New Mexico's Pet Resource SUMMER 2004


Summer Grooming Tips
by Freddi Hetler

During the warm summer months here in New Mexico, it is very important to keep your pets groomed. Grooming will contribute to their overall health and happiness. As the temperature rises, regular visits to a professional groomer will keep the following health problems under control.

Parasites — Fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes can become a major health concern during the warm months if not properly attended to. Aside from causing skin irritations, these parasites can also cause disease. Ticks can cause anemia and certain ticks carry Lyme’s Disease. Fleas will cause major skin irritation and in some cases, another parasite, the tapeworm. The biggest fear, caused by fleas here in New Mexico, is Plague. Mosquitoes, as everyone should remember from the scare last year, can carry a very dangerous disease called West Nile Virus, and heartworm. Potentially, these parasites may be hazardous to humans, too.

Hot Spots — Another health concern that can be associated with parasites is hot spots. Skin irritations that are caused by parasites can easily turn into hot spots due to your pet biting, scratching and licking her skin.

Undercoat — During the summer, if not properly groomed, double-coated breeds such as Huskies, Chows, Newfoundlands, Great Pyrenees, Australian Shepherds, Border Collies, etc., can be very miserable and even overheat. Many breeds are not meant to live in our desert climate. It is essential that they be groomed on a regular basis to remove the undercoat in order to maintain a comfortable body temperature.

Matting— Similar to an unchecked undercoat, a matted coat can cause severe discomfort. It may also cause thinning hair and even baldness in some pets. Not removing the undercoat or matting is unhealthy for your pet’s skin because there is no airflow through the hair and therefore, air cannot reach the skin. This too can result in skin irritation and hot spots. A common misconception about matting is that it will keep the animal warm in the wintertime, when actually it prevents the pet from staying warm.

Shedding — Shorthaired dogs such as Labs, Dalmatians, Basset Hounds, etc., are shedding machines. Regular grooming of breeds like these will help control this incredible shedding.

Ears — Many dogs such as Cocker Spaniels suffer from chronic ear infections. Your pet’s ears should be checked and cleaned on a regular basis.

Nails — Just like humans, pets’ nails will grow. If left unchecked, the nail can grow circular and dig into the pad of the feet. This can affect the toes and deform the feet.

Having a pet is very rewarding, but we must not forget about their comfort and health. All of the above mentioned potential health problems are addressed as part of a regular grooming session.

Freddi Hetler is a writer who lives in Eldorado with her husband and family zoo. Nichole Adams, with more than twelve years pet grooming experience, is a partner in the Braemar Grooming Shoppe located at Eldorado’s Agora Shopping Center. Nichole has seven dogs in her family. Jessica Steller has many years experience as a pet groomer. She recently joined Braemar Pet Grooming Shoppe.


Never leave your pet alone in a parked car, even with the windows cracked. The temperature in a car can reach 120° on a hot day in no time, and animals can suffer brain damage and die from heatstroke. Alert authorities if you see an animal in a parked car during the summer. And don’t think that parking in the shade is safer, because the sun moves around during the day.

We warned you about this in our spring issue, but we can’t stress it enough: it is very dangerous to drive with a dog in the back of a pick-up truck. He can be hit with flying debris or even thrown into traffic if the driver suddenly hits the brakes, swerves, or is hit by another car. Place dogs either in the cab (in a crate or wearing a seat belt harness designed for dogs) or in a secured crate in the bed of the truck.

Plant food, fertilizer, and insecticides used in the summertime can be fatal if your pet ingests them, so be careful where you walk your dog. Another concern is the more than 700 plants that produce physiologically active or toxic substances to cause harmful effects in animals. (For more on dangerous plants, see Pet Perils). Another problem is coolant or other automotive fluid that leaks from vehicles. These fluids have a sweet taste animals love, but it can kill them. If your pet ingests something you suspect may be poison, call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 4ANI-HELP.

Potentially fatal heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitoes active in warm weather. Make sure your animal has a periodic heartworm test and that you give him heartworm medication. Mosquitoes can also carry West Nile Virus, which primarily affects horses and humans. Plague and Tularemia from fleas can infect cats, dogs and humans. Ticks carry dangerous parasites and lodge in the ears of animals. If fleas and ticks are a problem in your area, ask your veterinarian about nontoxic flea and tick treatments and a pest control program for your home. Other hazards in the Southwest are rattlesnake and black widow spider bites. See your veterinarian immediately if your pet or horse has been bitten by a snake or spider. (For more on this topic, check Seasonal Concerns).

Playing in the water is fun in the summer, but mixing pets and pools can be disastrous if they’re unsupervised. And if you’re taking them to the lake or the beach, make sure you provide shade and plenty of fresh water to drink. Be wary of stream, creek or river water contaminated with Giardia organisms, which can infect humans and animals.

Speaking of water, always provide plenty of water and shade for your pets when they’re outside. They can only sweat through panting or through their paws. Carry cold water in your vehicle. Don’t leave your dog outside during the hottest part of the day, and keep your cats indoors.

Don’t stop exercising your pets on hot summer days, but be cautious with older dogs, overweight dogs, snub-nosed dogs, dogs with heart or lung disease, and those with thick coats. Limit exercise to early morning or evening hours and remember that asphalt gets very hot and can burn your pet’s paws. If necessary, use sunscreen on his or her nose and ear tips, especially on those pets with light-colored noses or light-colored fur on their ears. Don’t walk your dog right after a meal.

Make sure your animal is well-groomed to prevent skin problems. Prevent overheating by shaving a heavy-coated dog’s hair to a one-inch length, but not all the way down to the skin as this risks sun exposure. Brush your cats often.

It goes without saying that your pet should always wear a collar and ID tag in case she is separated from you. If you open your windows to get in more air, make sure they’re screened.

Be aware that unneutered dogs are more liable to bite, and during the summer, more dogs are outside, which increases this risk. Please neuter your dog.

Avoid taking your pets to events such as concerts or fairs because of the loud noises and crowds, as well as the heat, which can be stressful. Be especially aware of these threats during holidays such as the Fourth of July. But if you plan on traveling with your pet, prepare well in advance. Many airlines have summer pet embargoes, and most trains and ships do not allow pets other than service animals. Check with the HSUS for information on traveling with your pet (HSUS).

(Sources: The HSUS, ASPCA, and Robert A. Gruda, DVM)

Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog,
it’s too dark to read. – Groucho Marx

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