Top 5 Start-of-Summer Dangers

Memorial Day weekend signals the kickoff to summer for many people. With summer fun comes summer dangers for your dog. In this article, we’ll look at my top five start-of-summer dangers and what you can do to protect your dog so that summer fun doesn’t turn into a summer disaster.

Memorial Day weekend signals the kickoff to summer for many people. With summer fun comes summer dangers for your dog. In this article, we’ll look at my top five start-of-summer dangers and what you can do to protect your dog so that summer fun doesn’t turn into a summer disaster.

Number 1 – heat

If you’ve followed me for any length of time, it won’t come as a huge surprise that heat tops my list. As I write this the week leading up to the holiday, it’s 56 degrees, windy, and rainy. In my opinion, the yo-yoing of temperatures this time of year can lead to disaster. Days like today feel anything but like summer, whereas yesterday afternoon, before this system rolled in, it was hot and humid. Be conscious of changing conditions and your dog’s activity level. A cool morning can turn into a hot midday, so being aware of these changes, particularly at your dog’s level, is vitally important. Soon enough, it will just be too hot, but in the meantime, take advantage of these cool days. For you southern folks with 90s and 100s daily already, I don’t know how you do it. We will be heading to Texas next month with the dogs, so I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

Number 2 -the lake

Growing up in the Midwest, summer at the lake was, and still is, a way of life. The dogs and kids sometimes have to be dragged out of the water kicking and screaming just to get them to eat, and in the case of the kids, to reapply sunscreen. The lake comes with its own set of potential dangers, especially at the start of summer.

One common issue is a dog cutting itself on hidden dangers. This can range from a broken bottle at the shoreline to a stick that found its way to the swimming hole over the winter. In this part of the world, we also have to worry about zebra mussels, an invasive species that has now found its way into South Dakota lakes.

Other issues I’ve seen around water include excessive consumption of lake water. The volume isn’t necessarily problematic, but something in the water might not agree with the dog. Along those same lines, I have seen dogs get sick from eating dead and decaying fish. I have one friend who nearly lost his dog when parts of a dead fish got lodged in the back of the dog’s throat and required extensive surgery to remove the damaged tissues.

Number 3 – the fish fry

This isn’t just exclusive to fish; basically, anything you fry in a big pot of oil, whether that be fish or turkey, be very cautious of what you do with that oil after frying. On multiple occasions over my career, I have been presented with dogs that ingested gravel, sand, grass, dirt, and any other surface where this cooking grease was dumped. Thankfully, none of these dogs have required surgery to remove the impaction, but more than a couple found themselves hospitalized for a few days.

Here is one of those cases we saw a few years back. This is what the x-rays looked like on the first day:

Thankfully, you can see by the next day it had all moved into the colon. I can’t imagine what these bowel movements felt like for him:

Number 4 – The drip bucket on your smoker

I’ve seen a few people refer to the drippings that end up in the bucket at the end of a smoker as “black gold” that they use on their dog’s food for a finicky eater or for added fat. I implore you not to use it in this way. I’m not always the best at emptying this bucket, so you also want to be conscious of when it starts to get full or is overflowing (especially after a heavy rain if you forget to put the cover back on). Dogs love these greasy drippings. The worry with an excess of fat ingestion is a condition called pancreatitis. The pancreas produces digestive enzymes, and in some scenarios, like with excessive fat ingestion, the pancreas can overproduce these, and instead of them dumping into the digestive tract, they can spill out into the abdominal cavity. This is a horrible condition and can be incredibly painful for the dog. Lily suffered from a bout of this due to an unknown cause and she was hospitalized for nearly three weeks. I never left her side for the entire time, and I still carry the scars from how much she suffered. Thankfully, she pulled through; that isn’t always the case.

Number 5 – your grill brush

I’m actually surprised that you can still buy wire grill brushes as these can be a concern for you and me as well. The little short, stiff, and sharp bristles of a wire brush can wreak havoc when ingested. With you and me, it is often a case of incidental ingestion; some of the wire breaks off while scrubbing the grate and then gets stuck to the food. Dogs, on the other hand, will seek out these brushes that have the tasty tidbits from the grill attached to them. They chew off the scraped-off bits and end up ingesting some of the bristles, which can then poke through the digestive tract and lead to a host of medical problems, including fatal bowel perforations. If you want to see a video about how bad this can be in people, check out this post from a pediatric emergency medicine doc CLICK HERE.

True, uncontrollable freak accidents are rare; that’s why we call them freak. The fact of the matter is that many things are preventable if appropriate caution is taken. This doesn’t mean avoiding any of the things I’ve listed here but rather being aware that each of them has the potential for danger and taking appropriate steps to keep that danger from becoming a reality.