Is it OK to throw Buddy in the lake? - (7/6/2021)

By Dr. Ron Gasbarro 

Jake walked into the pharmacy with his trusty companion, Buddy. The blonde retriever was affable, smart, and knew at least a dozen commands. Only today, Jake was almost dragging the dog into the shop. Buddy was more focused on shaking his head and scratching his left ear. "The dog was in my lake," Jake said as the pharmacist approached the mutt. The pharmacist noticed a strong smell wafting from the dog's ear. He saw that the inside of the ear looked raw, and a dark waxy fluid was leaking out. "Yep, there's irritation and inflammation in there," the pharmacist told Jake.
As refreshing as a cool lake is in the summer, certain hazards abound.  Even if your dog is used to water and is a strong swimmer, lakes are replete with risks. Blooms of blue-green algae, often found in summer lakes, can be toxic to dogs who ingest them and deadly within several hours. Rip currents can surprise a dog and drag it helplessly. Fishing equipment, like hooks and lines, can puncture and entangle your pet. While curiosity killed the cat, a fishing hook with bait on it will make for a nasty snack. Now, the frolic is over. A mad dash to the vet will be necessary to remove the hook from the tongue, the snout, or wherever it is embedded. 

This is not to say that your dog cannot romp in a natural body of water. On the contrary, it is great exercise and makes him feel free. However, be constantly mindful of his whereabouts. Invest in a canine life jacket as you would any of your other children. In addition, make sure he has an ID tag on his collar.

Back to Buddy's ears. Dogs have big open ears that can scoop in plenty of lake water. In turn, their ears can be infected with yeast, bacteria or mites, and other parasites. Canine ear infections can be acute and easily treated. Yet, they can become chronic and require expensive therapies. The proper treatment depends on the cause and severity of the infection. Some effective medications are available over the counter, while others will require a prescription.  They are formulated as ear drops, creams, ointments, and even oral tablets. The pharmacist can make suggestions or refer your dog to a veterinarian.

Sand is another culprit that can affect a dog's health. Sand is everywhere, so take note that it accumulates on a dog's paws and fur. That's when they lick it and ingest it. Too much sand can block the dog's intestinal tract and cause organ damage. So, listen up! Bring a couple of quarts or a gallon of freshwater to wash your pet down because he gets back into your vehicle. Rinse its paws and fur and splash some in its ears. Dry the ears well with a clean towel. The pharmacist also warns that not all dogs are natural swimmers. Do not toss your Chihuahua into the water like yesterday's burrito and expect her to do the Australian crawl. She may float a while and then sink like a cinder block. Swimming lessons, especially if they are puppies, can build their skills and confidence. 

After your day at the lake, give your animal a thorough examination. This includes a thorough brushing. Look for thorns, ticks, cuts, rashes, or any other abnormalities. If you notice something suspicious, take your baby in for medical attention.

Jake and Buddy entered the pharmacy a week later, both looking happy and chipper. "No more ear problems here, Doc," Jake said. Even Buddy seemed to be grateful when he lifted his own paw as if to say thanks. 

Ron Gasbarro, PharmD, is a recovering pharmacist and writer-in-residence at Rx-Press.


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