Summer is the season of the year when real fun can be had outside with your pets and the family. There are however things to be aware of when it comes to summertime, as there are hidden dangers lurking around the corner. In this Pets4Homes article, we look at how you can survive the summer with your pets and keep them safe. The article contains 11 top tips, so please take a read and be prepared when the sun comes out (or when the sun doesn’t come out because of British weather!) Either way you should be armed with these tips!
Parasites can be found on pets all year round, and although most people think of the flea as the first parasite that springs to mind (excuse the pun), there are many other little critters that can cause your pet's misery. Ticks, mites, worms, and lice can all take up residence on and inside your pet.
Whereas some will be there whatever the season, some prefer to make an appearance when the weather is much warmer. Fleas are always thought of as a summer nuisance, but because of central heating, they can be found on colder days as well.
Parasites can cause all sorts of discomfort for your poor pet. Fleas can cause irritation including an allergic reaction called Flea Allergy Dermatitis, which can, in turn, cause a secondary skin infection. A large number of fleas can cause anaemia.
Worms can cause malabsorption, vomiting, and diarrhoea. Ticks can cause Babesia and Lyme disease.
There are numerous types of mites and they can cause extreme itching, fur loss and skin infections. Lice can also cause immense itching. Because many of these parasites set up an itch/scratch cycle, sometimes the pet will cause themselves self-trauma.
The best way to stop your pets from becoming miserable with parasite problems during the summer and all year round is by prevention. Parasite treatments such as flea products, tick products, and worming preparations are all available from your vet.
Vet products tend to be much more effective in treating cases of parasites, than products sold in shops. The key is to regularly treat your pet, making sure that they have adequate protection against these critters all year round. Don’t forget to treat the environment as well, hot washing bedding, using a good flea spray and vacuuming, not forgetting the car!
In 2018 the UK saw some top temperatures over the summer, with the onset of a long-lasting heatwave. During this time many pets suffered from overheating. It meant vets were much busier than usual with pets that had succumbed to the extremes of the heat.
It is worth remembering that although the sun may not be out and that it maybe cloudy, the heat and humidity are still there. Just as we can get sunburnt on a cloudy day, our pets can feel the heat too much (especially really furry pets), on a very warm day.
Overheating can be fatal in pets. The usual way dogs, for example, cool down is by panting – but if they have had far too much heat, panting alone will not reduce their body temperature sufficiently. They can end up almost cooking internally.
Animals that have been exposed to too much heat can also show vomiting, confusion, lethargy, lack of appetite, and be completely unsteady on their feet. Because they are over hot, they can also become grumpy or even aggressive. In some cases, they can also suffer with a condition called vestibular syndrome, where their eyes flicker back-and-forth.
There are several things to do to make sure your pet does not overheat during the summer. Some are simple but all use common sense. Firstly, make sure that they have access to clean, fresh, cold water. This is a necessity at any time for any pet. Keep an area of your back garden shady for them to lay in – this means they can still get fresh air but keep cool same time. Don’t take them out for walks during the hottest part of the day – this obviously applies to dogs. And don’t go for really long walks!
Just like humans, our pet’s skin can become prone to sunburn, especially after prolonged exposure. Although there are sun hats for dogs, they are not the most popular choice! It means their skin and particular areas of their body are more prone to sunburn. White pets and cats seem to be particularly vulnerable, it is why sun cream has been developed for our pets, to help combat the problems that are listed above and keep them safe.
Pets can burn exactly the same way as humans, with the reddening of the skin coupled with soreness and pain. As said above lighter coloured animals are much more susceptible to sunburn. Cats with white ears also seemed to be victims of the sun’s rays – some cats even have to have the ears cut-off if they become cancerous especially at the ends.
You may think that a cat sitting on a windowsill on a sunny day can get sun burnt, as the sun comes through the window. The reality is that because of the window, most of the harmful rays that cause burning are filtered, so the cat is actually better off sitting there than in full sun.
The best way is to limit the amount of exposure they have to sun, especially when the sun is at its strongest during the day. Like us only takes minutes to start burning. Becoming increasingly popular are products that act as sun creams your pets. These are applied exactly the same way as we would apply sun cream to ourselves. Please make sure that any sun creams are pet-friendly, some are specially designed for pets only. If the sun cream is not pet-friendly, it could make them ill, especially if they ingest it whilst grooming.
Dogs with small skulls often have their respiratory system compromised. This is because everything in the skull is pushed closer meaning the windpipe and other respiratory areas are a lot less efficient at delivering enough oxygen. There are three types of dog skull, brachycephalic, mesocephalic and dolichocephalic. Of all these skull shapes the smallest is the first one.
Dogs with a very short snout are becoming increasingly popular. Animals such as the pug and French bulldog are overtaking bigger dogs such as Labradors in the race to become Britain’s favourite dog breed.
Your pets cannot help their skull shape – they are born with it! The issues lie with how compromised their breathing is, and this can be exacerbated during hot weather in the summer. It is simply getting enough air into the body system and oxygenating the blood sufficiently. You may often see a small dog panting almost to get enough air during the warm weather. Some pets do this even in the winter!
In severe cases where the pets cannot get an adequate intake of air, they may feel giddy and even collapse. Severe cases can also show the areas in around their mouths that are supposed to be pink including their gums and tongue, tinged to slightly blue – simply because there is not enough oxygen in the body.
As an owner of a brachycephalic dog, that has this skull shape your options are limited. However, in the summer and during warm weather take note of the other tips in this article – especially not letting your pet overexert themselves in the heat. Like us, if we go for a jog or run, we need to get enough oxygen into our bodies to be able to quickly recover. It’s the same with your pets that have this skull shape, and they may find it difficult to breathe easily during hot weather. Some veterinary practices offer surgery to help correct this condition, so please speak to your vet if you are at all worried.
In the UK we are lucky enough to have plenty of green spaces where wildlife can thrive. This can also include our own back gardens. Wildlife in the form of birds and other small creatures could regularly attend your garden. The problem here lies if you have a cat that is a bit of a hunter. Further afield (again excuse the pun) on any farmland walk you may come across livestock with your dog. If your dog worries any livestock, they can run the risk of being shot at from farmers.
Cats that are hunters are much more likely to be infected with tapeworm as these are often found inside their prey. Of course, this is a problem all year round, not just summer, but because cats are often fickle creatures, they tend to wander out further during warmer days.
On the flipside dogs that worry livestock on farmland during walks, will definitely upset the local farmer. As an owner, you run the risk of being fined or worse for not having your pet under control. Dogs also have the ‘chasing rabbits’ syndrome to contend with – where their recall goes completely out of the window, as they try to disappear down a rabbit hole.
You will never take the instinct of hunting out of the cat, it is in their DNA – even cats that don’t hunt still have that dormant behaviour. Some owners find using a bell on a collar can help, anti-climb birdfeeders are also a consideration. If your cat is a hunter, regular worming is a good idea – even monthly, but speak to your vet for more advice. When it comes to dogs and wildlife, common sense should prevail – keep them on a lead around livestock, and also if they have a tendency to chase unsuspecting bunnies!
Some pets can travel in a car with no worries whatsoever, taking in the views as the vehicle goes along. For others even getting into a car can be enough to make them feel nauseous, and before you have reached the end of the road there is a pile of vomit on the seat.
Generally, a pet will only go in a car if they are being taken to a vet, for a walk in a different area, or to a boarding establishment prior to an owner’s holiday. Of course, there are other times, but the bottom-line is not all pets travel very well.
The obvious one is it makes them sick, but what might not be so obvious is the distress that it causes them in the first place. Animals, on the whole, do not like being sick, it can be a sign that they are not well and weak against predators. When a dog is sick in a car it can associate the car with feeling unwell – they may become agitated, vocal, shake, and even have a toilet accident. A cat in a basket may feel completely unsafe – they tend to be very vocal. This can even be on the shortest of journeys for any pet.
If your pet needs to regularly travel, it can be a good idea to try and get them used to the vehicle. Letting them get in it when you’re not actually going anywhere; just having the car on the drive, so they can safely get used to the vehicle without the motion. Some owners swear by natural travel products to help calm nerves, such as Adaptil or Pet Calm – these are often sprayed in the car (or cat’s box) prior to a journey. Some vets will also prescribe anti-sickness medication, especially for longer journeys. In any case always go prepared, with bags, newspaper, wipes, and towels.
It’s not just car journeys that can cause problems. A car during hot weather is a potential oven inside, even with windows open, they can quickly become unbearably hot. Add to the equation a furry coat and you have the potential for disaster. Dogs overheat scarily quickly in situations such as this. There are other places to consider as well, including a conservatory and even a caravan. Leaving a dog in a conservatory whilst you are out, can be like leaving them in a greenhouse. If you are on holiday a caravan can be stifling in the hot weather.
Dogs do not sweat as we do, the only outlet to release heat is through their pads on their feet and mainly through panting. The problem is their coat acts as an insulator, so when they get too hot and start to pant, they cannot lower the heat quickly enough.
They become dehydrated quite rapidly, confusion and dizziness may set in and the dog may even mess in the car. The confusion will get more intense as the brain is basically being fried. Respiratory problems can occur before the dog collapses and can eventually die. It sounds horrific, and it is. And it still happens, worryingly in a very short space of time.
Predominantly this is where common sense should kick in. Never, ever, leave a dog in a car during warm weather. It doesn’t even have to be sunny, even on a cloudy day in the warm weather your dog is at risk. Planning ahead is vital, if you know you need to be in the shops for a while, visiting somebody, or have an appointment – do not take your dog with you. Leaving the windows open and a bowl of water in the car is not enough.
At home leave them with plenty of air and shade, and not locked in a conservatory.
Many pets of the smaller variety live in accommodation outdoors – rabbit hutches, guinea pig cages and even aviaries. Whilst these living quarters are great for privacy and sleeping in, they also need fresh air and the chance to spread their legs (or wings). Many owners have a proper run for their rabbits and guinea pigs, whilst aviaries have an area where birds can stretch their wings. The problem is in the summer these areas may not have adequate shade and can cause the pet distress as they get warmer and warmer.
Because small fairies such as rabbits and guinea pigs do not have much reserve, if they overheat they can rapidly die. Much like symptoms in a dog, but just on a much smaller scale – shaking, going quiet, rabbits may try and dig a hole in the ground to get shade, however many runs have a wired bottom, so digging cannot take place. Small furries can become distressed very easily, however, rabbits and guinea pigs are unable to be sick, so they can tend to feel even worse.
The main things are to provide two specific requirements – adequate shade and adequate water. Most runs do not come with a shade, however sitting them under a sun umbrella can provide some – just remember if they are out in the garden all day, the sun moves! Placing a cover over one end of the run can be a good idea, this means it can provide shade and if the weather changes, a bit of shelter until you’re able to put them back in their hutch. Just be aware that any covering needs to be chew proof. Water should always be provided, and it should be clean and fresh.
Blue-green algae is not actually an algae at all, but a group of bacterial organisms. When these come together bodies of water, they take on a blue colour and look like algae. They are much more common during spells of dry weather such as the summer. They often like still bodies of water such as ponds and lakes. The problem is if your dog swims in the water and ingests blue-green algae, it can be very dangerous.
Ingestion of blue-green algae can be fatal – if there is enough toxicity, scarily it can kill within 15 minutes. If your dog has ingested a small amount, you may see the following symptoms:
If your dog does show any of these signs, and you are concerned that it may be blue-green algae (and you have recently been with them while they were swimming in a pond or lake), please speak to a vet as a matter of urgency.
To be sure and safe, do not let your dog paddle or swim in areas you may suspect contain blue-green algae. The problem is unless these algae come together, they are not visible to the naked eye. If there are warning signs around lakes or ponds areas about the algae, please heed them. Because the algae often form at the edges of water, due to wind and water ripples, do not let your dog drink the water.
This section is about being prepared! During the summer it is important to be aware of potential hazards and dangers, especially on dog walks. Being prepared beforehand can give you real peace of mind when it comes to walking and exploring with your dog. So, there’s not one problem in this section, but there may be many different ones.
You can be on a walk with your dog in the summer and take a wrong turn, ending up on a much longer route then you anticipated. In the heat of the summer, you can quickly become dehydrated, as can your dog, on this unknown route your dog will be excited as there are new sights, sounds and smells to investigate. As they do not know the path they may pick up an injury, such as a gashed foot. This is an extreme scenario, however, it is also totally possible. Being prepared this summer can really help!
Consider taking a first-aid kit on a walk – you have probably realised by now this is not just a summer thing, it equally is important all year-round. In the first-aid kit take some bandages, dressings, sticky tape, scissors, and some sterile wipes. You can actually buy specific first-aid kits for pets if you wish. Additionally, to the first-aid kit, make sure you have enough water with you. Not just for your own hydration, but for your four-legged friend. You can also buy collapsible water bowls which are easier to carry.
The seaside and beach are great places to take your dog, however, the beach can contain a few hazards, which you need to be aware of. The first is making sure you are allowed on the beach in the first place! Many councils ban dogs from beaches during the summer. Secondly being aware of hidden dangers such as sharp glass and rocks hidden in the sand, discarded litter and even the sea itself.
If your dog is not supposed to be on the beach, you can be fined – so this won’t affect a dog, but you! The hazards such as glass can cut paws easily (as can sharp stones). Some dogs even like to try and play with stones, and there is a risk of them being ingested – leading to an operation to remove them.
The sea can cause a issues with a lot of ingestion of seawater, which can mean the very least an upset stomach, but if there is an excess of salt swallowed, this can lead to other problems. There are other problems that can arise at the beach but many of these are covered above – such as heat and lack of fresh drinking water.
Check firstly whether the beach is dog-friendly at that time of year, some councils do allow beaches for dog walking even in the summer, but it is best to check.
Consider taking a first-aid kit with you (see above) and make sure you have plenty of water to drink. Try and find a shady spot where your dog may be able to settle, alternatively take a sun umbrella. If they love playing in the water, limit this and make sure they are not trying to swallow the seawater. Take a toy with you for them to play with, rather than them trying to pick up a stone. Beach fun with your dog is planning ahead and common sense!
You can see that there are many hazards during the summer that can affect your pets, but with a little planning and being prepared with items you may need, there will be no stopping the fun. If you have any concerns about any of the problems highlighted, your vet will be able to give you further advice.