Top tips to ensure your pet has a happy and healthy summer
22 May 2023
Whilst summer can be an enjoyable season for many of us, higher temperatures and summer activities can bring increased risks to pets. A previous survey by BVA found that half of vets had treated animals for heatstroke, and more than a third had treated animals for other heat-related conditions, including breathing difficulties, burnt paw pads and sunburn1.
Follow our top tips to ensure that your pet has a healthy and happy summer!
Probably the most well-known summer hazard, heatstroke is a life-threatening condition which can lead to organ failure and in some cases, even death. Pets overheat easily as they are unable to cool themselves down and regulate their body temperature effectively by sweating, so it’s important to take steps to prevent them from developing heatstroke.
Brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds such as bulldogs and pugs, breeds with thick coats, overweight or obese animals, and animals with lung disease are even more at risk of developing heatstroke.
To reduce the risks of heatstroke:
- Make sure your pet has access to a cool, shaded and well-ventilated area, both indoors and outdoors
- Always have clean drinking water available (you can add ice to keep it cool)
- Walk dogs during cooler times of the day (early morning or late evening) and avoid the heat of the day
- Never leave pets in a car or hot room (e.g. conservatory). “Not long” is too long.
- If your pet shows signs of heatstroke such as heavy panting, restlessness, drooling and lack of coordination, contact your vet immediately
Some breeds of cats and dogs and those with lighter-coloured or finer fur, may be prone to sunburn, particularly on their ears. You can apply appropriate sun cream – ask your vet for advice on the right protection.
Whilst it can be very tempting to offer dogs and cats a treat from the BBQ, most BBQ food is very unhealthy to pets. Fatty and marinated meats, uncooked meats, spicy sauces and food with high salt content can all cause digestive issues in dogs and cats and make them unwell. Food containing bones such as ribs, chicken wings and kebabs on skewers, and corn on the cob are a serious choking hazard. Onion and garlic can be poisonous to dogs and cats.
Flystrike, where flies lay eggs on another animal which then hatch into maggots, can be life-threatening for rabbits and guinea pigs. Check your pet daily, particularly around their back end and under their tail, and clean it if dirty. Clean your pet’s toilet areas every day and change bedding at least once a week. If your rabbit or guinea pig is affected by flystrike, contact your vet immediately.
Ticks and fleas
Ticks and fleas are more common in warmer months and can transmit diseases through bites to pets and pet owners. Check pets for ticks frequently and promptly remove any. Speak to your vet about suitable treatments.
Many dogs enjoy swimming and it can be great exercise for them, but lakes and rivers can harbour hidden hazards. Do not let your dog swim in water that is stagnant, has blue-green algae (this is toxic for dogs), in reservoirs, or fast-flowing water or flood water. Consider giving your dog a life vest.
Wasp and bee stings
Wasp and bee stings usually cause only minor pain and irritation to pets and generally don’t require any veterinary treatment. You can remove the sting by carefully brushing it away using something flat like a credit card. However, if your pet is stung on the throat or mouth, is stung multiple times, or the swelling is causing distress, contact your vet.
For further information on summer hazards, the BSAVA library has the following resources/collections:
Ticks and tick-borne diseases: https://www.bsavalibrary.com/content/ticks-and-tick-borne-diseases
1BVA (2019) Vets issue hot weather warning as temperatures soar. https://www.bva.co.uk/news-and-blog/news-article/vets-issue-hot-weather-warning-as-temperatures-soar/