Summertime considerations for your pets’ well-being

Dr. Doug Pernikoff

Dr. Doug Pernikoff

Dear Dr. Doug,  

I jog several miles daily and I want to have my pet greyhound join me.  After all, he is bred for racing.  Are there special concerns I need to be aware of?  

— Greyhound Momma


You bet.  First of all, I like to remind people that dogs, especially a breed like the greyhound, are designed as short-distance sprinters.  Most dogs are not conditioned for long distances.  And, worse yet, is the genuine concern regarding heat sensitivity.  Even dogs with short coats are extremely sensitive to too much heat.  In fact, it may take literally minutes of high temperatures to throw your pet into a condition we label as ‘heat stroke’, wherein their body physiology shuts down, causing rapid kidney failure and even death.  Your best bet is to save casual early morning or evening walks for your dog, before or after the ambient temperatures rise.  Finally, be sure to provide shaded rest periods and fresh water at all times.  


Dear Dr. Doug,

This summer we are planning to hit the road with our family and our corgis, Max and Alice. Any suggestions to help us enjoy our intended vacation?  

— Corgi Folks


The first step is to plan a visit and examination with your veterinarian.  Be sure to have all your vaccinations up to date, and renew any special medical prescriptions for either Max or Alice.  

Secondly, be sure your pets are micro-chipped.  This can prove essential to recovering a lost pet, which unfortunately, can occur at a rest stop along the highway, during a potty break.  Further, I would suggest that you create an identification card, listing all your ownership information; the name, age, microchip and any other pertinent information about Max and Alice.  Your veterinarian will be happy to help you create a pet emergency kit for simple issues.  Practice short trips around the neighborhood to be sure your dogs will not require an anti-nausea medicine like Dramamine.  Finally, be sure to do your homework and plan a travel route that includes a list of motel or hotel housing that permit pets.  This opportunity is much more available these days, but still, better to plan ahead.  There will be activities that are not suitable for your pets to participate in, and you need to be sure that your housing has alternatives, or can refer you to a local kennel facility.  Bottom line is to plan well, and in turn, you will be able to enjoy the adventure.  


Dear Dr. Doug,

We can’t keep our Labrador retriever, Amber, out of the swimming pool.  Ear infections are a constant headache and cost to us.  Can you offer any useful ideas to manage her ears? 

—  Amber’s Dad


The term otitis externa refers to inflammation and/or infection of the outer ear canal.  Dogs are particularly vulnerable to ear problems for at least three primary reasons.  First, the canal channels downwards and then inward, creating a ‘dependent trap’, much like a utility sink, precluding adequate drainage in many cases.  Secondly, many breeds have a hairy canal that traps all sorts of waxy ear secretions and more.  Thirdly, many outer ears flap over and literally, ‘close the door’, which sets up a dark, moist, bacteria and yeast filled environment.  Infections flourish in this setting.  In Amber’s case, swimming introduces moisture into the canal, encouraging all those other processes to manifest.  The result is a chronic, recurring ear infection.  Once the interior lining of the ear canal has undergone repeated inflammatory episodes, then you can be pretty sure to expect recurring infections, as the lining is now scarred and no longer has the quality of condition that mother nature created.  My suggestion to you is to be sure to cleanse the ears after each and every swimming episode.  Your veterinarian can provide proper ear flush options and demonstrate the best method for ear cleaning.  You should continue the wash for several consecutive days, and in fact, during swim season, it might prove wise to simply impose ear cleansing on a regular schedule throughout the week  per your vet’s directions.  Follow the cleaning with a proper medicant for both bacteria and yeast.  A simple ear swab and microscopic review will help to differentiate the sort of inflammatory, or infectious process affecting Amber.  Persistent management is the key to successful ear infection control. 


Dear Dr. Doug, 

Both Rex, my cat and Sugar, our Terrier mix, freak out during these summer storms.  We have talked about using drugs to take the edge off.  Is this the only route available for us?  

—Concerned Mom


Veterinarians are presented with this concern frequently.  Especially during storm season, and don’t forget about the upcoming July 4th weekend.  My first suggestion is to consider a sound insulated area, possibly in your basement, if available.  Or, a room with music playing can prove helpful, although both dogs and cats can often pick up ambient pressure changes associated with the onset of storms.  Nonetheless, if you can get by simply managing where they can stay during the storm, you might be better off.  However, there are times when pharmaceuticals can prove very helpful.  Some veterinarians might suggest anti-anxiety drugs, but they tend to require time and dosing adjustments to create a useful effect.  Short acting sedatives or even drugs like Benadryl can resolve some of your concerns.  I would suggest visiting with your vet and after he prescribes something, be sure to take a practice run to assure you have a best and proper dosing.  Remember that fireworks are not only loud and irritating to pets, they can create nasty burns.  The responsible action is to keep pets clear of the fireworks events.   An ounce of prevention is certainly worth a pound of cure!  


Dr. Doug Pernikoff, a local veterinarian who has practiced for more than 30 years, is based in Chesterfield at the Clarkson-Wilson Veterinary Clinic. He can be heard with Frank O’pinion on KTRS radio each Wednesday afternoon. To send him a question, email [email protected] and be sure to write “Ask Dr. Doug” in the subject field.