South Florida’s soaring summer temperatures can be hard on everyone - including our furry friends. While Mother Nature presents many opportunities for pets to get into trouble, here are some of the more life-threatening hazards that threaten our pets during the dog days of summer.
Known to scientists as Rhinella Marina, this invasive toad species is more commonly called the Bufo Toad, Cane Toad, Giant Toad, or Marine Toad. They are most commonly found near bodies of freshwater, and generally speaking, are most active at night. That said, it is not uncommon to see them during the day in yards, under shrubs, and even in the middle of roads.
As dogs and cats are predators at heart, many cannot resist catching Bufo Toads with their mouths. And when caught, the toads secrete a deadly toxin as a defense mechanism. Symptoms of Bufo Toad Toxicity include vocalizing, mouth rubbing, excessive drooling, respiratory distress, vision problems, unsteady gait, seizures, collapse, and hyperthermia.
Left untreated, toad venom toxicity causes the victim’s body temperature to spike to unsurvivable levels. If you suspect your pet has come into contact with Bufo Toad venom, take her to the nearest veterinary hospital immediately.
While many trainers can help you teach your pet to ignore toads, a dog with an especially intense prey drive may abandon his training and go for it. For this reason, I always recommend clients leash walk their dogs whenever they are outside. Rethink doggie doors and don’t turn your back for so much as a moment.
One of our nurses had a toad emergency with her puppy several weeks ago. And our older dachshund took us by surprise a few years ago. Toad poisonings happen in split seconds, and even we professionals can be caught unawares. As is often the case, it is far better to be safe than sorry.
While cats are technically susceptible to the same symptoms as dogs, they rarely bother Bufo Toads. In my twenty-two year career, I have yet to see a case of toad venom toxicity in a cat. Canine counterparts, take note - it really isn’t worth it.
While many situations can lead to heatstroke in pets, many lose their lives to heat exhaustion while inside a locked car. Although outdoor temperatures can feel perfectly safe, this by no means suggests similar temperatures of a car’s interior. In fact, a Stanford University study showed the temperature inside a car on a 70 degree day spiking to over 104 degrees in just under 30 minutes.
And while many pet owners are happy to leave the engine and the air conditioner running, in places like South Florida, this is often not enough. While there are currently no organizations that track the number of pets who die in this manner, educated guesses range from the low hundreds to well into the thousands every year.
In fact it’s such a problem, that a colleague in North Carolina, Dr. Ernie Ward, locked himself in a hot car for 30 minutes and documented his physical and psychological responses to make his point.
Dogs love to go for rides in the car. But don’t let a momentary impulse turn into a lifetime of regret. If you must have your pet in the car with you, tie a ribbon around the steering wheel and another on the door handle to remind yourself they are there.
Tie another one around your wrist. Set alarms on your phone for every five minutes. Check your rear view mirrors constantly. Place something you know you won’t forget (purse, cell phone, wallet, etc.) in the back seat next to your pet.
Parents know how handy an extra mirror can be - pet parents should use them as well. To be extra safe, a professionally installed chime reminds you to check the car for your pet - and relentlessly blasts the car’s horn if you forget.
Summers can be hectic, but a little due diligence and forward planning can help the entire family get the most from the dog days of summer.
Dr. Kupkee is the lead practitioner at Sabal Chase Animal Clinic.