Dogs and cottages seem to go hand in hand: the great outdoors and lots of free time to spend with your best friend. So many of my fondest cottage memories involve my dogs, and each summer I look forward to making more. Cottages can be fun for dogs, but the experience presents several hazards. With a little knowledge and planning, you can safely enjoy the cottage with your dog this year.
First, find out if the cottage you are going to is dog friendly. The last thing you want after a long drive is to be told your best friend is not welcome.
If you are going to a cottage with multiple other people, find out who else is bringing their dog and if their dog gets along well with other dogs. You may want to arrange a meeting at home first.
Find out where the closest veterinary and emergency clinics are to the cottage in case an emergency presents itself.
Make sure you have several photos of your dog on your smart phone. These will be helpful if your dog goes missing.
Research the area you will be visiting and consider the dangers of the territory. Are there predators in the area? Hunters? Traps? Cottage hazards can be avoided if your dog is leashed or safely contained in a fenced in yard or an exercise pen. Decide if your dog has a strong enough recall to be allowed off leash, and whether it is worth the risk.
Make a list of all the items your dog needs on a daily basis, as well as those needed while at a cottage. I would recommend packing a separate bag so your dog’s items are all together. Different breeds and ages have different needs. Some items to include are:
It may be risky to immediately let your dog free to explore. Do a solo walk-around the property to look for poisonous plants (poison ivy and oak), animal carcasses, traps, broken glass and anything else that might be dangerous.
Just as you would with children, it is crucial to always be alert when you are with your dog near water. The two main dangers our dogs face when visiting a body of water are hypothermia and drowning.
Many Canadian bodies of water are still incredibly cold at the start of cottage season, which could present the risk of hypothermia. Hypothermia occurs when the body’s core temperature falls beneath the normal physiological range. Maintaining a normal temperature is important for the body’s organ systems and enzymes to function. A cold heart can lead to cardiac arrest. The degree of harm towards the organ systems is related to the duration and severity of the hypothermia. If my dog fell into a cold body of water, I would immediately remove the dog and wrap him in towels or blankets.
Dogs who are experiencing hypothermia will have movement that looks unusual or awkward to their owner. Their muscles can become rigid and they usually experience strong shivering, short breathing and may become lethargicIf you suspect your dog is experiencing hyperthermia contact a veterinarian immediately.
Hypothermia in dogs can generally be prevented by being aware of lake temperatures and keeping your dog on a leash when temperatures are too low. Different breeds are hardier in cold water than others. Factors that increase a dog's risk for hypothermia can include being very young or old, low body fat, heart disease, kidney disease and hypothyroidism.
Near drowning happens when a dog is suffocating in water. This scary experience can happen when a dog is not able to swim or is pulled underwater by a strong tide.
Ifyour dog is in a near drowning situation, you must act fast and begin on-site treatment immediately to resuscitate your best friend.
If my dog was in a near drowning situation, I would modify the Human Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation techniques I learned in swimming lessons as a child and modify them for use on a dog.
Once I removed the dog from the body of water, I would ensure no debris, seaweed, sand or vomit was obstructing the airway. I would then hold my dog upside down for half a minute in an attempt to drain the airways.
If my dog was still not breathing, I would lay him down on his right side, clamp the dog’s muzzle using both hands and breathe into the dog via his nose.
If I couldn’t feel a heartbeat, I would find the heart by flexing his left elbow to find the heart and press firmly with the palm of my hand. I would push in firmly 60 times in the first minute, then I would go push 5 times and then return to the nose for artificial respiration and continue that pattern while having someone drive us to the nearest vet.
There are great courses you can take to learn canine first aid and CPR taught by pet care professionals.
Near drowning can be avoided by keeping your dog on a leash at all times near water. If you are boating or playing on a dock, you should strongly consider getting your dog a canine lifejacket. Canine lifejackets have been known to save the lives of tons of dogs –many of which could swim. They are especially important for breeds that are weaker swimmers (Pekingese, Bulldog, Chow Chow to name just a few).
Puddles and slow-moving rivers or creeks may cause a different type of problem. Don’t let your dog drink standing water as it could contain bacteria that can lead to gastrointestinal issues, such as Guardia. Keep clean drinking water on hand at all times, and keep your dog on a leash while outdoors to prevent this from happening.
Many would agree there’s no better way to end a day at the cottage than with a campfire. Unfortunately for our dogs, open fire and food can be an incredibly dangerous combination. Even the best-behaved dog may venture too close to the flame while going after a stick, trying to catch a firefly or sneaking a roasting hotdog off your skewer.
Metallic frames on modern firepits can become incredibly hot, and could easily burn a curious dog. Sometimes, the best idea is to let your dog sleep off a long, fun day in the wilderness in their crate inside, or outdoors in a secure exercise pen away from the fire.
After the nighttime campfire, be sure the fire is out and do not let your dog run loose as the coals will remain hot.
A dangling worm or artificial bait attached to a hook at the end of a fishing line can be fascinating and enticing to a curious dog. If your dog gets a fish hook in his mouth, either by jumping in after the bait or by finding one on the shore, you’ve got a serious issue.
Fish hooks are barbed at one end and, when embedded, dig deeper into the tissue if pulled. If your dog swallows a hooks, you will need immediate veterinary assistance as x-rays are required.
If my dog has a hook caught in his lip or in a spot that easily accessible (and veterinary care was not available), I would cut the hook using a pair of wire cutters at the rounded end and then push the hook through the tissue barbed end first. I would only do this in an emergency. Having an animal health care professional remove the hook should be your first choice.
A bee sting on a dog can result in immediate pain, redness and swelling of the tissue affected and later will itch. Usually a single sting will resolve all on its own, but individual reactions to stings can range and could evoke an allergic reaction so it is crucial to keep a close eye on your dog after he is stung. A dog having an allergic reaction to a sting may vomit, have trouble breathing and going to the bathroom and/ or convulse. This, along with any situation that involves multiple stings, requires the attention of a veterinarian.
Skunks are just too interesting for a curious dog to ignore. Unfortunately, skunk sprays never happen at a convenient time, so it’s best to prepare for one so that you have items ready to treat one when it happens (and no tomato juice is not one of the items needed). You can learn how to handle a skunk spray here
Porcupines are large rodents that are found across Canada. In addition to ordinary hair, a porcupine has quills. These quills are barbed at the end so they penetrate quickly into an attacker’s skin. Quills are known to migrate deeper into the tissue if well embedded so I would recommend immediate veterinary assistance if your dog gets into trouble with a porcupine.
Some feel that if a dog only has a few quills and can be restrained, it’s fine to remove the quills from their base using tweezers or pliers. I would only do this if veterinary care was not available. Quills are fragile and easily broken which means they could migrate deeper and cause problems with tissue functioning.