dog lying on vet's table

How to keep your dog safe and healthy this summer

While long, warm summer days are great for dog walking, there are some season specific hazards owners need to look out for. Help your pet stay safe by watching out for these three dangers.

Grass seeds

Grass seeds might seem harmless enough but they can cause big trouble for dogs if they get stuck in their ears, eyes, paws or under their skin.

Grass seeds are attached to the tops of long grass stems and can easily brush off as dogs walk past. The seeds’ pointed ends, which look a bit like arrowheads, can become trapped in fur and even penetrate the skin.

It is common for grass seeds to get stuck in ears and paws but in rare cases they can findtheir way under a dog’s skin and travel to other areas of the body, making them difficult to find.

Grass seeds cannot be located by x-ray so once they start moving around under the skin it’s almost impossible to find them.

Get into a routine of checking your dog over after grassy walks to remove any seeds stuck in the coat or between the toes before they become a problem.

You should keep hair short on the feet to make grass seeds less likely to get picked up, as well as making them easier to spot if they are.

A dog that has a grass seed stuck in its foot or between its toes is likely to lick the area repeatedly or limp and you could notice redness or swelling.

A grass seed in the ear would lead to head shaking or scratching, while a dog suddenly sneezing violently could have a grass seed stuck up its nose. If a dog has a grass seed stuck behind their eyelid, their eye is likely to become painful, red and weeping.

If you suspect your pet has a grass seed lodged somewhere, see your vet as soon as possible so that it can be removed before it causes an infection.

Your vet may be able to remove the grass seed easily with tweezers but if it is tricky to get to, is underneath the skin, or your dog is becoming increasingly distressed, they will probably need to operate to remove it.

Blue-green algae

Blue-green algae is actually a term to describe a group of bacteria which look like algae when they clump together in water. Most common during the summer months, it blooms in non-flowing water like ponds and lakes.

It can look like blue-green scum, flakes or foam on the edge of the water, or not be visible at all.

Blue-green algae is very dangerous to dogs that swim or drink from affected water because it contains harmful toxins that can stop their livers from functioning correctly.

Exposure to contaminated water is often fatal to dogs and some types of blue-green algae can kill a dog in less than an hour after ingestion. Even if not swallowed, blue-green algae on their coat can beingested when licking.

Symptoms of blue-green algae poisoning include vomiting, diarrhoea, seizures, collapse, disorientation and difficulty breathing. With prompt veterinary attention the toxins can be

flushed from a dog’s body, however fatal liver failure often occurs.

You can protect your dog by not allowing them to enter or drink from ponds and lakes that may contain blue-green algae.

Seasonal Canine Illness

The syndrome known as Seasonal Canine Illness (SCI) first appeared in 2010 and despite extensive research its cause remains a mystery.

Thankfully, incidences of SCI are rare but there continues to be cases every year so dog owners need to be aware of the signs to look out for.

Cases start being reported in August and peak in September. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea and lethargy but dogs can also have very high temperatures, abdominal pain, shaking or trembling and, in some cases, develop a rash over the abdomen and limbs.

Research has shown SCI affects dogs within 72 hours of walking in woodland. Various theories have been suggested including allergic reactions to mushrooms, agricultural chemicals and harvest mites – but nothing has been proven.

SCI is potentially life-threatening but can be successfully treated with prompt veterinary attention. Keeping your dog on a lead in woodland areas during the summer and autumn will allow you to monitor them to make sure they are not eating anything they shouldn’t.

It is thought good hydration helps too so make sure your dog is offered a drink before you head out and take water with you when you go.