Simple solutions to keep your animals safe and sound this summer

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 March, 2010, 12:00am

Some days you accidentally lock yourself out of your flat. Or you completely forget it's your best friend's birthday. The consequences might be annoying, but they won't cause any serious harm. But carelessness when you're responsible for an animal can result in anything from a toe amputation to death. Dr Kylie Griffin, of the Ark Veterinary Clinic, highlights animal accidents that can be prevented.

Definite don'ts

For the average dog, the escalator can be a terrifying toe-grinding machine. In the past six months, Griffin has treated three dogs whose toes have been caught in the teeth of an escalator. 'You shouldn't take a dog on an escalator, you can't expect the dog to understand and jump off,' she says. 'Dogs lose toes and their pads get shredded - it's dangerous. It's like putting them in a meat grinder.'

Another danger is heatstroke. With the weather warming up, dog owners need to be aware of the increasing hot weather. Griffin sees about one or two dogs die a year from this life-threatening condition. Don't take your dog out for a long walk in the hot hours of the day, she says. And, whenever you go for a walk, remember to take water for the dog. 'When some breeds are hot they will sit down and not move, then others are happy to keep running and fetching a ball, clueless they are getting too hot.'

Griffin says Chow Chows are especially vulnerable to the heat since they are usually overweight and have thick coats. For signs of distress and heatstroke, your dog may start panting heavily, its eyes glaze over and it stops paying attention.

Other symptoms may include an unusually pink tongue and gums that have turned bright red, or even purple. The first thing to do, advises Griffin, is to stop walking and give your dog some water. Then, if your over-heated dog isn't settling after five to 10 minutes, immediately take it to the veterinarian. 'Don't make your dog walk, carry it to a taxi,' Griffin says. Other preventable heat-related no-nos are locking dogs in a car. While the outside temperature could be 27 degrees, the inside of a car could soar to 40 degrees, essentially cooking the dog.

Dog owners beware

Last month, the Bowen Road dog poisoner struck again. With more than 100 dogs becoming fatal victims of this elusive killer since 1989, the latest dog to be poisoned was, luckily, saved under Griffin's care. 'I wouldn't risk walking my dog on Bowen Road, but if you are - stop walking your dog off the leash. And if you have a dog that likes to eat [things off the ground], then put a muzzle on it.'

If your dog accidentally eats something that has been laced with poison, Griffin says, they will start to become wobbly in about 15-30 minutes. It will then have difficulty walking and start to salivate and have diarrhoea. Eventually, it will start to tremble, shake and have a seizure. Again, if you notice these signs, pick up your dog, carry it to a taxi and immediately take it to your veterinarian. On the way, it's best to warn the veterinarian that you are coming, and mention you were around Bowen Road, or Black's Link, which is also known as a target area. Another life-saving tip is to prevent your dog from drinking from streams or stagnant water.

Every year in Hong Kong, dogs are infected with leptospirosis, a bacterial infection that can cause fever, not eating, vomiting, dehydration, no urination, and possible lung problems. Acute kidney failure is common, and sometimes death. If your dog contracts the infection (it's less common in cats), an early warning sign is lack of appetite after seven days.

Mistaken identity

As more spot-on flea and tick products are hitting the shelves, Griffin says many cat owners are accidently applying dog products on cats, with fatal consequences. Griffin says, 'cats aren't dogs, so don't assume anything you can buy off the shelf is OK for your pet.'