of the gums or paws, and seek immediate medical attention if symptoms persist/worsen. Also, be sure to keep pets a safe distance from any open fire. Even a small spark from a fire pit can burn your pet.  

Prevent heat exhaustion.

Check the weather. If high temperatures or a heat wave are expected, it may be best to leave your pet at home or plan a safe, shaded, cool area to leave them during outdoor activities. Excessive heat mixed with physical activity increases the risk of pet heat stroke and/or paw pad burns. 

Ensure proper collars and ID.

Whether you are heading to a BBQ or hosting an activity of your own, it is best to always fit your dog with a secure collar and ID tags. If they do happen to get away (through an open door or even under a gate), ID tags will help get them back to you. Remember, dogs will be less likely to find their way back to you in an unfamiliar environment, so you may want to take extra measures like microchipping and registering your dog in the town database to ensure that they can be identified by someone when found. 

Never leave your dog unattended in a hot car or tent.

Temperatures in enclosed spaces can rise quickly, especially during the summer months. Never leave a pet unattended in a tent/car. Consider bringing a crate and/or a portable fencing unit to help keep them contained and ensure their safety. 

Advise guests of any food restrictions.

We all love giving pets treats, however, guests can unknowingly give a table scrap that may harm your pup. Food containing bones should be avoided completely as they can splinter and damage the intestinal tract. Advise guests to throw the bones and other hard foods like corn on the cob in the garbage when finished. Also, be sure to immediately dispose of foods containing onions, garlic, avocados, grapes/raisinsxylitol (a common sugar substitute used in baked goods) or chocolateThese foods can lead to toxicity, causing vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, agitation/hyperactivity, rapid heartbeat, tremors, and seizures. 

Always provide fresh water.

Dehydration is one of the most common veterinary emergencies during the summer months, so providing fresh water at all times is essential. Consider buying a collapsible dog bowl with a carabiner that you can hook onto your backpack for easy access. Bring bottled water just in case fresh water isn’t available for your pup.

Opt for pet-friendly bug repellents.

Repellents used on humans are generally not approved for use on pets. Some flea and tick products that contain mosquito repellent, such as K9 Advantix (only for dogs), can be purchased over the counter. However, the most effective flea and tick products are typically prescribed by your veterinarian (e.g., Simple Guard or Vectra 3D – only for dogs). It’s important to remember that what is considered safe for dogs and humans may be toxic to cats. Avoid pyrethroid toxicity in cats by reading labels and staying clear of products that are marked “for dogs only.” DEET should never be applied on dogs or cats. This chemical is toxic when ingested, and dogs and cats may lick it off after application. 

Due to differences in their liver metabolism, cats are more sensitive to many medications, topical therapies, essential oils, and other products,” said Dr. Romine. “So, any new chemicals, for humans or pets, should be used with caution around cats and always be used in a well-ventilated area.” 

While BBQs and outside activities are an exciting time for people, pets are relying on owners to keep them safe from the dangers that these get-togethers bring. If there is a chance that a pet has consumed something toxic, or is displaying symptoms of toxicity, immediately seek help from a veterinarian.