The best thing about the summer has to be spending time in the great outdoors having fun with your four-legged best friend. But there’s bound to be a downside, isn’t there – and here are a few to consider:
Just like humans, some dogs can actually be allergic to stings – ranging from localised swelling around the sting, which can be easily treated with anti-histamines, to full anaphylactic shock. In the event of anaphylactic shock it’s essential to get your dog to a vet immediately – it can be a life or death situation for a human, it’s exactly the same for a dog.
Luckily, in the UK snakes don’t pose too much of a problem, but adders are poisonous and your dog will need treatment if he is bitten. On warm days adders will bask in the sun until their body temperature is high enough to enable them to hunt for food. Normally, these snakes aren’t aggressive and are very shy – they only attack if they are threatened or annoyed – which a dog might do unwittingly and out of curiosity.
In Surrey and Hampshire have a strong population of adders and we have several heathlands and woodland habitats including Albury Heath/Blackheath and Puttenham where adders are known to be present – so do take care on hot sunny days or after periods of prolonged sunshine. Sometimes adders are sluggish after periods of unseasonable colder weather and will be found basking to warm up and are slow to retreat if disturbed – your dog might stumble on them unintentionally. Keep your dog on a lead and stay on the main tracks in your are concerned about adders being present where you walk.
Male adders are usually grey-white in colour and females are browner. Both can be recognised by their markings – a zigzag pattern along the back, darker spots on the flanks, a V or X mark on the head and a dark band running from behind each eye.
Your dog is most likely to be bitten on the feet or face. The area may swell, become painful and bruised, and your dog will quickly become depressed and miserable.
If you suspect an adder bite, get your dog to a vet as quickly as possible; fortunately, adder bites are not usually fatal, but prompt treatment is essential. There is little you can do for your dog in the meantime, but if you can carry him it will stop the venom spreading so quickly – don’t attempt to apply a tourniquet to a leg, it will only cause physical damage.
Unfortunately, fights can break out between dogs. In the summer with more dog walkers out and about this can be an increased risk.
If your dog becomes involved in a fight do make sure you don’t risk injury to yourself – the safest thing to do is to throw cold water on the dogs. Once separated, let your dog calm down before attempting to examine him.
If you spot tears or puncture wounds to the skin, clip away the surrounding hair and wash the affected area with warm water and/or a saline solution. Applying a small amount of petroleum jelly around the outside of the bite will prevent hair irritating the wound. Antiseptic cream should be used on shallow wounds. Deep wounds and punctures definitely need the attention of your vet, who will probably prescribe a course of antibiotics and may also need to stitch or staple the wound.
See my article on the risk of ticks – with our very wet winter and damp spring they are very prevalent again this year, so do watch out!