Pet answers: pets in the great outdoors

Don’t settle for pet theories, get pet answers! Veterinary surgeon Holly Norman answers your animal health questions

I’m taking my dog to the beach and she loves playing in the sea. But I heard that too much seawater can be bad for them?

My dogs love playing on the beach too! There’s nothing better than watching them splashing in the sea and running along the sand. However, there are a few dangers to watch out for.

Drinking too much sea water can cause a serious build up of salt within the body, and this can lead to dehydration, disorientation and, in severe cases, even seizures and death. Dogs can also end up eating too much sand at the beach which can block their intestines and require surgery.

But these are rare conditions and they’re usually caused by overdoing it. Too much swimming or repeatedly throwing toys/balls in the sea or onto the sand can mean that dogs take in lots of water and sand. I always tell owners to treat their dogs at the beach like they would their children! Short bursts of exercise with lots of breaks in the shade and plenty of fresh drinking water. Dogs can also fall foul of strong currents at the beach so wherever possible make sure you research tide times and potential danger areas, such as near rocks.

Signs of salt water poisoning include a reluctance to eat or drink and they may vomit or have diarrhoea. They may appear confused or not themselves and signs can appear hours after returning from the beach. If you are worried that your dog may be showing any symptoms, please contact your local vet practice. They will be able to do a blood test to check the salt level in your dog’s blood and if necessary, administer intravenous fluids and medications to flush the excess salt out.

My cat absolutely hates travelling in the car and miaows all the time! Is there anything I can do to keep him calm?

Oh dear! This is a very common question we are asked at the practice. Cats only seem to get put in their carriers and the car to either go to the vets or to the cattery and because these visits are generally quite infrequent, it’s no wonder that they find it all quite stressful! First job is to make the carrier a fun place to be. Leave it out in an inconspicuous place with a cuddly blanket inside and every so often throw a few of your cat’s favourite treats or a new toy inside. Let’s transform that carrier from ‘sin bin’ to ‘safe space’. Then when you are actually in the car, spray a familiar blanket with a pheromone spray and drape it over the carrier. These pheromone sprays are designed to be super relaxing and calming and if you are on a long journey, you can just refresh the blanket with a couple of sprays whenever you have a break.  And if you are still having problems, have a chat with your vet. There’s lots of help out there to ensure that your cat can have a relaxing journey, from supplements to the stronger medications for those that need something a bit stronger.

My dog has developed a swelling between her toes and after doing some research, I’m worried that it might be a grass seed…

Ah yes, that would definitely be on my list of possible causes at this time of year. Grass seeds have this awful barbed shape to them that makes them stick to fur, particularly between toes or under the forelimbs. Then the barbed shape (like an arrow head) means that that they work their way into the skin and deeper. They can also end up in ears, mouths or absolutely anywhere! Typically, you’ll see a rounded reddish swelling between your dogs toes a day or so after your walk. You may even be able to see an entry wound. I’m afraid that you will have to take your dog to the vets and get them to give her a full examination. If there is the possibility of a grass seed still being present, they may need to give her a sedative and try and remove it before it tracks deeper into her body. There have been reports of grass seeds ending up in dogs’ lungs, behind eyes or even their spines. The good news is that you’ve caught this one very quickly. During the summer season, we’ll see lots of these cases and thankfully they are quickly resolved once we’ve got the grass seed out.

Do you have a pet or animal health question? Send it to us at: Holly will endeavour to answer all questions, whether published or not!

Dr Holly Norman BSc (Hons) BVetMed MRCVS, veterinary surgeon and practice partner at:

Peterborough Vets4Pets
231-233 St Paul’s Road
Tel: 01733 890777

Bretton Vets4Pets
Inside Pets at Home
Unit 2 The Bretton Centre
Peterborough, PE3 8DN
Tel: 01733 261094

Photo by Wade Lambert on Unsplash

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