Rainy Days- How They Dampen A Pet’s Life8 min read
RAINY DAYS DAMPENS PET’S SPIRITS
The old saying goes that April showers bring May flowers (up north). That is true. In Florida there are always flowers blooming due to warm, rainy days. This excess of rain causes more problems in Florida as you will later find out. Without rainy days there is no chance for grass to grow or flowers to bloom; such as the beautiful flower shown in the image above. Mankind has always had a love-hate relationship with water. Without water there is no possibility of life. A mammal’s body is about 75-80% water. The main lubricant and solvent of life is water. Searching for life or past life in outer space? There has to be or had to be a source of water. On the other hand people and animals drown in floods and other disasters secondary to excessive rain. Water can flood our basements and our cars causing innumerable amounts of financial damage.
Rainy days throughout the year can lead to or exacerbate certain medical conditions in dogs and cats. This spans the gamut from A to Z in the world of medicine. Moisture also affects natural dog phenomena. Have you ever wondered why a dog’s nose is wet? The old wives tale that gets passed down from generation to generation is that it is a hallmark of disease. If a dog has a wet nose it has to be sick! Wrong. A dog’s nose is wet due to tears that flow through the nasolacrimal duct from the eye down to the nostril. This is why people have to blow their noses after a good cry! During rainy days the humidity level is high. This prevents the nose from drying out. A dog’s nose is prone to being dry during cold, windy winter days when the humidity levels are low. This is physiological but what about other problems with prolonged rainy days? Does too much rain or humidity make animals sick?
PARASITES LOVE RAINY DAYS!
Now we get to understand problems in Florida with its almost constant rainy, humid weather outside of a few months in winter. Parasites are living individuals. They need water as much as we do for biological processes to work. Plentiful water leads to an explosive growth in externalThese are parasites that live on the skin or outer surfaces of an animal. and internalThese are parasites that live in the intestinal tract, liver, lungs or other internal organs of an animal. parasites. Intestinal parasites such as roundworms and hookworms are more abundant in a moist, humid environment. Giardiasis (Giardia canis) is a major intestinal protozoal infection that is all over the place in Florida. Puppies and Giardia sp tend to go hand in hand. That is due to the humid weather in the state plus dogs swim in swimming pools year round. Fecal matter containing the parasite can easily transmit the bug to other dogs. Letting young toddlers dabble in a swimming pool that are parasitized with the human version (Giardia lamblia) transmits the parasite just the same to other people as dogs pass along their infection to other dogs. This is known as the oral-fecalThis is how the majority of intestinal parasites are spread. Fecal matter containing the parasite contaminates a body of water. That contaminated water is then consumed by the dog or cat. This starts a new the life cycle of the parasite in a new host! route.
Fleas, ticks and mosquitoes are much more prevalent during rainy days or extended periods of wet weather. The eastern third of the country is wet. That is why fleas and ticks reproduce like crazy during the spring and summer months. If there is a drought during the summer the insect or parasite populations decrease. The western half of the U.S. is often dry. Insect populations and the diseases that these parasites carry are all over the place but much more severe in the eastern states. Ticks love wet, damp and humid environments like forests and woodlands.
BACTERIA AND YEAST FLOURISH IN WET WEATHER
Bacteria, yeast and viruses are micro-organisms. These are creatures that can only be seen under a microscope. They are so tiny! The image above is what E. coli looks like under an electron microscope. The study of these organisms falls under the discipline of MicrobiologyThis was my Bachelor of Science degree (1977) in my undergrad days. Having an understanding of these bugs helped me every day in medical practice. The Ohio State University trained me well with its superb biological sciences program.. It has been said that things you can’t see can hurt you. This is what happens with bacteria and viruses. They too need water to survive and reproduce. Why are they so attracted to dogs, cats or people in the first place? Mammals have all sorts of DAMP, WET AND WARM parts of their bodies where these germs can set up shop. The back of the throat, lungs, intestinal tract and other body parts are perfect incubation units where organisms can reproduce and cause disease.
Dogs do not usually wear shoes. The spaces between the webbing of their digits is a favorite place where moisture can accumulate. This moisture and humidity leads to bacterial or fungal diseases (pododermatitis) in that anatomical area. Humans do not get get off easy in this department. The human foot has oodles of sweat glands. This leads to excessive humidity and moisture that can lead to nail fungal diseases. Damp, rainy days just exacerbate the problem. This is the point I am trying to make. Micro-organisms flourish in wet conditions- be it inside the animal’s body or in the environment. Damp weather can easily set up a staph pyoderma (skin infection) in those animals with matted coats or those areas of the body that are naturally moist; such as the groin.
Let’s not forget pools of water that accumulate during rainy days. Pools of water attract all sorts of bacteria that can cause disease. If you are a dog you are going to drink whatever water you may come across. This may lead to an intestinal disease such as diarrhea. If you are a fan of the show “Dual Survival” you will notice that the two men process any water by boiling or by other measures before drinking it. You can not see E. Coli or other pathogens even though the water looks perfectly potable. Again, it can be the things that you cannot see that cause the most harm.
EXCESSIVE MOISTURE IN HOT OR COLD WEATHER
Fast approaching warm weather around the country now through September is a blessing for people still suffering from the winter blues. An excess of humidity or rainy days can lead to medical problems secondary to environmental conditions. Heat exhaustion is exacerbated by wet, humid weather. Dogs rarely suffer heat stroke when the temperature is in the low 80’s with low environmental humidity. Adding in a dose of humid weather can easily send that same animal into heat stroke. It is the combination of relatively warm weather and humid conditions that throw dogs over the edge. The only breed of dog that has sweat glands over its skin surface, like people, is the Chinese Crested dog. Outside of that breed the cooling mechanism of a dog or cat is far inferior to that of humans.
Older dogs and cats often suffer the debilitating effects of arthritis. This pain is made worse by cold, damp weather. Rainy days in the autumn produce damp conditions that cause the joints of animals to swell. Prior to late autumn weather many older dogs and cats can cope well with arthritis. Add in cold, damp weather and they are in pain for days. Many older pets only need medications like Rimadyl® in the colder, wetter periods of the year.
The take away point is to understand the relationship between water that is necessary for life and water or excessive moisture that can facilitate the spread of disease or injury to an animal.