Pet care

Dr. Allison Branson and Leslee Reeder, of the Telluride Veterinary Clinic, with Cowboy. (Courtesy photo)


While your pooch may be eager to romp in the warm outdoors, watch out: Dogs are especially prone to insects, injuries and emergencies in summer.  

Both Dr. Allison Branson DVM, who has owned and operated the Telluride Veterinary Clinic since 2002, and Dr. Steven Smolen DVM, who has been practicing in Telluride for four years and opened Telluride Animal Hospital in 2016, agree that porcupine quilling incidents spike in warmer weather.  

“There are probably a couple hundred quillings a year around this region, which makes it one of the top emergencies in dogs,” Smolen said. 

Branson warns that cutting the quill ends off actually makes them more difficult to remove.

Both vets also agree that this year will likely be worse for tick bites than years past due to warm, dry conditions. Tick bites occurred unusually early this year — in early March.  

Ticks can spread diseases, some of which spread to people. While Branson has seen instances of Lyme disease locally, she has yet to see a dog contract the disease in Telluride. Tick-born Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Ehrlichia are more common to this region. 

So far, fleas have not presented a problem in Telluride. 

“Historically, people feel like they don’t have fleas at this elevation,” Smolen said. “But that’s changing.” 

Last summer Smolen treated a cat from Norwood for the plague.  

“The plague is transmitted through a rodent flea, usually sticking to rabbits, mice or prairie dogs. They can jump onto a cat or dog and spread to people as well,” Smolen explained. “It’s a matter of time, really, until this valley gets plague because of the wildlife.”

Instances of canine giardia, a one-celled intestinal parasite, also see a spike during springtime. Branson lamented that the vaccine for that ailment was taken off the market several years ago. 

“Everybody thinks it’s the river (that is the source of giardia) but I don’t think so,” Branson said. “If the river is clear and running then it’s probably pretty safe. Giardia is more in puddles and grass and elk and deer feces.”

Preventative canine medicine is available and prescribed according to a dog’s lifestyle and exposure. The rabies vaccine is the most important preventative medicine for legal reasons and because rabies is a contagious and fatal viral disease, transmissible to humans through saliva. 

Heartworm, a mosquito-born disease, has not been prevalent in this area. But Branson pointed out that after 2017’s major hurricanes, many dogs were rescued and moved to different parts of the country, introducing heartworm to areas where the dogs were relocated. 

“Grand Junction has a really big problem with heartworm,” Branson added. “So if you’re taking your dog there, they’ll be exposed.”

This past winter saw an outbreak of what appeared to be kennel cough, a virus and bacteria complex that can be partially prevented by the Bordetella vaccine.

“It was one of the worst outbreaks I’ve seen because this is a concentrated area with a lot of dogs off-leash, exposing everybody,” Smolen said. “But we haven’t seen cases for several weeks.”  

Branson believes the outbreak was canine flu because the symptoms “didn’t present” exactly like kennel cough. 

“We don’t really know how much canine flu is out there because people aren’t testing for it. They’re just treating for it,” Branson said. 

With more dogs outdoors, fights and bites are sure to follow. Branson advises that if a bite breaks the skin, bring the dog to the vet so that the wound can be treated with antibiotics to head-off infection and abscesses.  

Broken claws also are a common emergency and usually occur when toenails have overgrown, get caught and tear-off. As you take to the trails for spring hikes, Smolen cautions, be aware of a dog’s foot pads, which can be soft and easily torn. Hot pavement also can burn a dog’s pads.  

Finally, hot weather can lead to heatstroke in dogs, even up here at high altitude. Don’t leave your dogs locked in a hot car. And in the midst of the current drought, if you’re going on a hike with your dog, bring water and a bowl because that stream you’re counting on for water may not be running this year.