Summer in Chicago brings us outdoor festivals, barbeques in the backyard, crowded bike and jogging paths, lake picnics, movies in the park, beer gardens, and sidewalk restaurant eating. And what better way to accessorize our fun outdoor activities than to take along our beloved canine friends. In theory, bringing our dogs with us is a wonderful idea, but there are some dangers and cautions all pet owners should heed to avoid injuries and accidents.
- The Hot Heat
Dogs are not designed to take the heat, even for a short time. Bring a portable dog bowl and fresh water wherever you go. You can’t depend on communal dog bowls or kindly strangers. Be extra careful with larger, long-haired dogs. If they begin to show signs of lethargy, heavy panting, or do not seem themselves, leave immediately and get them to a cool place with water.
Even friendly, extroverted dogs may not make party animals. Know your dog’s fears and insecurities. Loud music, crowds, being cramped under a table, other dogs running around with and without leashes, strangers coming up to pet your dog…these scenarios can provoke unexpected responses. If your dog is not happy, give up the prime parking spot you nabbed, forfeit the ticket you just purchased, and leave immediately.
- Dogs Everywhere
If you thought of bringing your dog, everyone else probably did too. Make sure someone else’s fearful or aggressive dog doesn’t take its frustrations out on your well-behaved dog. Keep your dog away from others unless you get a verbal cue from the owner that it’s okay to mix, and even then, be careful. If you see signs of anxiety—some hackles raised, teeth bared under the smile—move on. Dog-fight wounds are one of the most common reasons we see animals on emergency.
- Leftover Food and Drinks
Milkshake cups, cheese fries, half-discarded sandwiches, cups of tossed-away beer and wine, cigarette butts, and other trash may tempt your dog. Take your eye off your dog for one second, and you may be bringing Bowser to the ER later with severe diarrhea and vomiting, and possibly pancreatitis. I cannot tell you how many marijuana toxicities via brownies we see at the clinic. Side note: Remember that secondhand smoke of any kind can be enough to severely affect your dog.
- Leaving Your Dog Unattended (Just for a Second)
Whether you have to run to the Porta-Potti, grab a hotdog at the concession stand, or quickly get some sunscreen at the drug store, DO NOT LEAVE YOUR DOG UNATTENDED. Similarly: NEVER LEAVE YOUR DOG IN THE CAR. We’ve all seen videos online of people smashing car windows to rescue dogs with heat stroke. And it only takes one loud crack of thunder to set off your dog, one curious toddler to walk up and undo a leash, or one person to set down their beer for a disaster to happen.
Some establishments and public places do not want you to bring your dog with you, either for legal reasons or because they want to respect non-dog people. In places where dogs are allowed, there are plenty of kids and adults who see a dog and veer away. Don’t allow your dog to wander, even if on leash, and make others feel uncomfortable.
- Hotbeds of Disease
We all depend on the dog community to vaccinate their dogs to avoid transmitting disease and infections. Some vaccinations, such as rabies, are legally mandated, and other help provide herd immunity for dogs in Chicago. We had breakouts of leptospirosis last year despite it being cheap to vaccinate against. Everyone remembers the canine influenza outbreak that swept through Chicago earlier this year, and although there isn’t a vaccine for the strain that affected the area, it’s still important to keep your dog away from others animals that may be sick.
I wish you a happy summer, and we will see you at your next wellness exam.
—Brett Grossman, DVM