We all enjoy the summer weather but it can bring challenges for our furry friends. We have put together some information on summer hazards to help keep your pets safe.
Pets do not have the same methods of cooling themselves that we humans benefit from. Dogs lack sweat glands, except in their feet, and rely on panting to get rid of excess heat. This way of controlling body temperature can be quickly overwhelmed in hot weather particularly in shorter nosed breeds. Overweight or elderly animals are also more susceptible to developing heat stroke. Small furry pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs can also be susceptible to heat stress.
Mild heatstroke can rapidly progress to becoming more serious and life threatening if not treated quickly. Signs of heat stroke include excessive panting and drooling, red gums, shaking, weakness, confusion and collapse.
If you are concerned your pet is showing mild signs of getting too hot take them inside or into a cool shaded area. Offer them cool but not iced water to drink and gently wet the coat on their head feet and ears with more cool water. Moving air can also help cool them down so a fan can help. If this is not helping or if they are showing any of the signs of heat stroke described above seek veterinary attention immediately
There are some changes you can make for your companions to help avoid heatstroke
- Walk dogs at cooler times of day, in the morning or evening, and choose shady areas. Dogs at higher risk of heat stroke may be better missing their walks completely during hot spells
- Have water available to offer on walks
- Avoid extreme exercise during hotter times of day such as ball chasing or running, even in the garden
- Sprinklers and durable rubber toys filled with food and frozen can provide fun cooling entertainment in hot weather
- Cats tend to limit their exercise naturally in hot weather
- If pets are outside with you make sure they have plenty of access to shade and water
- NEVER leave pets in the car, even with windows open the temperature rapidly rises to dangerous levels
- Walking near areas with water can offer dogs a place to cool down but see later information on blue-green algae and beach hazards before choosing this option. Running water is usually a preferable option but avoid deep fast flowing rivers.
- Small furry pets kept outside should have access to shade and water at all times
Our companions get extra protection from the sun with their fur coats but hairless areas such as ear tips, legs and noses can still be vulnerable to sunburn. Paler coated pets are particularly at risk. Cats particularly enjoy sunbathing and long term exposure in those with paler skin can lead to skin cancers on ear tips and noses. You can protect your pet in sunny weather with pet safe sun-creams.
The sun can also warm pavements and artificial grass to high temperatures leading to burning of pads and feet in animals walking on them. A good test before walking your pet is to place the palm of your hand against the ground to see if it is bearable for you for at least 10seconds
This is a type of bacteria which can grow in slow moving or stagnant water, particularly in hot weather. Blooms of these bacteria can produce toxins highly dangerous to both pets and people. They can be seen as white or blue green material on the water’s surface, particularly at the edge of lakes, but sometimes are not easily visible. Water courses known to have algal blooms may have warning signs put up by the council. There is also an app ‘Bloomin algae’ which allows people to report and check problem areas. Check any lakes, puddles or pools for signs of blue green algae before allowing your dog near them.
Many of us love to take our dogs for a walk on the beach and a cool down in the sea but even here there can be dangers.
- Always check the beach you are on is dog friendly at this time of year. Some only allow dogs over the winter and others prohibit dogs altogether
- It may feel cooler on the beach but dogs can still be susceptible to heat stroke. Provide them with shade and water and avoid excessive exercise
- Avoid them drinking seawater as this can cause vomiting and diarrhoea or in extreme case severe dehydration and salt intoxication. Offer fresh water before they head into the waves to make them less likely to want a drink
- Sea water and sand can be irritating to ears and feet so try to wash your pet off when you get home
- Swallowing sand can lead to impaction and blockage of the bowel. They don’t just have to voluntarily eat sand to cause this but will also ingest a lot when picking up and chasing toys. Try to discourage digging in the sand and use toys that sand easily wipes off, such as Frisbees.
- Be careful with tides and currents. Even strong swimmers can quickly become tired swimming in the sea so try to stick to paddling in calmer, shallow areas
- Jellyfish can be very interesting for curious canines but can cause nasty stings. Dogs often try to pick up or lick them so may be stung in their mouth
- Look out for signs warning of other wildlife such as nesting birds or seals
- Broken glass and sharp objects can be easily hidden in the sand
- If your dog is not on a lead make sure they can be easily recalled when meeting other pets or people. Some dogs can be nervous of approach by strange pets and will need space. Picnics can also be an attraction to our companions but they may not be popular after raiding somebody’s sandwiches!
Bites and Stings
Insects such as bees and wasps will be more active in the summer and can give a nasty sting to curious pets. For many this may just be a short painful experience but others who are sensitive to stings may get more prolonged pain and swelling at the site.
If your pet is reacting in a way that suggests a sting check the area for any swelling or for a sting still in place. If removing a sting be careful not to squeeze the venom sac attached to it at the same time.
Most stings will respond to applying a cool pack for a short time to reduce the inflammation. If your pet has more discomfort or develops swelling over the sting seek veterinary advice immediately.
Adders are the only venomous snake native to the UK. They can be identified by the clear zigzag marking on their backs, compared to the more camouflaged non venomous grass snake and slow worm.
Adders are shy snakes and often hide in undergrowth but will bite if they feel threatened by curious dogs investigating their habitat. During the Summer months a warmer climate and the onset of their mating season can make these snakes more active and increase the risk of encounters with pets and children.
Bites can cause pain and rapid swelling requiring urgent treatment. If you suspect your dog has been bitten by an adder calmly but quickly get them back to your vehicle, carrying them if possible, and seek immediate veterinary attention.
Anti-venom is available from Vets Now when needed for pets. Keeping dogs on a lead in such areas can reduce the risk of being bitten. It is important to note that Adders are a protected species so no action should be taken to harm these snakes if they are discovered in an area.
We all like to get together and celebrate in the sunshine but it is worth being aware of some of the problems this can cause for our pets
- Harmful party food – some of the treats we enjoy can be harmful for animals and should be kept out of temptation. These include alcohol, chocolate, onions, garlic, grapes/raisins, bones and cocktail sticks
- Anxiety – some pets enjoy socialising with people, others find noise and gatherings of strangers a stressful experience. Pheromone sprays and calming medications can help our companions cope with mild anxiety around these events. For those that find parties more difficult to deal with consider creating a quiet safe space out of the way of all the fun. If fireworks are being set off at parties it is particularly important to keep pets safe inside.
- Barbecues – investigating food on a hot barbecue can lead to nasty burn injuries