Dog Smarts: Outside Safety

The weather keeps getting better as we edge toward the back half of summer. And while kids are thinking about school, dogs are thinking about getting outside.

So, we thought we’d reach out to our old friend, Dr. Ed Migneco, to learn more about how best to enjoy the great outdoors with our best buddies.

Dr. Edward Migneco of Hillside Animal Clinic

Dr. Migneco has a passion for rescue work and the homeless pet community. That’s why Hillside Animal Hospital has made helping these pets a critical part of their practice which keeps six veterinarians busy, including Dr. Ed’s daughter and daughter-in-law Anna and Erin, respectively.

Together they work hand-in-hand with numerous rescue organizations throughout the city. Some of those include: Gateway Pet Guardians, Tenth Life Cat Rescue, Five Acres Animal Shelter, and The Feral Companion.

Hillside also works with P.A.W.S. (Pets Are Wonderful Support), an initiative of St. Louis Efforts for AIDS. P.A.W.S. provides resources to people living with HIV/AIDS so they can keep pet companions as long as possible.

Our entire cage-free canine community appreciates their commitment and contributions. And we’re lucky to have Dr. Ed help us with some important questions about getting out and about.

Here goes:

Dr. Ed, what flea/tick preventative do you recommend?  Are there any you specifically don’t recommend?

I really recommend NexGard. It is a once a month chewable product which is effective against fleas and ticks. It is very similar to Bravecto (once every 3 months) or Simparica (once a month). The differences lie in the safety profiles for the products. NexGard is labeled for use in younger and smaller dogs or pups. All are good products though. For once a month topical products I recommend Frontline Gold. I think it is the best of the topical


From what you have seen, relative to previous years, how are the fleas & ticks this year?

So far this year, the ticks are bad. From the hiking that I have done myself, I am finding a lot of ticks. Be prepared for yourself and your pet. The fleas seem to be getting a later start, but we are starting to see some bad cases at the clinic.


Are there any tick-born diseases that people should be on the lookout for?  What are the symptoms?

For the dogs, we want to be aware of Erlichiosis, which can cause anemia (low red blood cell counts), low protein, and bleeding issues. Of course Lyme disease is a concern still, and the dogs will present with a shifting leg lameness (a different lame leg each day) and especially kidney issues which are harder for owners to see outright. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is another that can cause fever, bleeding issues, anorexia, depression. Basically if an owner finds ticks and your dog is not acting right in any way come see your veterinarian. For any unexplained illness or symptoms, see your vet.


If your dog has fleas, what steps should you take to get rid of them on your dog and in your home?

With the new once-a-month flea products, you should be able to clear your pet

and home of fleas with 3 consecutive months of treatment of ALL animals in the house. The products, by lasting for 30 days, will kill all fleas on the pets, and then kill any more fleas that are hatching in the environment, before they have a chance to lay more eggs.

NexGard comes with just such a guarantee. If you treat all the animals in the house for 3 straight months and still are finding fleas, then they will pay for another treatment, or pay to have Terminix come to your house.


Are there any particular concerns (illness, parasites, etc) with taking your dog swimming in lakes or rivers?

The biggest concern about swimming dogs Is a bacterial disease called

Leptospirosis. It comes from the urine of affected livestock, deer and rodents. It can cause severe liver and kidney damage and even death. And it is potentially transmissible to people from your pets if infected. It is a very serious concern for pets and humans.

Fortunately, there is a very good vaccine available now. We are starting to recommend it for all dogs. I really believe that within the next couple of years it will be considered a “Core” vaccine just like Distemper/parvo and Rabies.

We used to think that just rural dogs or those dogs that went camping or hiking were the most susceptible. But recent studies indicate that urban pets are probably just as at risk.


Are there breeds that you should not take swimming for safety reasons?

Just use common sense when it comes to water safety. If your dog has never

been around the water, don’t overdo it or throw them into the deep end of the pool or the lake. Of course, certain breeds such as bulldogs, pugs, pekes, and those with breathing issues at rest are going to have a lot harder time breathing while swimming.

Again, just use common sense.


With a lot of backyard BBQ’s going on, are there any specific foods that people need to make sure they keep away from their dogs?

For the most part, I would avoid feeding your dogs much barbequed meat. It really is the fat that can cause the most issue. A large fatty meal or a lot of meat could trigger an episode of pancreatitis.

The pancreas becomes inflamed, and it is very painful and nauseating.  To be honest, vegetables are not a big concern, although we have taken a lot of corn cobs out of dogs as they cannot pass through and become lodged in the intestines.


What general guidelines can you offer for safe activity for your dog during these hot months?

The same general rules apply to dogs as it does to humans during the hot times. Don’t overdo it. Try to remember that since dogs don’t sweat like humans, they are not as efficient at getting rid of body heat.

They can overheat faster than humans. They can only pant so they need access to water at all times. And dogs with black fur are going to absorb a lot more heat just like if you wear dark clothes in the sun.

And PLEASE never let your dog stay in a locked car during the hot days for any length of time at all.


If you think your dog has overheated, what should you do?

If you suspect your dog is overheated, obviously take him into the shade or, better yet, into the AC.

We want to slowly reduce their body temperature. Wrapping them in wet towels is better than rinsing them with the hose. It is possible to have their temperature drop too far when cooling off a hyperthermic pet. Do not be in a super hurry to lower their temperature. Just being out of the heat will help tremendously.