As the weather warms, people like to come up to the Tahoe Sierra to hike, bike and spend time outdoors with their best four-legged friends.
But while our dogs are usually happy to come along for the ride, there are some things that we should do to keep our pups safe and out of the hospital.
Weather concerns — and proper feeding
Dr. Bruce Hartzell, who has 38 years of experience in veterinary care, started his Sierra Nevada mobile care practice CritterCare Mobile Veterinary Clinic 19 years ago.
During the warmer months, Dr. Hartzell says that while he mostly sees run-of-the-mill afflictions such as vomiting, diarrhea, heart conditions and eye/ear infections, there are some summer-specific accidents and calls to which he attends.
“I’ve seen dogs nailed by porcupines, lameness problems due to hiking excessively, dog fights, and mushroom toxicity or eating crawdads at the beach,” he says, to name a few. “It’s a trend of issues with dogs being more mobile, out and about.”
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Dogs do tend to go swimming more during the summer, causing ear and yeast infections. Or, they can get hurt jumping off rocks or logs.
He also sees dogs get heat strokes after being on long hikes. Further, one of the most disappointing things he sees is in the middle of summer when he tends to dogs with blistered feet, meaning they have been out all day standing or hiking on hot pavement.
“It turns into a frying pan; people wouldn’t walk around barefooted (on hot pavement), so why expose your pet to that?” Dr. Hartzell asks. “Sometimes hot rock will do that, too. Then, not only do these dogs run the risk of getting heatstroke, but they also get blistered feet.”
To put yourself in your dog’s shoes — er, paws — Dr. Hartzell suggests you put on a big, black winter coat and go walking around in the summer heat.
“You wouldn’t get very far without taking it off,” he says.
However, many of the issues he sees have nothing to do with the environment, climate or time of year — rather, dogs and pets can easily suffer from heart conditions or GI problems due to humans giving them food they’re not supposed to eat.
“Many times, I’ll hear that people run out of their favorite dog food — the grocery stores do sell out of stock — and then they had to replace it with a different kind of food that got them sick,” Dr. Hartzell says. “Plan for your pet’s needs … you want to have air in your tires when you come up here, so why would you leave home without more than a day’s worth of food for your dog?
“Throwing the dog in the car with the expectation that you’ll get up here and deal with it, then sit in traffic for hours, it’s not proper planning.”
Fireworks danger, microchipping and vaccinations
Many people come up to Tahoe for the Fourth of July, and then either take their pups out hiking somewhere to watch the fireworks, or leave them at home.
Unfortunately, many animals have noise phobias and tend to freak out when they start hearing the unnatural booms. Some of these pets get loose, and if they’re lucky, end up in local animal shelters.
Jason Stipp, executive director of the Pet Network Humane Society in Incline Village, has some advice for how to keep your dog safe and what to do if your furry friend does escape.
First, he says that if pets get lost in Kings Beach, Truckee or another California community, then you should take them to a shelter in California because there is a distinction between Nevada and California and crossing state lines with a lost pet.
Further, it’s important to make sure dogs’ tags are up to date.
“I can’t tell you how many strays come in here who don’t have that current information,” Stipp says. “When dogs hear the fireworks, they will do anything they can to get out of the house, and many times they’re successful. Then they’re running around in an unfamiliar environment.
“Get your dog chipped because they can slip out of their collars so easy, and (a microchip) is the last line of defense in getting your dog back.”
Just as important, Stipp says, is ensuring animals are kept up-to-date on vaccinations.
“We’re lucky that we’re at such a high altitude that we don’t have a lot of fleas and ticks, but we are starting to see influenza for dogs, which is relatively new here,” says Stipp.
Pet Network also suggests that pet owners or finders download and use the app “Finding Rover,” which uses facial recognition to help reunite pets with owners.
The app could take over the need for microchips, depending on its success, and it’s less invasive for the animal, allowing anyone with a mobile device to use it without needing a microchip reader. Go to www.findingrover.com to learn more.
Also, don’t forget to cut your dogs’ nails
Patrick Lozano, office manager with Sierra Veterinary Hospital in South Lake Tahoe, says one of the most common issues she’s seen in recent years with dogs is broken nails.
“If they’re not cut regularly, then they’ll get snagged and break,” he says. “It’s best to keep their nails regularly trimmed by a groomer or veterinarian.”
Among other concerns, Lozano says that keeping dogs off-leash also opens the door for them to have more interactions with wildlife — and, again, events with fireworks or loud music can spook pets and cause them to bolt.
“Make sure that you don’t leave any medications out, trash or pesticides like rat bait, anything toxic that pets can get into,” he adds. “Diarrhea is also common in the summer by dogs contracting giardia, an organism found in streams.
“Try to keep them from drinking from streams or brooks.”
While allowing your four-legged best buds to enjoy the Tahoe outdoors with you certainly has its benefits, Lozano warns to be sure to take proper precautions to keep them safe, happy and enjoying Tahoe for summers to come.