Find out about keeping your pet healthy and happy in the summer. Read on to find out more about:
- Keeping pets cool in hot weather
- Pet Holidays Leaflet
- BBQ fun can spell danger for pets
- Travelling safely with pets
- Summer garden safety
- Cats and dogs
- Rabbits & Guinea Pigs
- Small rodents: Hamsters, Rats, Mice and Gerbils
- Fish and fish ponds
With a little care and attention, we can ensure our pets have fun and don’t suffer in the sunshine.
Keeping pets cool in hot weather:
Pet owners are urged not to forget about our furry friends as the temperatures rise.
Never leave pets in cars, not even for just a few minutes with windows open. You may be delayed and temperatures can soar dangerously high in minutes, causing potentially fatal heatstroke.
Don’t let pets sit out in strong sun, or leave hutches, runs or cages in direct sunlight. Make sure there is always access to shade.
Never put your bird cage close to the window or in direct sunlight – the temperature can quickly soar.
Make sure pets have access to plenty of clean, fresh water at all times and change water regularly throughout the day.
Know the signs of heatstroke – excessive panting, extreme salivation, distress and collapse. If this happens, gradually cool your pet’s body temperature with cool (not cold) water, such as wrapping in water soaked towels that you change frequently, and call your vet for further advice.
If you have a long-haired pet, get their fur trimmed to prevent them from over-heating.
Walk dogs in the morning or evening – before 8am and after 5pm is best - not only will this prevent them overheating in the midday sun, but hot road surfaces, pavements and sand can burn paws.
Rabbits are prone to maggot infestations (known as flystrike) in the summer. Flies are attracted to dirty fur and lay their eggs, which hatch in to maggots. To prevent this life-threatening condition, check a rabbit’s bottom at least twice daily for dirtiness and maggots. If you spot any maggots call your vet as soon as you can.. If their bottom is dirty, clean it gently with a damp cloth.
Food can go off very quickly in the heat, so discard any leftovers to avoid flies
Put a nearly full plastic bottle of water into your freezer and then wrap it in a towel. Lie the bottle down by the side of your small furry pet’s cage, next to the sleeping area. It’s not a good idea to put the bottle in the cage as it can cause leaks and make the pet too cold. Put two in the freezer so you’ll always have one available.
Take extra care if transporting pets in hot weather – keep windows open when the car is moving, but never let a dog put their head out of the car window. Travel during the coolest times of the day and never leave them in a parked car.
Fishponds and aquaria can get very hot in the summer - check regularly and make sure the pond has a shaded area.
BBQ fun can spell danger for pets:
With the weather warming up, many people will be stoking up their barbecues. But pet owners should take extra precautions to ensure their pets stay safe when the heat is on.
Skip the scraps - eating barbecue scraps can upset your pet’s stomach. Undercooked, unfamiliar or fatty food can cause vomiting and diarrhoea.
Bin it – make sure any leftover food and rubbish is properly thrown away in a lidded dustbin. A very common barbecue-related problem seen by PDSA vets is pets that have eaten corn on the cob cores. These can cause a serious blockage and have to be surgically removed.
Don’t be a ‘fuel’ - lighter fluid contains hydrocarbons (derived from crude oil), which can prove fatal if ingested. So keep it well out of reach.
Flamin’ hot – playing around a barbecue can lead to severe burns, so pets should be kept well away from flames and burning embers.
Slap on the sun cream – pets can suffer from sunburn and heatstroke just like humans, so if you’re enjoying the sun ensure your four-legged friends have access to shade and plenty of fresh water. Special pet sun creams can be used on pets with white fur or damaged skin.
Watch what you drink – make sure that glasses and drinks are not within reach of thirsty pets. Alcohol can be particularly hazardous for pets and glass bottles or cups can be easily knocked over and smash – so plastic cups are a much better option.
Travelling safely with pets:
Many people love to go away with their pets – whether on day trips or longer holidays. It’s a great way to spend time with our four-legged friends, but keeping them safe while travelling will help to ensure a fun day for everyone.
Car travel can be very dangerous if a pet isn’t restrained. For example, a medium sized dog travelling in a car at 30mph could hurtle forward with the force of a polar bear should the car be involved in a crash! It’s vital that pets are properly secured when travelling in vehicles to guarantee both their safety, and that of the other passengers.
Correctly fitted seat belt harnesses are ideal for dogs, while a sturdy good-sized carrier that’s securely positioned in the car is a must for cats. Here are some more top tips to keep your pets safe and happy on their travels:
Introduce your pet to the car from an early age – allow your pet to explore inside your parked car in their own time, under supervision in a safe area. Leave the doors open so they can come and go as they please and reward their relaxed behaviour. Gradually build up from this – first, by getting your pet used to the seat belt or carrier, then just turning the engine on to help them get used to the noise. When they are comfortable with this, go for a short drive.
Take dogs for a walk before the journey – this is a good way for your pet to burn off excess energy and prevent them from becoming restless.
Always ensure your pet is secured before setting out on a journey – using a suitable harness will help keep you, your passengers, and your pet safe from harm in the event of an accident.
Make regular stops – to give your dog a chance to stretch their legs and relieve themselves to prevent ’accidents’ in the car – only exercise on the lead if the area is unfamiliar. Provide plenty of fresh drinking water during breaks.
Never let dogs lean out of the window of a moving vehicle – their eyes or nose can be injured by debris or small stones kicked up from the road. Pets have also been known to fall out, or be injured by passing vehicles.
Drive steadily – try not to brake sharply or accelerate too fast as this can be stressful or frightening for your pet.
Summer garden safety:
We all love to spend time in the garden in the summer months, and our pets are no exception. However, vet charity PDSA is urging owners to help our curious companions stay safe in great outdoors by taking a few simple precautions.
Garden treatments and some of our most common plants and flowers can actually pose a serious poisoning risk to cats, dogs and other pets. But a little extra vigilance will ensure that any hazards are kept well out of reach of prying paws.
All green-fingered pet owners carry out a ‘garden audit’ to help eliminate some of these risks:
Known your onions – certain plants such as daffodils, lilies, laburnum, cherry laurel, castor oil bush and yew are highly toxic to pets and can even be fatal, so make sure you know the dangers. Members of the onion family will also give pets a poorly tummy if eaten. It’s best to keep these plants out of areas where pets have free access, and check before planting anything new.
Chemical control – Many pesticides and herbicides can be harmful to pets and other animals, including slug pellets, weedkillers and bug sprays. Try safer alternatives, such as pet-friendly slug pellets if possible. If you need to use chemicals then always read and follow the instructions, and keep pets away from treated areas for the recommended period. Store any chemicals securely and out of reach.
Physical attraction – broken bottles and sharp stones are obvious hazards, but seemingly harmless objects left lying around can also cause injuries. Cats are always curious and will tend to investigate anything that smells interesting (such as bins with food remains in), whereas dogs are liable to swallow anything that captures their attention! Check regularly for potential hazards and remove these.
Cocoa shell mulches – these contain high levels of theobromine, a chemical that is highly toxic to pets. Just a few mouthfuls of mulch could kill a Cocker Spaniel! Avoid these where possible, or keep pets away from areas where these are used.
Dog in hot car:
Never leave pets in cars, conservatories or caravans, even just for a short time with the windows open, as this makes little difference and you could be unexpectedly delayed. The temperature can soar dangerously high in just a few minutes, causing potentially fatal heatstroke. This happens when a pet is unable to regulate its normal body temperature and can lead to kidney failure and long term damage to other internal organs, and can eventually be fatal.
Cats and Dogs:
Make sure your cat or dog has constant access to clean, fresh drinking water – check dishes twice a day and take plenty of water if you go out.
Don’t let pets sit out in strong sunshine for too long, and ensure they always have access to shade. To avoid sunburn use pet sunblock to protect pets with pale or thin fur, particularly on hairless areas such as dogs’ noses and cats’ ear tips. Avoid walking dogs in the midday heat and instead go out in the morning and evening when it is cooler. Keep your pet’s hair short to help them keep cool – getting dogs clipped for summer can make a big difference.
Signs of heatstroke in cats and dogs include excessive panting, extreme salivation, distress and collapse. The recommended treatment for heat stroke is to get the pet’s temperature down by immersing the patient in cool, but not ice cold, water and gradually decreasing the water temperature. Don’t throw icy water over them, as this decreases their temperature too quickly. Alternatively put water soaked towels over your pet and place them near to a cooling fan. Make sure they have as much cold water to drink as wanted, and vigorously massage the legs to help maintain the blood flow. You should also take your pet to your vet, even if they seem to have made a full recovery, in case there is any long-term damage.
Rabbits & Guinea Pigs:
Rabbits and guinea pigs are very vulnerable to heatstroke, so it is essential that they have access to shade. The entire roof of a hutch must be solid for shade and safety, and the exercise run should also have a covered area. If the weather gets very warm, move their hutch and run in to a shaded area to protect them, remembering that the sun will move during the course of the day. Never house rabbits or guinea pigs in glass buildings, such as greenhouses.
Always make sure your pets’ bottle is topped up with fresh water to help prevent overheating. Leaving a glass coffee jar filled with ice cubes will give your rabbits something cool to lie against in hot weather.
Signs of heat stroke include lethargy, drooling and shallow rapid breathing. As the condition worsens, they may fit, which increases their body temperature further. Eventually, the condition can progress to death. Heat stroke can occur when guinea pigs are exposed to temperatures above 28°C, but effects may be seen when temperatures are as low as 21°C, especially in obese, stressed or pregnant individuals.
If you are concerned that your pet may be showing signs of heat stroke, wrap them in a cool, damp towel and take them away from direct sunlight before calling your vet straight away.
Rabbits can also be prone to maggot infestations (known as flystrike) in the summer, so should be checked twice a day. If they have a dirty bottom, clean it with a damp cloth, and if you spot any signs of flystrike, call your vet for advice immediately as this can often be fatal.
Small rodents: Hamsters, Rats, Mice and Gerbils:
Cages should be positioned out of direct sunlight and moved away from places that are likely to become hot. Always make sure your pets’ bottle is topped up with fresh water to help prevent overheating.
As with guinea pigs and rabbits, signs of possible heat stroke include lethargy, drooling and unconsciousness. It is much better to prevent the condition in the first place, but if you suspect heat stroke, wrap your pet in a cool, damp cloth and call your vet for advice.
Particular care needs to be taken if transporting small pets in a car in hot weather, e.g. to a vet’s appointment. Keep windows open when the car is moving and never leave them in a parked car, even with the windows down or if it seems cloudy outside – temperatures can rise very quickly.
Fish and fish ponds:
Make sure fish tanks are kept in cool areas to prevent overheating, and keep an eye on the temperature.
Fish ponds should have shaded areas, plus deeper areas, to enable fish to stick to cooler waters in the hot weather.