Essential guide to keeping your pets safe in summer

Cats and dogs love the warmer weather as much as we do, but be sure to take precautions to keep them safe. Picture:  shutterstock.
Cats and dogs love the warmer weather as much as we do, but be sure to take precautions to keep them safe. Picture: shutterstock.
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Most of us wouldn’t dream of basking in a summer heatwave without suntan lotion. The health risks associated with sunbathing - not to mention the discomfort of peeling, sunburned, skin - are well documented. But what about our beloved pets?

As temperatures begin to heat up, responsible pet owners are being urged to take extra precautions to make sure dogs and cats are kept happy and healthy.

Here are some things to look out for:

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SUNBURN

Pale-coloured cats and dogs are at risk of sunburn which, just as with humans, can lead to skin cancer.

As with sun safety in humans, the best approach is prevention: “The best prevention is to keep them indoors or in the shade when the sun is hottest between 11am and 3pm, but you can also apply a non-toxic human sunscreen or one specifically for pets to vulnerable areas, such as their ears, where the fur is thinner,” said Mark Bossley, chief vet at the Blue Cross animal hospital in London Victoria.

Grooming is also particularly important, and a tangle-free coat will protect your pet’s delicate skin.

Speak to a vet if your pet’s skin looks sore, crusty or scaly.

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HEATSTROKE

Animals can suffer fatal heatstroke within minutes, so it’s essential that you are aware of the signs of heatstroke in pets. Collapse, heavy panting, or loss of energy in dogs and cats, and excessive feline dribbling could be a sign that your pet is in danger.

Make sure your pet has access to clean water at all times and encourage them to have a drink if they show signs of overheating. Avoid overcooling by using cool, not ice-cold water.

If you have an outdoor cat, make sure they can get outside, or inside if they need to and make sure indoor cats have access to somewhere cool.

Under no circumstances leave a dog - or any other pet - alone in a car, even if the windows are open, as Bossley underlines: “We can treat up to four or five dogs for overheating on one day so it’s important to never leave your dog in a car on a hot day - even parked in the shade with windows open.

“It can take just a few minutes for a dog to become fatally overheated and dehydrated. It’s a good idea to avoid taking your dogs for long walks during the hottest periods too, as this can cause dogs to quickly overheat and become ill.”

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OUT AND ABOUT

If you’re taking your dog out for a walk in the summer, remember that their paws are sensitive and can be burned on hot pavements. If the ground is too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your dog.

Pests that love to get their teeth into your pets thrive in the summer, so make sure they are up to date on their vaccinations and keep up regular flea treatment.

Fleas can cause irritation and allergic reactions and ticks can cause lyme disease in dogs and, although less commonly, in cats - a serious condition that can cause lameness in both cats and dogs.

Dogs and cats love to chase bees and wasps, but stings can irritate animals as much as they can humans and multiple stings can even be fatal. Many animals can be allergic to the stings, leading to serious swelling and difficulty breathing. If your pet has been stung multiple times see a vet immediately.

For more advice on keeping your pets safe this summer, check out this advice