By Ann Hohenhaus, DVM
As I was happily packing to go on vacation, the jaunty tune from the first act of Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, “A Weekend in the Country,” popped into my head. As I loaded the bug spray and sunscreen into the bags, my mind switched from the pleasures of country life to the pet dangers of the great outdoors. I have already written about some of them this summer: ticks, heat, allergies, and sand impaction.
This week, I am thinking about injuries to my patients who are “weekend warriors.” During the week, New York City dogs walk on leashes, but on a weekend in the country, they frequent the beach, the woods, or their big backyard and often run free.
A trip to the ER
Last weekend, Cotton did just that. While zipping around in his backyard, this fluffy white dog got caught on a nail sticking out of a fence. The animal ER cleaned up the wound and put him back together with a few shiny staples. Unlike us humans, dogs are quite resistant to tetanus-causing bacteria, so he did not need a tetanus shot.
Too much fun
Willie the standard poodle likes the weekend because he can play with his big dog friends who live near his country house. But late Sunday night, Willie’s family sent an email asking for a Monday morning appointment because Willie was limping on one of his front legs. Since he had been playing with other dogs, I was worried the cause of the lameness might be a bite injury, a pulled muscle, or torn ligaments. After a good session of poking and prodding, we decided no major damage had been done and he went home for rest and the doggie version of Advil®. By mid-week, Willie was back on his feet and ready for another play-date.
Harry and Lucy, a pair of Jack Russell terriers, win the prize for being the sickest after their weekend in the country. Their weekend property lies in a very rural area. Last weekend in the woods, they found a carcass of an animal less fortunate than themselves, and made it their afternoon snack. Although this mystery meat was tasty going down, it soon came back up and landed them in the hospital suffering from the two D’s – dehydration and diarrhea.
Set pet limits
Many, but not all, weekend injuries can be avoided by setting limits for your pet’s weekend activities. Supervise your pet when she is outside to make sure she does not eat trash or other nasties. Doggie play dates are fine, but don’t let your dog play too rough or too hard and make sure the other dogs are well socialized to prevent bite-related injuries. Finally, check around your property for objects which might cause an injury to your pet so everyone has relaxing a weekend in the country.