why dr. ernie ward loves - and dreads - warmer weather

Posted by Dr. Ernie Ward on May 05 2014

At long last my thermometer has abandoned the lower latitudes of the thirties and risen above to warmer climes. My pre-dawn runs now start at a balmy 75°. The shivers of March are long forgotten and playful evenings in the surf are ahead. As an active person, I love spring and summer. As a veterinarian, I also dread warm weather.

Let me explain. I’m an outdoor enthusiast. I run, bike, swim, surf, paddle, boat, dive -- you name it, I love it and do it nearly every day (albeit earlier than most folks). Much of the time you'll find one (or both) of our dogs accompanying us during our warm weather excursions. Warm weather is good for Ward family activities.

Now for the bad news. Spring and summer can also present unique dangers for your pet. Why? It's as simple as my Three P's -- Pests, Peaks and Prowlers.

Once the temps reach about 75°F, mosquitoes get happy. All they require is a little standing water and, voila, bazillions of babies! “Skeeters,” as they’re affectionately known where I reside, carry all sorts of nasty diseases. For dogs, cats, and ferrets that means heartworm disease. One tiny bite and your cat now has a fatal, incurable disease. Dogs fare a little better in that we can treat their heartworm disease but it's expensive and not without risks.

I recommend you give your dog a chewable tablet each month that prevents heartworm disease and fleas and your cat a similar product. Speaking of fleas, the number one reason veterinarians will see your dog or cat from May to September is for skin problems. The number one cause of skin issues in dogs and cats? You guessed it -- fleas. Do your pet a favor and save some money by asking your vet for the best and safest flea preventives. Heartworm/flea combo meds are typically cheaper in the long run and are my preference for most of my patients. I also believe that oral preventives are safer for your pet, your family, and the environment.

During peak temperature days, I always see a few cases of heat stroke/hyperthermia. Once it gets above 85°F, take it easy when outdoors with your pets. Dogs and cats can’t sweat; they cool down through panting. They’re simply not as well-equipped to handle activities in hot, humid weather as we are. Take your walks (or runs) early (early) in the morning as I do. And never, ever, EVER leave your pet in a parked car. (I locked myself in a car to find out how hot it got. Really hot. Fast.)

Don't forget that warm weather often leads to afternoon thunder so start easing any thunderstorm phobia now. I love Thundershirts, Composure, and DAP among natural anti-anxiety remedies and good old fashioned desensitization therapy for my patients with thunderstorm fears. In severe cases, talk to your vet about prescription medications.

Full moon, a warm summer night, and the lure of a fresh breeze. Can you blame a pet for wanting to wander about? Even if you keep your pet at home, other animals may prowl about spreading infection or causing injury. I see the highest incidence of automobile trauma, fights and bite wounds, unwanted pregnancies, poisonings and infectious diseases during warm months. Do your veterinarian a favor and keep an eye on your pet, use a leash, and be safe from the dangers lurking outside.

I love warm weather. Help me love it more by keeping your pet safe and healthy as you enjoy the outdoors this year!