As the days get warmer (and warmer and even warmer! – Ed.) we all want to be outside enjoying the sun with our pets, whether this means going out and about on day trips, going on holiday or enjoying time out in the garden with family and friends. However, it is important to consider that these activities can have risks for our pets, though there are precautions we can take to keeps our pets as safe as possible.
Avoiding The Sun
During the summer, any pet can quickly become too hot, and this can easily develop into heat stroke. To prevent heat stroke it is important to try and keep your pets cool. For dogs (who are at particular risk), make sure that they have plenty of cool water and shade. It is important not to exercise them during the hottest parts of the day, so limiting their exercise to early morning and late evening is sensible. (See my colleague Kate’s blog on cooling coats here, as well.)
For other pets, make sure that they have access to cool fresh water and shade. If they are caged then be sure to position the cage out of direct sunlight. Frozen drink bottles or ice packs can be used inside the cage to create a cool area for your pet to lie.
If heatstroke develops, then your pet needs to be taken to your vets for emergency veterinary treatment, as it can quickly become fatal. On your way in you should try to cool the pet down with towels soaked in cool water and offer a drink of water if they are conscious. Pets with heatstroke will be excessively panting and salivating, they may collapse, or have bright red gums.
On hot days we might not realise how quickly pavements, roads and even artificial grass can heat up, which can result in burnt feet. If you can’t walk across a surface in bare feet, then it is too hot for your pet. A quick way to check the temperature of a path is to hold the back of your hand against the surface and if you can’t hold your hand there comfortably for 7 seconds then it is too hot for your dog to walk on.
During the summer months, dogs should never be left in a car for any length of time as it can quickly result in death. Even with the windows left down and the car parked in the shade it will still heat up rapidly. Dogs are only able to cool themselves down by panting, so they can quickly overheat, get into distress and can die. If you see a distressed dog in a car and the owner is not around then phone 999 for help.
The sun can also result in your pet getting sunburnt, if they have any areas of white fur, especially around the face and ears. This is particularly important in cats with white ears as they can be prone to developing skin cancer in these areas. To prevent sunburn from happening you can use a pet friendly sun cream and limit the time they spend sunbathing.
During the warmer days tick activity is at its highest, so this is when your pet or even you are most likely to get bitten. Ticks can carry diseases, such as Lyme disease, that can be passed to you or your pets through a bite. During the summer you should check your dog for ticks twice a day and any ticks should be removed with a tick removing device. Your vet can give you further advice on how to safely remove ticks if you are unsure.
Most commonly it is dogs that are affected by ticks due to the areas that they are walked in, but any pet with outside access can potentially be bitten by a tick, so it is important to check them too. We recommend using a routine preventative tick treatment to protect your pet from ticks and the diseases they carry. Tick treatment can easily be incorporated into your normal parasitic preventative routine and your vet can advise you on an appropriate treatment plan for your pet.
During the summer months your pet rabbits are at risk of developing flystrike. This is where flies are attracted to your rabbit, resulting in them laying their eggs on the rabbits skin and fur, which go on to hatch into maggots. The maggots make the rabbit very ill and can result in death if treatment is not quickly given. Flies can be attracted to rabbits if there is a wound or any urine or faecal build up, so this means that any ill, injured or older rabbits can be at a greater risk of developing flystrike.
Flystrike can develop within a couple of hours so it is important to check your rabbit twice a day to make sure that they are clean, especially around their anus, hind limbs and tail. Rearguard is a preventative treatment that can be used to protect your rabbit against flystrike during the summer months. Your vets can provide you with Rearguard and advise you how to keep your rabbits safe from flies.
During the summer, everyone likes to have barbeques and picnics, whether at home or when out and about. Often they take place around your dogs and this can expose them to certain risks. A number of food items are toxic to dogs and you should be careful to ensure that they are not fed to your dog. Some of the foods that should be avoided are; chocolate, grapes, raisins, onions, garlic and alcohol.
There are also a number of food items that are hazardous to dogs, which are common at barbeques and picnics, so can mean that your pets may be in close proximity to these items. Wooden skewers can cause perforation of your dogs intestines (guts) if eaten, so should be kept away from your dog. Corn on the cob can easily become a foreign body and cause a blockage if your dog eats the cob part. Bones are also a foreign body risk and should be avoided. If your dog eats anything that you are concerned about, contact us as soon as you can for further advice.
When out and about with your pets it is often tempting to feed them scraps of your food. If your pet is on a special diet then it is important that they are not given any food that is different from their normal diet or it may result in illness.
Being Aware Of Wildlife
On warm summer days bees and wasps will be active. Your dog may find bees and wasps exciting and may enjoy spending time trying to catch them. Unfortunately, this can sometimes result in a sting. If your pet does get stung then you will need to monitor them for any swelling, especially around the area of the sting. Some pets may react to the sting, so if you do see any swelling, particularly around the nose, mouth and eyes, then phone us for veterinary advice as your pet may need treatment.
There is only one venomous snake in the UK, which is the Adder, and they can pose a risk to our dogs through causing bites. Adders are generally shy animals, but they do like to bask in the sun during summer… And an inquisitive dog may get bitten as a result of disturbing the snake. If your dog does get bitten, they will need to be taken to see your vet for emergency treatment, where they may also need to be given anti-venom. On your way in try to keep your dog as still you can by carrying them if possible. While the bite can be bathed in cold water to try and reduce the swelling, it is important to not give any other treatment.
Enjoying Summer Safely
We all want you and your pets to enjoy summer safely and I hope that by being aware of the risks that may present themselves you can prevent any accidents from happening, and know when to bring your pets in to your vet if you are worried.