Keeping your pets safe in summer

With temperatures breaking all records this July, we can expect extremely hot weather going into August, so keeping our pets safe in summer should be our top priority! Being a pet parent, it’s important to be prepared when it comes to providing the best care to your pets during these hotter months, and to know what to do should your pet get into any difficulties.

Never leave pets in a hot car

This summer, there have already been so many sad cases in the news of dogs dying in hot cars and caravans. It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to never leave your dog in a hot enclosed space. Just a few minutes to get a newspaper is enough to cause your pet great distress, even with a window left open. When it’s 22°C outside, the temperature can quickly rise to 47°C (117⁰F) in these environments, which can be fatal. So, before you ‘nip-out’, think about your best friend and make provisions for them.

It’s not just dogs that are affected by extreme heat, cats are too. Despite generally being found stretched out sunbathing at the slightest hint of sun, just like us, too much relaxation in the sun can lead to overheating and heatstroke. Keep a check on where your cat tends to lie and discourage access to a green house or enclosed outbuildings. Also, make sure to never leave your cat in a conservatory during hot weather!

Don’t walk pets in the heat

Despite warnings from Vet practices and many animal charities highlighting the dangers of walking pets in the heat, there are still owners who don’t heed these warnings. During the hottest parts of the day, dogs can be seen hopping uncomfortably from one foot to the other or walking unusually quickly to try to keep their paws from burning on the hot pavements. Even parched grassy areas are too hot as the soil can retain the heat.

Thankfully most people are responsible pet parents and are aware of the dangers of heat but it’s always important to test the pavement before you take your pet out. It only takes minutes for your pet’s paw pads to burn, so if it’s too hot to touch with your hand for a few seconds, then it’s too hot for their paws.

Exercise is important for physical and mental wellbeing, especially for working breeds or young dogs who have bountiful amounts of pent-up energy to release – but choose their exercise time carefully. Plan their walks for the cooler parts of the day so they don’t miss out; a lovely peaceful morning walk before work or the school run, and a late evening stroll as the sun goes down. Even if the temperature has dropped and the pavements are cool, remember too much exercise can lead to overheating and exhaustion. When you are out, slow down, take it easy and remember to walk in the shade. Take your dog’s water bottle, and if they have a cooling mat, pack it in your bag for when you stop and have a well-earned rest together under a tree.

Keeping your pet cool

If you don’t have access to the outdoors or don’t have a garden, it’s still important to keep your pet cool indoors. Ensure pets always have access to fresh drinking water to help keep them hydrated. You can give them a cool damp towel to lie on (never place a damp towel over your pet’s body as it can trap in heat), or an icepack wrapped in a towel – close the curtains and open a window or door for a gentle breeze. You may want to invest in a Cooling Mat which can be bought from your local vets, pet stores or online. Summer is the ideal time for a bit of pet pampering!

Here are a few other ideas your pet will love to keep them cool:

  • Freeze their favourite Kong with treats and water
  • Make tasty Tuna ice lollies for your cat and supervise licking, which is a great bonding exercise for you and your cat. Check out the recipe from the Blue Cross at the end of this blog.
  • Consider a paddling pool – most dogs will appreciate something to splash around in
  • If you don’t have a paddling pool, then a water sprinkler will provide just as much fun!
  • Groom pets regularly as regular grooming in warm weather can help remove dead or excess hair, which is much better for staying cool!

Keep protected

Just like us, pets can burn in the sun and need protection. If your pet has thin fur (or has just had a short clip at the groomers), or light-coloured fur, they can be very vulnerable to getting burnt. So, apply pet-safe sun cream to those exposed parts making sure you include pink skin such as the tips of the ears or end of the nose. Your vet will be able to recommend a suitable sun cream if you’re not quite sure which one to buy.

First aid for your pet

What if it all goes wrong despite your best efforts to keep your pet safe in the heat? Would you know what to do?

Heatstroke in dogs

When a dog gets too hot and is unable to reduce its body temperature by panting, it will develop heatstroke – which can be fatal. The quicker they get veterinary treatment the better the outcome.

Warning signs of heatstroke:

  • Heavy panting and difficulty breathing
  • Excessive drooling
  • The dog appears lethargic, drowsy, or uncoordinated
  • Collapsing or vomiting

If you suspect your dog has the signs of heatstroke you must act quickly. Call your local vet at once for first aid advice and be prepared to take them to the surgery for treatment.

Emergency First Aid – Heatstroke

The RSPCA recommends Emergency First Aid for dogs suffering from heatstroke. Dogs suffering from heatstroke urgently need to have their body temperature lowered gradually for the best chance of survival.

Here’s what to do:

  • Move the dog to a shaded and cool area.
  • Immediately pour cool (not cold to avoid shock) water over the dog. Tap water (15-16°C) has been found to be the most effective at cooling dogs with heat-related illnesses. In a true emergency, any water is better than nothing.
  • Wet towels placed over the dog can worsen the condition, trapping heat. In mild cases towels can be placed under the dog, but never over, and in a true emergency water immersion or pouring water with air movement is ideal.
  • Allow the dog to drink small amounts of cool water.
  • Continue to pour cool water over the dog until their breathing starts to settle, but not too much that they start shivering.
  • Dogs that have lost consciousness will stop panting, despite still having a very high temperature, these dogs require urgent aggressive cooling as a priority.
  • Throughout the treatment of heatstroke try to avoid pouring water on or near your dog’s head, as there is a risk of them inhaling water which could lead to drowning, especially for flat-faced and unconscious dogs.

Once the dog is cool, take them to the nearest vet as a matter of urgency. Some types of dogs are more prone to heatstroke, like very old or young dogs, dogs with thick, heavy coats, or dogs with very short flat faces like pugs and bulldog types. Dogs with certain diseases or on some types of medication are also more at risk.

If you see a dog in a hot car displaying any signs of heatstroke dial 999 immediately.

To find out more about heatstroke and how to care for pets in hot weather, click here for advice from the RSPCA.

Other nasties to consider

Fleas and Ticks

A quick word on fleas and ticks. Summer is the height of flea season and ticks are out and about too, lurking in the undergrowth. Make sure you are up to date with your pet’s flea and tick protection. Remember to check your pets and yourself for ticks after every walk. If you find a tick attached to your pet carefully remove it using a tick remover or speak to your vet.

Blue-green algae in ponds and lakes

Dogs love to cool down in water but take extra precautions around ponds and lakes, as hot weather can lead to an increase in blue-green algae containing toxins which are harmful, and potentially fatal to dogs.

Grass seeds

What’s better than a roll in the grass? But this innocent pastime can be fraught with hidden danger. Grass seeds are tiny arrow-like structures that can easily find their way into dogs’ ears, eyelids and between your dog’s toes, quickly burrowing up into their paws causing extreme discomfort. An indication your dog may have grass seeds embedded in their paws, is intense licking of the area. This painful condition needs to be dealt with by your vet ASAP. And once again, it’s important to check your pets over, after every walk.

Final thoughts

Summer is all about having fun and relaxing in the great outdoors with your friends, family, and pets, but remember to be mindful of the sun.

Ensure pets always have access to shade and fresh drinking water to help keep them cool and hydrated, and before you take your dog out for a walk consider the temperature – if it’s too hot for you, then it’s most definitely too hot for them. Remember, no dog ever died from missing a walk.

Click here for the Blue Cross tuna ice lolly recipe!

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