Digestibility and dog food

Have you ever compared two equal size bags of dog food and assumed the less expensive one is a better value?

Although we all love our dogs and want to feed them quality food, it’s reasonable to be cost conscious.  Learn a bit about pet food nutrition and you’ll know how to get the most for your money.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll share some important nutrition information so you can make better pet food buying decisions.

Here’s the first tidbit… digestibility.  It’s one of many important factors in determining nutritional value. Digestibility is the portion of nutrients in the food absorbed from the digestive tract into the bloodstream.

It’s basically what your dog’s body uses.  And it’s important in determining if that “super premium” dog food you’re paying for is worth the extra money.

Unfortunately, it’s often difficult to find out a food’s digestibility.

Most reputable food manufacturers do digestibility studies but the Association of American Feed Control Officials—they set the standards for what goes into pet food—doesn’t allow digestibility claims on pet food labels.

You may get the information from the manufacturer’s website or by calling them. But it’s important to know there is no standard for digestibility testing.  So if you’re looking at several foods, you could be comparing apples to oranges.

Usually, pet food makers calculate digestibility using feeding trials. What’s a feeding trial, you ask?

It’s pretty simple, really. It’s the measure of input vs. output. They feed their food to several dogs and measure what comes out. This is the undigested part… the part the body can’t use. There’s a little more science to it, but that’s the gist.

Dog’s that eat low quality food with a low percentage of digestibility will have larger more frequent poops. On this kind of diet, the body isn’t able to use a lot of what goes in so the dog poops it out.

Calculating digestibility

Let’s see how the math works. If a dog eats 300 grams (about 3 cups) of food per day and poops 50 grams of poop per day, the dog is absorbing 250 grams of the food. The food is 83% digestible and 17% waste. For simplicity sake, this doesn’t account for water.

250 grams/300 grams X 100% = 83% digestible

If you can get digestibility data, select a food that has a digestibility of 80% or better. Less than that, and you’re paying for a lot of filler and low quality ingredients with no nutritional value.

Factors that affect digestibility

Digestibility comes down to three things:

Formula – the type and quantity of ingredients influences digestibility – protein vs. fiber – fiber isn’t digestible

Ingredient quality – high quality ingredients are more digestible than low quality ingredients – protein from byproducts like beaks and bones is less digestible than protein from actual meat

Processing – cooking temperatures and storage procedures can impact digestibility – excessive heat damages protein and decreases digestibility

Signs of digestibility

If your dog is eating a highly digestible diet, their poops will be formed, regular and consistent. They will seem normal in volume… not too big, not too frequent. They will not contain mucus, blood or anything recognizable.

If your dog is excessively gassy, and consistently has loose stools or diarrhea, it’s possible their diet isn’t very digestible.

But understand that no food will be 100% digestible. In fact, the digestive system needs some indigestible material like fiber to pass through it.

Not to mention dogs on a weight-loss diet… they need a food with some lower digestibility ingredients because fiber makes them feel full.

Some other health conditions could call for low digestible ingredients as well. With this in mind, there should still be mostly high quality highly digestible ingredients in your pet’s food.

Here’s another indicator of digestibility. When comparing two foods, look at the recommended feeding amount. Does one recommend that you feed your dog substantially more than the other to support healthy body weight?

That could be a sign that the food isn’t highly digestible making it necessary for your dog to eat more to get the nutrition it needs. Suddenly your less expensive food is more expensive in the long run because you’ll be buying a lot more of it.

Do you consider digestibility when you choose a dog food? Share your comments at the top.

Are your dogs suffering from “sibling rivalry”?

This week, my sister’s dogs inspired me to write about a behavior issue. Her dogs suffer from sibling rivalry—or dominance status aggression.

My sister’s dogs are bundles of sweetness. And if you saw them curled up together on their bed, spooning like lovers, you would never guess they’ve had some brutal fights.

Although this doesn’t seem like a health topic, it is. A dog fight can seriously injure your pets, and you.

Dominance status aggression (DSA) is a broad topic. It’s a form of aggression that can show itself in many ways. But I’ll only cover one type of DSA in this article.

I’m talking about two dogs that have lived together for a while and generally get along well, but occasionally have an all-out brawl. One dog is consistently the aggressor. And the aggression usually takes place when you’re around.

I’m not talking about dominance aggression that exists between dog and owner, or two strange dogs, or dog and strange person. Those are topics for another time.

This week I’m only talking about your dogs that can be best friends one minute, and fierce enemies the next. Or so it seems.

Why do dogs that seem to love each other fight?

There is so much about animal behavior to understand before you can fix a dangerous problem. I won’t cover it all here.

But I can share enough information to help you see the problem and hopefully get the help you need to fix it. Or maybe even fix it on your own.

One thing you probably know about dogs is they’re related to wolves and they have the same pack mentality as their wild ancestors. It’s essential to the survival of the wild pack animal to have a social hierarchy.

The same holds true in a multi-dog household. If you own more than one dog, one of them will be dominant (the alpha). Depending on your dogs, it may be obvious to you which dog it is, but not always. Some dogs need to be clearly dominant. Others don’t.

You must recognize the dominant dog’s role in the pack to understand and accept your role in the problem.

That’s right. Your dogs will fight if you have somehow muddied the relationship between them. And I will tell you that even the most dedicated, loving and well-intentioned dog owner can inadvertently create tension between their dogs.

How does this happen? It’s simple. We as humans have a preconceived idea which of our dogs should be the pack leader.

It’s the dog we had first, the oldest dog in the house, the one who’s most frail, or the one we’re simply more attached to.

But dogs have their own way of working this out. Which dog will be dominant is based on several factors including sex, age, health, and personality. The dogs will decide for themselves who is the alpha dog or pack leader.

It’s instinctual. Nothing you do can change this. Imposing your own ideas of what is fair will only confuse your dogs.

So if you are continually yelling at the alpha in your house because he’s taking toys or snarling at the other dog, you are confusing both of them and their social hierarchy.

This creates friction between the dogs… especially when you’re around. If your dogs are exhibiting dominance status aggression, you will notice it mostly happens when you are there. When you aren’t home, they probably don’t fight.

If you are giving your old, frail or favored dog the most attention and the best treats and toys regardless of his status in the pack, you’re encouraging the true alpha to put the less dominant dog in its place. You’re encouraging a fight.

If you then yell, scold or punish the offender for fighting, you’re perpetuating the problem.

Dominance status aggression can also come out of nowhere when a young subordinate dog becomes socially mature or a previously dominant dog gets sick or old. In this situation, the social hierarchy changes.  There can be scuffles if the owner doesn’t recognize the change and favors the now subordinate dog.

How can you diffuse the tension?

The solution to this problem is difficult for most owners to implement. But it’s essential you try.

You must favor the dominant dog whether it’s the dog you think should be dominant or not. Favoring the alpha means, they get the coveted toys. They walk out the door first (before subordinate dog). They get the best spot (closest to you) on the couch or bed.

If dominant dog has to sit for his food, subordinate has to work harder. He has to sit and wait for a moment before he gets to eat.

I can tell you from my experience it’s so difficult to do this when you have an older dog that’s been in your family for years and you bring a new dog into the mix.

My female Lab was 10 years old when we rescued our 5-year-old male Greyhound. He came in to our home like Simba in The Lion King.  He was big, confident, and healthy.  She was not. Logically, he was the alpha.  But she was so special to me.

I couldn’t resist giving her more attention than him at first. He confused her. She was afraid of his quick movements. She was old and didn’t walk so well. And he would push her out of the way every time she came near me.

That made me angry and made me want to shower her with even more attention. I did. And it caused problems. They fought… and it was my fault.

You must resist the urge to control the pack order. Let the dogs decide who the alpha is and support that dog’s position in the pack.

Favor the subordinate dog when the alpha’s not around. Take subordinate dog out of the house and lavish attention on her then. Or give her extra attention when alpha dog is playing outside, and she’s in the house. There are ways to make her still feel equally (or more loved) without the alpha feeling their position is being threatened.

And if a fight breaks out, leave the room because you are the fuel. Once you’re gone, the reason to fight has gone.

And never, ever punish or yell at either dog for the conflict. This will only confuse them more.

If one or both of the dogs are intact, spaying or neutering can ease the tension too. Raging hormones are no help if your dogs are showing any signs of aggression.

Of course, you are always the supreme leader of the pack. All canine members of the household must know that. If you maintain your position as leader, you will give the alpha dog the messages he needs to lead the canine pack.

You maintain your alpha role by training your dog to obey basic commands and being consistent in your expectations of their behavior. They should work for what you give them meaning they must respond to a command before they eat, go outside, get attention, get a treat.

It does NOT mean you hit them, yell at them, or roll them on their backs to get them to submit.

It may be very difficult at first to implement these suggestions. But sending a clear message to both of your dogs who the alpha is will allow for peaceful coexistence.

Otherwise, the tension caused by your dogs’ confusion will continue to result in fighting. And when dogs get used to a behavior, good or bad, it becomes more difficult to change the behavior. You’ll find that the severity of the fights will also escalate.

Change your behavior and you will see very quickly how it changes your dogs’ behavior.

If these suggestions aren’t working or you find the fighting is escalating, talk to your vet for a referral to an animal behaviorist who can help.

Also, there could be something else going on. Many things can trigger aggression, not the least of which is illness. So don’t ignore an aggression problem.

Have you ever experienced dominance status aggression with your dogs?  Tell us how you worked it out in the comment section at the top.

Boarding your pet… what you need to know

Summer is the time we like to travel. Maybe a vacation, a family reunion, or a college-scouting trip is the impetus.

Whether it’s a quick weekend getaway or a summer excursion across or out of the country, it may not be possible to take our four-legged family members with us.

But leaving our pets behind can cause us great angst. Unless you have someone you trust to take care of your pet, finding the right boarding situation can leave you anxious, worried and guilt-ridden.

Our pets are our family and we want them to be safe and happy when we’re away. So how can we be sure they’re enjoying their time when we’re away?

Pet sitter or kennel?

First, consider your pet’s health. Are they well enough to leave home to be boarded or would it be best to hire a pet sitter come to you?

Older and infirm pets often have a hard time with change. A loud boarding facility without the comforts of home may be hard on them.

If your pet has special needs or suffers from separation anxiety, keeping them in their home environment may be a better idea than a kennel.

A pet sitter has its downsides too though. It’s often a more expensive choice than boarding.

And a pet sitter may leave your pet for long periods. If your pet is used to having someone at home most of the day, this can cause distress.

I’ve used a pet sitter many times. It was a person I genuinely trusted. They were great with my dogs but I realized they were leaving the dogs alone for long stretches. The dogs did damage. One time they chewed a rug—and they’re never destructive.

You can’t be sure the sitter is at your home with your pet the hours they say they are. But you’ll see the signs of anxiety when you get home if they’re not.

If your pet is well-adjusted and likes interaction with other animals, there are many great boarding options. A kennel can be a fun and stimulating vacation for your pet if you do your homework and find the right one.

Finding a quality kennel

If you want to board your pet at a kennel, you need to do a little homework and preparation long before your trip.

Gather names of reputable kennels.  Ask your vet for a recommendation. They’ll know the reputation of local boarding facilities.

Once you’ve compiled a list of names, stop in to visit them. Any quality kennel will be happy to give you a tour of the premises. If the staff isn’t interested in showing you around, leave.

Things to look for

In some states you need a permit to operate a kennel and inspections may also be required. But many states have no requirements. If inspections are required where you live, be sure the kennel displays the certificate showing they meet the mandated standards.

While you’re touring the facility, ask to see all the places your pet will be. Here’s what to take note of:

Clean environment, clean smell – free of waste and urine

Good ventilation and light

Comfortable temperature – cool in the summer, warm in the winter

Knowledgeable and caring staff

Sizable individual runs – indoor only, or indoor/outdoor

Outdoor exercise areas protected from the elements

Dog beds that allow for rest off the concrete

Separate housing areas for cats and dogs

Enough space for cats to move around

Ample space between litter box and food dish

Fencing is safe – no broken fencing, jagged edges or bent wires

Boarded pets should not be wearing collars – strangulation danger

Animals should have water

Animals should appear content, not stressed

Things to ask

You will want to be sure you understand everything about the care your pet will receive when you’re away.  That includes information regarding your pet’s diet, interaction with people and other pets, exercise, and emergency medical treatment during their stay at the kennel. Get the answers you need.

And what about how many animals each staff person is responsible for?  The staff to animal ratio is important too. More than 10 animals per staff member means your pet may not get the attention you’re hoping for. Ask what the ratio is.

Most kennels aren’t staffed 24 hours. So ask if someone checks in on the animals at night. And find out their drop off and pick up hours.

Here are other things you’ll want to know:

What vaccines are required?

How often are pets fed?

Can you bring your pet’s food?

How often are pets exercised?

Are pets walked or let out in an exercise area?

Do dogs play together or are they separated by age, size, etc.?

Does the daily rate include playtime and how much playtime?

Do they provide toys or can you bring your own?

If your dog requires daily walks, can they accommodate that?

If your pet takes meds, is there an extra charge to administer those?

How are emergencies handled?

Is there a vet on call?

The answers to these questions and your gut instinct will tell you if the place is right for your pet. Does the place appear overcrowded? How about the staff? Are they friendly and attentive to the animals’ needs? Are they genuinely interested in your pet’s welfare?

Answers to these questions will either sit well with you or they won’t.  If you sense this is a safe and happy place for your pet, then it probably is.

Sometimes people feel guilty for boarding their pets. But the right kennel can mean a great vacation for them too.

And it’s better than leaving your pet alone all day and having someone come in just to feed and walk them. At a kennel, people who are trained to detect health problems are supervising and monitoring your pet. And they’ll be socializing with pets and people.

Preparing to board your pet

Before you leave your pet at a boarding facility, here are some things you should do. Be sure your pet is socialized. If your pet isn’t good with strange people or animals, they won’t do well in a kennel.

Your pet should be current on all vaccines. Check with the kennel where you’ll be boarding because they will likely require other vaccines such as Bordetella (kennel cough).

Be sure to pack up enough medication and food for the number of days you’ll be gone, plus a few extra days. You could be delayed getting home. Things happen…

When you bring your pet to the facility for boarding, be sure to give them your vet’s phone number, your number, and a phone number for a local emergency contact. And remind the staff of any behavior (fear of thunder etc.) or medical problems.

Hand your pet to the staff, say goodbye and leave. No big farewells. You don’t want to agitate your pet in any way. They’ll sense your distress if you make a big deal.

If your anxiety persists…

Keep in mind you can always have your pet do a short staycation for a night or two before you board or have a sitter stay with them for a longer period. This gives them and you a dry run. You’ll see how your pet does and if there were any problems you’d want to avoid during a longer time away.

Many boarding facilities have webcams that allow you to see your fur baby and what they’re up to while you’re gone. If you are particularly stressed about leaving your pet at a kennel, choosing one with this capability may be helpful to you.

Many pet sitters will send videos and photos as well. And you can certainly ask them to text you with updates letting you know how your beloved pet is doing.

If any concerns still linger, check with the Better Business Bureau to find out if anyone has filed a complaint against the facility you’re considering and how the kennel addressed those complaints.

If you take the time to research the kennel and do the necessary preparation ahead of your pet’s stay, you can feel confident they’ll be well cared for when you’re away.

What has your experience been with boarding your pet? Do you use a pet sitter or a boarding facility? Share at the top.





4 signs your dog has an anal gland disorder

Our dogs are adorable in so many ways. But not everything about them is cute. If your dog has chronic problems with their anal glands, you know what I mean.

Anal glands (also called anal sacs) are on each side of and slightly below the anal opening, at about 4 and 8 o’clock.


Photo courtesy of petmd.com


As you can see from the photo, a tiny duct leads from the gland under the skin, to an opening right next to the anus.

What’s truly unpleasant about your dog’s anal glands is what’s produced in them… a smelly, oily, brown fluid your dog uses to mark its territory. When they poop, this fluid is excreted with the poop through those little ducts near the anus, leaving a distinct scent.

This scent also helps dogs identify each other. When your dog meets a new dog, he may raise his tail and let the other dog get his nose right in there. It’s this fluid in the anal sac that emits a scent.

Humans don’t have anal glands. But guess who does? A skunk. And they can empty them voluntarily when they feel threatened. You know that if one has ever sprayed you.

Dogs can’t voluntarily empty their anal glands. And the glands can become impacted or clogged if the dog doesn’t completely empty them when they poop and the fluid is left to thicken.

Why some dogs aren’t able to completely empty their anal glands isn’t known for sure. It could be the dog’s anatomy, the consistency of its poop, or the thickness of the anal sac fluid.

There isn’t a breed predisposition, but it’s said that anal gland disorders often occur in smaller breeds.

Hmmm, I’ve had three Labs and two of them have had chronic anal gland problems. So know what this condition looks like no matter the size of your dog.

Here are 4 signs:

1) The butt scoot – your dog drags its tushy along your nice carpet

Your dog is trying to empty the glands by rubbing them along the ground because they’re not emptying fully when they poop.

2) A foul smell – and sometimes super stinky breath too

The fluid is fishy smelling… a smell you may have also noticed when your dog is anxious. They’ll excrete anal gland fluid in times of stress.

3) Excessive licking and/or biting the tushy – resulting in that horrible breath

If the fluid has thickened and clogged the anal ducts, they’ll try to relieve the pressure and discomfort of the impaction.

4) Pain when your dog sits or poops

Once an impaction progresses to an infection or abscess, it’s really painful.

Is this serious?

Full anal glands can be uncomfortable but rarely affect your dog’s general health. If your dog is showing any signs of an anal gland problem, see your vet.

If the glands aren’t emptied and they become impacted, bacteria can get into the fluid and result in an infection or abscess.

That’s very painful. And abscesses can leave scar tissue that affects the nerves and muscles in the area. Sometimes, this can cause fecal incontinence and that’s a big problem. No one wants their dog leaking poop around their home, so be sure not to let full anal glands get to this point.

How are anal gland disorders treated?

If your dog’s anal glands are full and/or impacted, your vet can express the fluid with their fingers. If this becomes a chronic problem, your vet can show you how to do it.

Take a look at this video for a tutorial.

… Or just have the vet do it.

Our Lab goes to the vet every 6 weeks to have her anal glands emptied. And I can usually tell when it’s time. She’ll do the butt scoot, and the smell of her crate is reminiscent of low tide.

If the anal glands become infected, you may see bloody pus oozing from the glands. Your vet can tell when they drain the sacs if there’s an infection.

An infection is treated with antibiotics. But it can progress to a swollen mass of pus (an abscess) that is very tender if you wait too long to start treatment.

Unfortunately, once an abscess has formed it has to be lanced and then treated with antibiotics and sometimes an anti-inflammatory. Warm compresses can relieve the discomfort too.

Is there any way to prevent anal gland problems?

Some say a high-fiber diet, which makes the dog’s poop bulkier can help empty the glands fully. The poop puts more pressure on the glands as it passes. But some vets say a high-fiber diet does little to fix the problem.

If your dog’s anal glands are an ongoing issue, talk to your vet. They may recommend an anal sacculectomy—surgical removal of the glands.

This is a simple procedure but it can cause fecal incontinence. Weigh the pros and cons.

Having the glands drained regularly before full glands turn into an impaction, then an infection and ultimately an abscess may be a better solution.

Most dogs will go through life never having a problem with their anal glands. If that’s your dog, leave the glands alone.

Your groomer may offer gland expression as part of their grooming service. But if the glands don’t need emptying, most vets will say don’t touch them.

Has your dog had this uncomfortable and stinky problem? Do you express the glands yourself? Tell us in the comment section at the top.





7 summer pet hazards

Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer.  So this week seemed like a good time to write about keeping our pets safe this time of year.

Summer is a great time to enjoy activities with our pets we can’t take advantage of when the weather is bad. Things like hiking, swimming, and trips to the park for family cookouts.

We also have friends and family to our homes at this time of the year for BBQs and holiday celebrations.

Although these occasions are fun for humans and our pets, they expose our pets to health risks we need to protect against.

Here are 7 hazards to look out for:

1) High-Rise Syndrome

This is one you might not have considered. People with pets living in high-rise apartment buildings are more apt to leave their windows open this time of year. That can lead to cats and small dogs falling and getting hurt… maybe even dying.

A strong prey drive can lead any pet to chase a squirrel, rabbit or other small animal they see outside. With no sense of the danger of jumping out the window, this can be deadly.

2) Heat

Heat is dangerous for our pets. It can cause dehydration, overheating, and burns to delicate paws.

Ideally, pets should be inside when it’s 90 degrees or higher. But if that’s not possible and you have an outdoor cat or dog, you must be sure they always have access to shade and fresh water.

Dark-colored pets, old pets, sick pets, overweight pets and thick-coated pets are more prone to heat stress. As are short-nosed dogs like bulldogs and pugs. They have difficulty breathing in optimal weather. The heat makes it worse.

If you exercise with your dog, be sure to do it early in the morning or in the evening. If your dog isn’t used to exercise, don’t start them on a regimen when it’s hot out.

The heat can overcome even active dogs. Long periods of physical exertion when it’s hot out are harder on your dog than they are on you and can lead to heat stroke.

Why is that? Dogs are closer to the ground and the ground is hotter than the air. And their ability to cool their bodies is not as efficient as yours.

Know the signs your dog is in trouble. A weak, lethargic, off-balance dog is a dog that’s suffering the onset of heat stroke.

If possible, wet them down with cool, not cold, water. Be sure to wet the skin and call the vet immediately.

And never, ever leave your pet in a parked car when it’s more than 65 degrees outside. The temperature can jump 40 degrees in a half hour and kill your pet.

If you have one of those pets that just has to be outside with you in the hot weather, cool them down with a hose or sprinkler. Or fill a kiddie pool with cool water and encourage them to lounge in it.

Understand it’s not just heat stroke that’s a danger though. Dehydration is a serious concern in the summer months too.

If your dog is out in the heat, be sure they are drinking frequently. Carry a portable water bowl on walks and long car rides.

Dehydration is a topic I wrote about in Dehydration in dogs and cats… not just a summer problem, back in September. It’s an even bigger problem this time of year and so important to understand. It can’t be overstated. Read that post so you know the signs.

And another concern in the summer, especially if you have a dog you walk daily, is their paws.

Concrete, asphalt, and sand can all burn those delicate tootsies. Test outdoor surfaces with the palm of your hand.  Your palm is as sensitive as your dog’s pads. If you can hold your hand on the ground for more than 10 seconds with little discomfort, it’s not likely to burn your dog’s paws.

If the ground is too hot for you to walk barefoot, it’s definitely too hot for your dog.

3) Water

When it’s hot out, a nice swim can cool you and your pet down but not all pets love the water. And contrary to popular belief, not all dogs can instinctively swim.

It takes practice for most dogs.

If you have a pool, be sure you go in the pool initially with your dog.  Show them how to get out. Practice exiting the pool several times until you are sure your dog knows how to get out on its own.

If you are taking your dog to a lake or ocean, go in the water with the dog at first to show them how to exit.

On a boat, be sure your dog has its own life jacket.  Even strong swimmers can get hurt jumping from a boat. Also if the dog tires, there’s no exit and they can panic. Attach a rope to the life jacket if your dog doesn’t respond when called so you can pull them back to you.

Rinse your dog off with clean water after swimming in a pool, lake or ocean. The chlorine and bacteria can cause skin and other health problems.

4) Poisons

The nice weather encourages time spent in our yards. Inevitably that means some gardening to spruce things up. Fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides can all be dangerous to your pets.

Be sure to keep your pets away from these chemicals until they’ve been watered into the ground.

If you do some planting in your yard, be sure any plants you choose are safe if ingested. Many common garden plants are toxic to animals.  Click here for the ASPCA’s guide to toxic plants.

And summertime is pool time! Never leave pool chemicals where your pet can get to them.

If rodents are a problem where you live, traps can be dangerous. Keep your pets away from the bait or poison in those traps. They are toxic.

If you think your pet has ingested a toxic substance, call the Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435. They will consult with you for a fee 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

5) Pests

The warm weather certainly has a way of bringing out lots of nasty critters like snakes, scorpions, bees, wasps, spiders, fleas, ticks and mosquitoes… to name a few.

Fleas, ticks and mosquitoes are not only a nuisance, they carry serious diseases.  There are lots of flea and tick preventatives on the market to protect your pet. And mosquitoes should always be kept in check because they’re a health risk to humans too.

But lots of other creatures can hurt your dog or cat.

Snakes, bee’s nests and scorpions often hide in dark areas. Dogs have a way of sticking their noses where they shouldn’t… like under foliage and inside holes in the ground.

On your property, be aware of any new holes or potential areas where bees can nest. In unfamiliar areas, keep your dog on a leash so you can control where they stick their nose.

If a snake bites your pet, call your vet immediately. Bee, wasp and scorpion stings may swell, but your pet will usually be fine. If there’s a lot of swelling or you see they’re developing a “hot spot” from scratching, call your vet.

6) BBQ Cookouts

Summer is the time to enjoy cookouts with friends and family. Whether it’s a graduation party, July 4th or a family reunion, summer is the best time to fire up the barbie. Unless you live in Arizona where the temps are north of 105 every day. Then it’s not so much fun to stand over a hot grill.

But no matter how you cook your food, it’s likely you’ll be having a few gatherings during the warmer months.

The biggest BBQ hazards for our pets are food with bones, like ribs and chicken, and corn on the cob. Those bones can perforate the intestinal tract. And the cob is not only hard to digest, it’s also a choking hazard.

For good health, table food should always be kept to a minimum but particularly fatty foods that can cause pancreatitis in dogs.

If your pet has food allergies, cookouts and party guests who indulge your pet can be a big problem. So keep a watchful eye.

7) Sun

In most parts of the country, summer is sunny… more so in some states than others. And just like humans, pets can get sunburn on areas of their body that are exposed to the sun for long periods.

Your dog’s nose and belly are susceptible to sunburn because they’re not well-protected by fur.

You can try a sunscreen made for pets, but it’s likely they’ll just lick it off. You might also put a light t-shirt on if they’ll tolerate it.  But minimizing exposure to the sun is your best course of action.

How will you protect your pet from these summer hazards? Tell us in the comment section at the top.