Staying safe during the summer

Top tips for keeping your pets safe this summer!

Summer can be a fun-filled time- longer days and warmer weather mean that there are more opportunities to venture out on fun days with our dogs! However, summer can also be a dangerous time for all pets, so we need to take some extra care with looking out for them.

1. Never leave any animal in a parked car on a warm day…

…even if it’s ‘just for a few minutes’ or even if it’s parked in the shade. Cars can become furnaces within minutes, even with the windows open. Dogs and other animals can rapidly over-heat, and many animals left in cars do not survive.

2. Avoid walking your dog during the middle of the day during summer months…

…aim to walk them early in the morning and late in the evening.

3. Always take water with you for your dog when going for walks.

Like us, hot weather can make your dog thirsty!

4. Test out tarmac or pavement with the back of your hand before embarking on a walk.

If it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws!

5. If your pets are out in the garden, ensure that they have access to a shady area.

Take extra care with pets that are confined to runs/enclosures, as they may not be able to escape the sun at certain points in the day. An old white sheet can be used to cover half the enclosure – ensure that the enclosure is well ventilated.

6. Make sure your pet has access to plenty of water- their drinking requirements may increase during the hotter weather.

Check water bowls regularly, particularly in outdoor enclosures where water might evaporate quickly.

7. Frozen bottles of water can help cool down small mammal enclosures.

This will provide your pet with something cool to sit by!

8. White animals are particularly prone to sunburn.

Consider investing in sunscreen for your pet, and apply it to any hairless areas.

9. Make the most of the natural UV light and let reptiles and birds enjoy the summer weather in a safe enclosure if possible.

These animals should also have access to shade and water.

10. Bear in mind that brachycephalic (flat faced) animals such as pugs, bulldogs and persians are more prone to heat stroke because they cannot pant as effectively as other breeds.

You may need to take extra steps to keep them cool, even when they are out of the sun. They may appreciate having access to cool floors to lie down on or having a fan or air conditioning switched on when possible.

11. Learn to recognise the signs of heat stroke

Animals suffering from heat stroke will be showing signs of distress, increased respiratory rate, disorientation, neurological symptoms and collapse.

If you are concerned that an animal is suffering from heat stroke, you should seek veterinary treatment immediately – heat stroke is often fatal. You should take measures to cool the animal in the meantime – get them to a shaded area, use a fan and douse them with cool (not cold) water until veterinary help has been obtained.

Other summer hazards!

Fly-strike:

Flies are more abundant in the summer and therefore the risk of fly-strike increases with our pets. Fly-strike is the term used to describe a maggot infestation. This can happen to all pets, particularly if there is a wound present or fur soiled with faeces. The maggots cause trauma to the skin, essentially eating the skin away. This can cause shock, pain and infection and is often fatal. Prevention tips include diligent cleaning of living areas, and twice daily inspection of your pet’s skin and fur for wounds or soiled areas. These areas should be kept clean. A parasiticide that is safe for your pet should be used if flies are a concern, however veterinary advice should be sought immediately if maggots or eggs are seen – this is an emergency.

BBQs and Parties:

Party hazards include: broken glass, alcohol, kebab skewers (often ingested by dogs who help themselves to the BBQ!), cooked bones (these can splinter and cause severe damage to the gastro-intestinal tract) onions, chocolate, grapes and raisins. Keep pets supervised at all times when partying!

Picnics:

Hazards can be similar to that of a BBQ, however it is also worth bearing in mind when walking that your dog may find leftovers from somebody else’s picnic! Some of this may not be safe for your dog, so you should be extra vigilant when walking your dog through popular picnic areas.

Insects:

Bee and wasp stings can be painful for your dog. If you notice your pet has been stung, you should seek veterinary advice. Some stings can be relatively harmless, but they can become an emergency if they occur around the face or neck, as any swelling can severely impair breathing. Swelling from stings will typically worsen over minutes or hours- veterinary treatment should be sought immediately. If part of the sting remains attached to the site, this can be removed by scraping a credit card across the surface of the skin.

Adder bites:

Adders can be hidden in long grass or seen basking in the hot sun. If you see an adder, avoid going anywhere near it. If you suspect your pet has been bitten by an adder, seek emergency veterinary attention. Many owners may not witness their pet being bitten by an adder, but there may be other signs such as yelping/crying, swelling, puncture wounds and any other signs of sudden, unexplained pain (such as limping).

Blue-green algae

Blue-green algae blooms occur during the summer months in still water such as ponds and lakes. They are actually a bacteria called ‘cyanobacteria’, but have the appearance of algae when clumped together in water. Unfortunately, blue-green algae is highly toxic to dogs and other animals and can prove to be rapidly fatal. It isn’t always possible to tell if a lake or pond contains blue-green algae, although there may be dead fish present and a blue-green scum on the surface of the water. Water birds will generally not be present if blue-green algae is around. Do not to let your dog swim in or drink from these areas. Sometimes, warning signs may be present – it is important that you take note of these.

Signs of blue-green algae toxicity include: vomiting, diarrhoea, neurological symptoms such as seizures, weakness, collapse, drooling and breathing difficulties. If you notice any of these symptoms, seek veterinary treatment immediately.