Homer loves going to the cottage. The five-year-old husky mix can’t wait to race along the lake shore, explore the woods, and go for boat rides with his “dad”.
One September day, however, the cottage fun was interrupted when Homer came face-to- face with a porcupine and wound up with a nose full of quills. His family had to pack up and drive him 35 miles to the nearest veterinary clinic, bringing the weekend to an unpleasant close.
In the anticipation of escaping the rat race and going someplace peaceful for a couple of days or weeks, it’s easy to forget that cottage country presents its own risks, especially for active canines. Protect your dog from injury or illness so you don’t have to cut your sojourn short to make an emergency vet visit.
Before you go
• Pack a holistic first aid kit for your dog. It should include a first aid book for animals along with natural remedies like flower essences, aloe vera gel and calendula ointment. Be sure to include bandages and tweezers, and know what to do in an emergency.
• Know where the nearest veterinarian is located and have his or her phone number handy.
• Put a collar and ID tag on your dog if he doesn’t have one already. The tag should include the number of your cottage and/or cell phone, not just your home number. Have your dog microchipped so he can be identified should he get lost.
• While frequent rabies vaccines are believed to be unnecessary (although it’s currently the law to vaccinate for rabies at least once every three years), you need to make sure your dog is protected from this disease when going where he might come into contact with wild animals. Also find out if leptospirosis might be an issue in the region and if you’ll need to vaccinate against that as well. Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection affecting the blood, liver and kidneys. It’s most commonly transmitted by ingesting an infected animal’s urine, which could be present in puddles. Another commonsense way to protect your dog against these diseases is not to let him roam at large while at the cottage.
In and around water
• If your dog likes to swim, he’ll probably want to spend a lot of time in and around the water. This can be a problem if he has a thick coat that may not dry properly. The moisture on his skin can cause redness and irritation, and that can make him scratch. Bacteria can enter the skin and cause infection if your dog scratches himself then swims in a bacteria-laden pond or lake. A bacterial infection will need to be treated by a vet, so check his skin often and if you see inflammation keep him out of the water until he receives treatment.
• Wet dog smell is unavoidable at times, but if your dog smells without being wet, he may need grooming. Brush him completely before heading to the cottage. Try to remove any dead undercoat trapped in his hair. A well-brushed coat will dry quicker. After brushing, bathe him with a natural deodorizing dog shampoo. Rinse him thoroughly in clean water.
• You might also ask your groomer to give your dog a summer clip before going to the cottage. She will shorten his coat and trim his legs, and that will reduce drying time.
• Many dogs like to drink lake water while swimming, which often results in a bout of diarrhea. Keep a bowl of clean water nearby to discourage this habit.
• Your dog should wear a canine life vest anytime he is in a boat. If the boat capsizes, he may be unable or unwilling to swim to shore. A passing boat could also strike him if he is in the water. A life vest will help make him more visible.
Field and forest
• After a walk or hike, check your dog’s coat. If you find any burrs or twigs, tease them out by gently pulling a few hairs away from them at a time. If the object is really embedded, you may need to cut it out. Thinning shears will leave less of a mark in his coat than scissors. When cutting, hold the object away from your dog’s skin so you don’t accidentally cut him.
• You may notice your dog licking his paw. Examine the underpad to see if anything is stuck in the hair between his toes. Twigs or stones can be cut out using small, blunt-tipped scissors. Place your fingers between the object and your dog’s pad so you don’t accidentally cut him.
• Pine tar or gum may be more difficult to remove. Saturate the area with vegetable oil. Leave it on for a few minutes, then wipe off. Remove the vegetable oil with a little natural liquid soap and rinse completely. Do not use any other lubricant as many are poisonous.
• Don’t let your dog eat any mushrooms, and be on the lookout for toxic plants such as poison ivy. Always keep him on a leash when walking in an unfamiliar area. He may accidentally brush against these plants and spread the irritants to your skin when you touch him. Remove any plants from your cottage property that you know are poisonous.
By planning ahead and taking a few simple precautions, you can enjoy your “dog days” at the cottage to the full!