Enjoying Summer With your Pets

Summer is fast approaching and I personally love the hot, humid weather of summer in Iowa. However, I know that many do not and I also realize some of our pets don’t tolerate this well. This months blog will highlight some warnings and summer safety tips for your pet.

Cat In Sun
Dog Cooling Off


Many pets love the water. We are lucky enough to have Ada Hayden as well as other lakes and ponds close by for our 4 legged friends to enjoy. The water is a great way to keep cool on a warm day. However, some cautions.

Aspiration pneumonia

This is more common in dogs than you realize. The dogs don’t walk upright so water can easily pass into their respiratory system and lead to devastating issues. If your pet is choking or coughing up water shortly after swimming, be on the lookout for pneumonia symptoms. This includes a cough, increased respiratory rate and effort, decreased appetite and fever. A good rule of thumb is that dogs should take a breath less than 40 times per minute. If your pet is breathing faster than this – when at rest – he/ she should be examined by a veterinarian.

Blue green algae ( cyanobacteria)

If the water looks like pea soup, keep your furry friend out and do not let them drink. These bacteria can affect many organs but the most common is liver toxicosis. Occasionally, water can contain fairly large numbers of cyanobacteria and not be blue green. Therefore, if you pet begins vomiting or has dark tarry stools within hours of a swim or drinking pond water, please seek medical attention.


This tiny parasite lives in water as well as soil. Unfortunately, we seem to see a lot of Giardia in the Ames area. Allowing Fido to drink any stagnant water may allow him to pick up this parasite. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and decreased appetite. If you are concerned, we can test for Giardia with a stool sample at Somerset Veterinary Hospital. Call for information about testing and stool collection containers.

Dog In Lake Water
White Silhouette With Dog, Cat, And Rabbit
White Silhouette With Dog, Cat, And Rabbit Mobile
Dog Drinking


I worked for 10 years in the Emergency Room in Des Moines. One of the most tragic occurrences was heat stroke. All breeds have the ability to succumb to heat stroke but especially brachycephalic breeds, Labradors or overweight dogs. This subset of patients should be extremely careful in the heat. Keep walks to a minimum when the temperature is over 80 degrees.

Another concern is the older patient who already may have compromised breathing. If your pet has loud breathing ( called stridor) when he/ she comes in from exercising, this would be a warning sign that your pet cannot tolerate ANY heat.

Signs of heat stroke in a dog

Increased respiratory rate, decreased energy, stumbling, elevated body temperature, diarrhea and collapse.

First aid

If possible, you can initiate cooling of your pet prior to transport to the veterinary facility. Evaporative cooling is best. This involves wetting the patients haircoat with cool ( not COLD) water and placing fans on the patient. If you are in the car, leave windows open to create air movement over the water to facilitate evaporation. Applying wet towels is no longer recommended as it can hold heat in. Too cold of water or application of alcohol can cause vasoconstriction and slow cooling. Also we do not want to overcool patient. When the temperature comes down to 103.5, it is time to stop cooling.

Unfortunately, we don’t always know the extent of damage due to heat for a few days. It is best to aggressively treat with IV fluids, GI protectants, and possibly other therapies.

Best plan to deal with heat stroke is prevention!

  1. Do not keep pets in closed vehicles, closed garages or sheds on warm days.
  2. Do not leave unattended when the pet is confined and using a dryer.
  3. Keep animals inside on hot days.
  4. Make sure outside pets have access to shade and water.
  5. Avoid heavy exercise on hot or humid days.


We do see an uptick in accidents in the summer. This includes motor vehicle accidents, interdog aggression, impalement with fishing hooks, etc.

Please remember, we are here until 10pm Monday through Friday for Emergent needs.

Times such as these can be scary. Try to stay calm as your pet is scared too. When your patient is in pain, try to keep yourself safe, too. Your pet who would never bite may bite because of pain and the situation. Use thick coats or blankets to protect yourself if handling a scared, hurting pet. Call us if you need advice on how to transport an injured animal.

The summer in and around Ames has so many enjoyable places to spend time with our dogs. Please enjoy each and every moment with your furry friends. And as they used to say on Hill Street Blues,” Let’s be careful out there.”