Thoughts at the End of Summer

by Dr. Jody Kaufman

Summer has gone by way too quickly, and there are certain things to be aware of as fall approaches.

We think of ticks as being springtime pests and fleas as the scourge of summer. The truth is that they are both most prevalent in the fall. Fleas start their population surge in late summer. As the days get shorter and the nights cooler it seems that they want to climb onto a warm body. I've seen some of the worst flea infestations in September and October, even continuing into November. It's far easier to prevent them than it is to treat all the animals in the house as well as the house itself once they have taken up residence.

Ticks have two seasons when they show up: spring and fall. They seem to disappear in the summer, but they’ll be back in October. The fall populations are even more of a risk for spreading Lyme disease. It's a common fallacy that both fleas and ticks will die off after a good killing frost. That may be true for some plants, but not these little critters. Both species are quite vigorous until Thanksgiving or even later. Fleas can overwinter in the house, and ticks can survive outdoors in woodpiles or swampy areas until the ground is consistently frozen. Years ago, summers involved spraying or dipping animals, using flea collars that didn’t work, bombing the house, and starting all over again until winter. Both species have evolved to be somewhat resistant to the now not-so-new methods of control such as Frontline, but newer and more effective products have been developed, including Advantix, Seresto, and Nexgard.

Other critters to be wary of this time of year are more worrisome for both you and your pets. Yellowjackets make nests in the ground in late summer. They can be in your lawn, field, or on your favorite trail where you walk the dog. They will attack en masse when disturbed; and unlike honeybees who can only sting once, they are able to sting multiple times. What should you do if you or your dog are attacked? Do not swat at them! Remember, they can sting multiple times. Run away from the source as fast as you can. If either of you has suffered from multiple stings, medical intervention may be called for. In the interim, Benadryl and cold compresses will help.

I would never discourage anyone from walking in the woods this time of year. My dog Isaac and I have run on trails in every season of his 11 years. However, there's one more thing to be aware of this time of year. Archery season for deer started September 15. It doesn't mean that the woods should be off limits, but remember to dress appropriately. Blaze orange is the best color for both people and dogs. Isaac has a cape that covers most of his trunk. It sheds water and is quite durable—he's worn it for years and it's still in good shape.

There's still time for corn on the cob, one of summer's great pleasures. Many dogs love corn as much as we do, especially the cobs! While they love chewing them, sometimes a dog will swallow a sizable chunk which can then result in an intestinal blockage. We have done many surgeries over the years to remove them. If you compost your kitchen waste, please make sure that the corn cobs are inaccessible or that they go out in the trash. It could save your dog's life (and save you money as well).

I did not intend to sound so gloomy. Both summer and fall are wonderful seasons. These precautions are meant to help you enjoy the transition.