In this column, I’d like to touch on a number of things – including some things I’ve tried with my own pets, or things I’ve seen with clients’ dogs.
Many of the heartworm preventatives now available also offer protection against internal parasites such as roundworms, whipworms, etc. I find that most of these products are very good as prevention tools. But, if your yard or dog pen has soil that’s saturated with the eggs of these parasites, you may need something more.
I can think of two cases where the families had chronic problems with whipworms and just using the heartworm medication wasn’t enough to clear the infestation. Therefore, we advise people using the internal parasite protection heartworm medicines to still have a fecal check done at least once a year. While these products are excellent, they can’t be expected to overcome overwhelming problems.
Always check with your veterinarian before you use multiple flea control products. Some of the new hormonal products can be combined with almost anything, including dips and powders. But you still need to be careful. We had one dog become quite ill from having a once-a-month flea control product put on him, and then getting a dose of flea powder from another family member two days later. Luckily, everything went well. Fido is fine and there are no fleas in sight!
Speaking of flea control products, I feel comfortable discussing two brands that I’ve used on my pets. I started with Advantage® for my barn cats, last year, and have been incredibly pleased. I haven’t seen a flea or tapeworm at all.
We’ve used this medication on fairly old and fairly young dogs and cats without any problems. We do sometimes see dogs who seem to get itchy about 4 or 5 days after application (a rare occurrence). If the dog seems too uncomfortable, we have the owners give him a couple of baths and then switch him to a different product.
In June, I attended some agility competitions in Massachusetts. When I went last year, I stayed with my parents. I ended up pulling 23 ticks off Beep, my Belgian Tervuren. This year, I also stayed with my parents. But I decided I’d put Frontline® – which is newly approved for use in New York – to the test.
Maybe it’s a mild year for ticks, but I didn’t find a single one on my dog this year. And I purposely walked them through the fields and woods to see how well the Frontline would work. (I did end up pulling two ticks off my Dad, though!)
This year, I’ve seen a number of dogs suffering from the heat, both at our clinic and at competitions. Please groom your dogs frequently and well. A dog with undercoat just begging to come out has just got to be uncomfortable. The same for matts, which can actually pull so hard on the skin that it causes sores underneath.
If you aren’t into grooming, take Spot to a good groomer and have the undercoat brushed out or even give him a shave. You do have to be careful about sunburn with some dogs after a shave, though, so first check with the groomer or your veterinarian.
Also, if your dog travels with you, take plenty of water. I try to freeze some water in a bowl. It then goes in the back of the minivan with the dogs. That way, they have a source of cold water – all the time – and odds are I won’t end up with a soaked car. Also, the water melts slowly. This means they can’t gulp it thereby putting themselves in danger of bloat. When we stop for food or drinks for us, I always ask for a cup of ice to add to the dogs’ water bowl.
There are some really neat portable fans available. You can order them from dog supply catalogs, or you’ll sometimes find them in camping stores. I have a battery-operated one which ran quite happily, nonstop, during two very hot days of agility trials. It has now worked very hard for five full days without a battery change – my kind of equipment!
For shade, try a canopy made out of the “space blankets.” They reflect the sun and heat. My dogs also use the tent crates which act as an 85% sunscreen, but still let in plenty of air. Of course, pets left at home should have plenty of shade and water, too, especially if they’re left outside.
The hardest part of warm weather competitions is knowing that it’s just too hot or humid to ask your dog to work. This is especially hard when you’ve planned for this weekend for months, and driven six or more hours to get there. But, hopefully, your dog will be your companion for many years to come, and there’ll be other competitions. After all, he certainly deserves consideration. And that weather’s probably too hot and humid for you, too!
Come fall rains, we have new hazards to think about. I don’t jump my dogs if the footing is questionable. A torn cruciate could mean the end of a performance career, to say nothing of later arthritis. And I want to keep my cruciates intact, too!
Much of what’s discussed here is just good common sense, but we all know how uncommon that truly is. So treat your dog companion the way you’d like to be treated, and have fun doing all those great dog sports together!