Summer can bring many happy pet memories, but it can also bring some extra challenges. Here we highlight some, so while still enjoying summer with your pets you can make sure they stay healthy too.
Heatstroke and sunburn
Heatstroke is common and potentially fatal. Because our pets have a fur coat and are only able to lose heat through panting, they are much more at risk of heatstroke than us. Short-nosed breeds (brachycephalic) such as pugs, bulldogs, Persian cats and lionhead rabbits are more prone, as are elderly or overweight pets. At first, they appear agitated but this can quickly lead to collapse and can be fatal. Dogs can die if left in cars in as little as 15 minutes, with signs of heatstroke in just a few minutes. With open windows, a car still becomes as hot as an oven quickly, even when it doesn’t feel that warm. When it’s 22 degrees outside, in a car it can reach an unbearable 47 degrees within the hour.
If you think your pet is showing signs of heatstroke contact us immediately. Remove them from the heat and offer cool water. If possible, soak them in cool water. Cold water produces shivering, making them hotter so should be avoided – go with cool but not icy! Get your pet to the closest vet (even if it’s not us) as soon as possible.
Our pets’ fur gives some protection from the sun. Areas that are hairless or sparse can suffer sun damage and sunburn. White breeds with pink skin – such as bulldogs – often have sensitive skin. White cats especially are prone to sunburn on their ears and sometimes nose which can progress to skin cancer. It is important to keep your pets out of the sun as much as possible. Pet sun cream should be used on hairless or sparse areas around the head and ears.
Hazards in the garden
We see too many road traffic accidents in the summer when dogs escape through open windows and doors. Check your garden is fenced off so your dog cannot escape. Provide shade to rest in and water to drink at all times, and keep exercise to a minimum in the heat of the day.
Be aware that some plants are poisonous to pets. Daffodils, lilies, azaleas, laburnum and yew are a few. If in doubt, speak to a member of our team before planting anything new. Many pesticides and fertilizers can harm pets. Try safer, pet-friendly alternatives. Blue-green algae can be toxic if ingested. This is actually a bacterium but has an algae-like appearance when clumped together in stagnant water.
During BBQs, make sure your dog doesn’t have a chance to get at the scraps. Undercooked meat and fatty foods can make them poorly. Scavenging bones, skewers, or corn on the cob may end in risky surgery for removal. Use paper plates and cups, as broken glass and crockery can cause injury to paws. Make sure bins are secure.
Tips for travel with your pet
The effects of motion sickness can often be overcome by conditioning your dog to travel. Start in a stationary car, giving treats to form positive memories. Introduce a harness at this stage as it is important your pet is restrained for both their security and your own. Next, try with the engine running. Eventually, try driving just a few metres. Behaviour training takes time and patience and taking it extremely slowly is important. Small pets can travel in a carrier, wedged so it can’t tip over. Ventilation is essential. Don’t be tempted to fill the basket with comfy blankets in the summer, as this will increase the chances of your pet overheating. There are sprays that may have a calming effect on your pet, helping the training process.
Avoid long journeys in the heat. If unavoidable, then break the journey up and never leave your dog in a parked car. Remember that dogs die in hot cars. If you see a distressed dog in a vehicle please call 999, or either the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999 or the Scottish SPCA on 03000 999 999.
Do not feed them for a few hours before travel, but small amounts of water can be taken while travelling. If your pet suffers from motion sickness placing them in a footwell can help so they can’t see movement. Our vets can discuss medications for sickness if needed.
If you plan to visit other countries in Europe, please discuss your plans with our vets before booking. There are diseases spread by mosquitoes, sandflies, ticks, and fleas to consider. Different parasites may need to be prevented in different countries, too. Your pet will need an up-to-date pet passport issued under the Pets Travel Scheme (PETS) and fulfil entry requirements to re-enter the UK. For details on how to get a pet passport, contact us. You can also visit gov.uk/take-pet-abroad or telephone DEFRA directly for further information.
Life’s a beach
If you’re lucky enough to be venturing on the beach, here are our handy tips:
- Make sure your dog doesn’t eat too much sand, as large volumes can cause blockages. Drinking too much saltwater can also be dangerous. Offer them fresh water regularly and rinse the salt water off them when you can.
- Remember not all dogs swim well. Take care of the tides, and introduce them slowly, especially if they have short legs (!).
- With all the excitement your dog may not realise they’re overheating until it’s too late. Avoid the hottest part of the day and limit exercise.
Rabbits eat some of their faeces (caecotrophs) to enable them to recycle proteins. In summer this can make them attractive to flies, laying eggs that within 24 hours can hatch into maggots. Maggots chew through the skin causing flystrike, which is sadly often fatal. Check your rabbit’s bottom daily for urine staining and faeces. Speak to our veterinary team who can advise on how to prevent this and why your rabbit may be predisposed. Wounds on any animal can also be attractive to flies. Speak to our vets if you are concerned.
Have a good summer, and stay safe! Please do call us if you need any advice.