Category Archives: Dog Injury

Beware of Spring Fever

The first nice days of spring have finally arrived after weeks of cold and rain. But this time of year always makes me wary for pets, especially dogs. Back when I was a young teen, on one of the first warm days in early May, my dad took our 7-month-old mixed breed puppy Rexy for a long walk. He had let him run lose to get some exercise, but the skittish dog saw some people and ran into a busy street—getting run over by a car.

Photo of Rexy


There was no blood. All I remember is my dad carrying his limp body up the stairs into the house to retrieve his car keys. Rexy died on the way to the vet.

Cars kill 1.2 million dogs each year and 5.4 million cats.



The first few warm weeks of spring seems to be when people are careless, learning how to adjust after a long winter indoors, so are their pets. My many decades as a dog owner have shown me:

Spring Fever Concerns:

  • More people are outside with their dogs.
  • More cars are on the roads – once quiet streets have more traffic.
    • Keep your dog on a leash.
  • More people are in the parks with kids wanting to pet your dog.
    • If you say it’s okay for one kid to pet your dog, don’t be surprised when a group of kids want to join in. Watch your dog—he may panic and bite out of fear. I don’t let kids in the park pet my dogs.
  • More dogs get loose from their yards or leashes since they spend more time outdoors.
    • When a loose dog approaches me while I am walking my dogs, I usually yell at it with a deep voice (this is especially important for women), and raise my arms above my head and shake them. This makes me look larger and usually works. I don’t let my dogs sniff loose dogs, since this could lead to a fight. If I want to catch the loose dog, I protect my dogs first, and then try to coax the dog into my yard, or call the police. I have called our local police many times for dogs that followed me. Yes, there is a fine to pay to get the dog back, but better a safe dog then a dead one.
  • People are more likely to purchase or adopt dogs in the spring.
    • Some people are first time dog owners and inexperienced. Some have to get used to a new dog. Shelters and pet shops may be more crowded.
  • Dogs are unaccustomed to the warmth and can easily get overheated.
    • Your dog may not have gone for many long walks over the cold months, so don’t go out expecting to do a 5-mile walk.
    • Your dog may still have his winter coat and need to wait for it to shed into his summer coat.
    • Dogs that have their fur shaved in the summer may need their first summer buzz cut or they will get over heated.
  • There is little shade since the trees haven’t leafed out, so finding a shady spot for your dog is harder.
  • Ticks come out early in the spring and can get your dog sick if he is not protected with a repellent or pesticide.
  • The weather can change quickly, so don’t leave your dog unsupervised in the yard for long periods. Tornadoes and severe storms occur more often in April and May (at least in the Midwest) than in other months.

Both you and your dog have to get used to these changes, so beware of spring and its hidden dangers.

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Dogs, Herbicides, and Weeds, Oh My!

The weeds, the dandelions─yuck.  Should I spray an herbicide?  But what about my dogs?  How can I do this safely?   So I usually put it off until the weeds get the better of me and I just have to spray them and try to keep my dogs off of the lawn for a day, or at least try.  Most herbicides state, ‘safe’ for pets after it has dried. But are they? Here is what my research uncovered:

  • Increased risk of bladder cancer.
    • Certain breeds have a higher risk for bladder cancer. These include West Highland white terriers, Scottish terriers, Shetland sheepdogs, beagles and wire hair fox terriers.
  • Routes of exposure include ingestion , inhalation, and transdermal exposure
    • Ingestion can include licking their paws, not just eating the chemical directly or munching on grass.
  • Pets can transfer the chemicals to people, since they track them inside the house on their paws. So the floors, carpets, furniture, and your clothing could also contain small amounts of herbicide.
  • Some herbicides are detectable for at least 48 hours after application, and sometimes longer. Those tested included 2,4-D, MCPP, and dicamba.
    • The chemicals can stay on the lawn a longer time if the weeds are brown, dying back, or if too much chemical is used.
  • Wind conditions are important when spraying chemicals. A neighbor may spray their lawn and some of the chemical will drift into your yard.

What can we do?  Well there are two paths.  One, is to learn how to use chemicals safely, and the other is to use something toxic to the weeds, but not to our pets.  A third path is to mow tall weeds, but that doesn’t control weeds in the lawn.


Buffy rolling around on the grass.

Buffy rolling around on the grass.

  • Spray the back yard one week and the front yard another time to allow a safe area for your dog.
  • Wash your dog’s paws after using the treated area, even if the chemical is dry, or applied a few days ago.
    • My rule of thumb is to treat the lawn as contaminated until a good rainfall washes it into the soil and the grass is dry. Only then allow them free reign of the yard.
  • Roundup can still cause vomiting, although considered safe once the chemical has dried.
  • Store chemicals away from where pets can reach them, and in heavy duty containers.


Unlike some of the herbicides listed above, which kill broad leaf plants and do not harm the grass, many of the materials listed below are non-selective and can kill grass along with weeds.  So do spot treatments.

  • Corn gluten meal is a natural herbicide. Corn gluten meal is more costly than corn meal, but corn meal also seems to reduce weeds. It acts as a pre-emergent herbicide that prevents seeds from germinating.  It does not kill mature plants.
  • Boiling water applied directly to the target plants.
    • If planting a new bed, try using boiling water to kill all the weeds, then mix corn meal into the soil to prevent weed seeds from germinating. This works well if you’re installing plant plugs and not using seeds.
  • Hand pulling. We do this for dandelions and creeping Charlie, and although initially it’s a big investment in time, in future years the amount decreases substantially.
  • Try citrus oil, cinnamon bark and clove oil applied directly to the weeds.
  • Use soil barriers to prevent weeds from growing. I’ve tried this around shrubs, and it works well.
  • Salt, but do not use a lot on flower beds or vegetable gardens since the salt stays in the soil and can be toxic for the desirable plants. Make a salt solution and spray it on driveway and patio cracks.
  • Vinegar draws the water out of the leaves, killing the leaves, but it may not kill the roots. Don’t use a concentration higher than a 5% solution.
    • A solution of vinegar and salt is also effective to kill weeds.
  • You can mix this with equal parts of chili pepper to deter animals.  Pour the solid sugar on the weeds.

I have not tried all of these techniques,  and I was surprised at the variety of methods.  Personally I use hand pulling as much as possible, and herbicide only with weeds that are too numerous and small to pull.

The main thing is to think about your pets and to plan your methods accordingly.  When I do succumb to using an herbicide, I try to apply it late in the day and about two days before a rain event.  For herbicides to be effective, the weeds have to be actively growing, so they need some sunlight before rain washes the chemicals off the plant.

If you suspect your pet has ingested a herbicide, contact your veterinarian, emergency vet, or a poison control center.

For more information check out these websites:

Electrical Shocks while Walking your Dog?

It’s raining and you are walking your dog downtown.  Suddenly he yelps then collapses.  Puzzled you grab your dog—then you feel a burst of electricity run through you. You too could get shocked, collapse and possibly die from electrocution from contact voltage.

What is contact voltage?  In cities where there are electrical wires running under the sidewalk, stray voltage may occur due to deteriorating insulation, which causes metal objects to become energized.  Wet pavement, especially when mixed with road salt can make these metal objects a hazard.

Contact voltage can range from a gentle shock to a burn, to electrocution.  Fortunately, people wearing rubber-soled shoes are rarely at risk, but our barefoot dogs are.  Booties do not usually protect dogs from shocks and could even make the situation worse if they are wet.

What should you do?

  • DON’T GRAB YOUR DOG—this puts you at risk. Pull him off the site using a NYLON leash.
  • If you suspect your dog was shocked—take him to the veterinarian immediately.
  • Contact your local utility to fix the problem. If it is a severe shock, contact 911.

Image electric shocks



Buffy and Chipper on a metal traffic light grate--on a dry day.

Buffy and Chipper on a metal traffic light grate–on a dry day.

  • Walk around metal objects during wet weather.
    • If you notice melting snow around a metal object, this could indicate stray voltage.
  • Don’t tie your dog’s leash to a metal object.
  • Use a nylon leash and collar not a metal one on your dog.
  • Wear shoes with rubber soles to protect yourself.
  • Carry a cell phone with you to get help and report hazardous areas.
  • Speak with other dog owners if you observe a problem area to warn them of the danger.

The overall risk is low, but be aware of this issue especially during wet weather.

Read more:

Wobbly Gait in Dogs – Is it Serious?

Cassie tripped as she walked on the driveway, caught herself and kept walking toward me.  How many times had this happened today?  At least ten, or was it closer to twenty?  I watched her walk, awkwardly curving to the left.  My vet thought she had arthritis in opposite legs, causing her to trip and walk abnormally.  A week later, she couldn’t walk and was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  We had to put her down less than a week later as her condition deteriorated.

Ataxia or abnormal gait, takes many different forms, most of which are neurological, although there could be joint issues such as arthritis.  If your dog shows any of these symptoms, take her to the vet immediately ( )

Cassie being guided in her harness and sling when she couldn't balance.

Cassie being guided in her harness and sling when she couldn’t balance.

  • Misplacement of the paws,
  • Taking large and/or odd steps,
  • Progressive weakness in the legs,
  • Leaning to one side,
  • Body swaying,
  • Tipping, falling or rolling over,
  • Unusual eye movements,
  • Head and/or body tremors
  • Drowsiness or stupor

Possible illnesses that could cause these symptoms include:

  • Wobbler’s Syndrome (Cervical spondylomyelopathy (CSM)), which occurs mostly in giant breeds, but also in Basset Hounds. It is due to compression in the spinal column or the vestibulocochlear nerve that carries information from the inner ear to the brain.  It usually comes on slowly, but sometimes can happen suddenly
  • Vestibular disease is a disorder of the inner ear causing imbalance. My vet had thought Cassie might have this since her symptoms progressed so rapidly.  But motion sickness pills did not help, and her gait was quite different from in this video.
  • Coon Hound paralysis is a disease that Cassie developed when she was three years old. It is a temporary condition similar to Guillain Barré Syndrome in humans.  A wobbly gait was one of the first symptoms, then paralysis in her rear end, then her front.  Luckily, she was only ill for about a week.
  • Poisoning
  • Nervous system diseases or injuries

Your veterinarian should check out a sudden development of a wobbly gait, or even tripping, immediately.  Sometimes treatment within hours can prevent complications later.