Dogs like to cool off in the ocean but keep them from drinking salt water. Photo: C. Leinbach

Summer heat is upon us and Ocracoke Island veterinarian Dr. Laura Trent offers the following advice regarding dogs visiting Ocracoke.

Beach hazards:
Hot sand and hot streets burn dogs’ paw pads. If it is too hot for you going bare foot, it’s too hot for them.

Don’t let dogs drink salt water. Salt can draw all of the fluid into their guts, and they could develop diarrhea and become severely dehydrated.

Sand gets into dogs’ digestive tracts and can cause blockage. If a large quantity is ingested, it’s a surgical emergency, but bread can work like a broom to get small amounts of sand out. Feed them bread, especially whole wheat, which will collect the sand and take it out via feces.

Keep them cool: Dogs don’t sweat and any temperature above 80 degrees is hard on dogs. The only way dogs cool off is by panting and somewhat through their pads, Trent said. The best practice is not to leave dogs outside in the heat, including the beach, which, because of the reflective sand, can be even hotter than the village. “Also, a doghouse in the summer is not shade. It’s an oven,” says Roanoke Island Animal Clinic.

Signs of heat exhaustion: Watch for excess panting, lethargy, inattention. If a dog is really dehydrated, the eyes will appear to be soft and when you pinch the skin, it will not slide back down fast.

Dogs can get sunburned, especially white dogs. Light colored noses are especially vulnerable. It’s OK to put a small amount of sunscreen on them. Allow it to absorb, then wipe off excess.

Cool water: Make sure your dog has cool fresh water. If it’s tepid or hot the dog won’t want to drink it. “They like the water to be cooler, too,” Trent says.  Ice cubes are good. Teach puppies to eat ice cubes and they’ll always have a means of ingesting something cool.

Random eats: Please don’t leave bait on your fishhooks. “I take a lot of fishhooks out of pets and Ocracats,” Trent says. “Even if it’s just a smidgen (of leftover fish), a cat will try to get it.”

Don’t let them lick the grease off grills or sand.

If your dog needs specialty food, remember to bring it along. “I don’t have room to carry much of anything here,” Trent says. 1-800-Petmeds can deliver in one or two days.

Dogs on golf carts: Don’t let them stand on the back seat of golf carts. “I’ve had quite a few where they took the corners too fast, and the dog just went skittering off,” Trent says. If the seat can flip down for a flat surface, the dog will have more traction.

Leashes: Dogs are best on leashes because of the density of dogs in the summertime here as well as the narrow roads and lack of sidewalks.

Prickly things: Don’t let your dog walk on oyster shells as the shell edges can slice their pads; and if your dog is limping, check for sand spurs, which are all over the island.

Vaccinations: Make sure they’re vaccinated, especially against distemper, which can kill a pet quickly. Trent also recommends leptospirosis vaccine, which combats the disease dogs can get drinking contaminated puddle water. Vaccination against Lyme disease is also recommended, as ticks live in the grasses bordering forests, including our nature trails.

Don’t feed the Ocracats (community homeless cats) no matter how much they meow, as they are well fed, and some receive special food and meds.

In the summer, dogs enjoy the beach when walking on the cool wet sand. Photo: P. Vankevich