We all love spending time outdoors on long summer days, and our pets are no exception! It’s the best time of the year to get out and about with your pet but there are a few hazards you need to watch out for. The increased activity is great for their mental and physical health. However, there are several hot-weather hazards you need to avoid to ensure safety for your kitty or doggo. We list the key hazards and provide our Vet’s top tips to prevent your pet from overheating and suffering from heatstroke or heat stress.
Types of Pet Heat Hazards
Pet Heat Stroke and Heat Stress
In hot weather, cats and dogs can be at risk of dangerous overheating. This can lead to heatstroke, a potentially fatal condition where your pet goes into a cardiovascular shock state, putting them at risk of brain, kidney, liver or heart damage.
It can be easy to overdo it in the summer and heat stress can be very serious in our pets. Therefore, it’s crucial to remember that our pets can’t perspire the way humans do, as they only produce only a tiny amount of sweat through their footpads. They cool themselves down by panting but sometimes this isn’t enough and they start to overheat.
Brachycephalic or flat-faced dogs (French bulldogs, Pugs, Cavaliers, Boxers) are super susceptible to heat stroke but ANY breed is at risk. Keep an eye out for excessive, exaggerated or noisy panting, drooling, weakness or collapse.
Pets Can Get Extremely Hot Underfoot
Ever heard the term ‘this pavement is so hot you could fry an egg on it?’ The hidden danger on the street this summer IS the street!
Pavement and bitumen (and even sand at the beach) can get so hot in summer that it can cause excruciatingly painful burns and blisters to your dog’s paw pads. Metal ute trays can also burn your dog’s paws.
We recommend you test the surface by holding your hand to it for a count of five seconds. Or stick to walking your dog in the cool of the day and take the softer (grass) route to the park.
Pools are not always safe
Pets don’t always like the water and many cannot swim. Never force your pet to get in the water and do not leave your pet where they can access a body of water without supervision. Dogs have been known to fall into pools and drown.
Don’t let your pet drink the pool water as it can be toxic and wash your pet off after a swim as chlorinated water can irritate the skin and eyes. Moisture in the ears can also lead to annoying ear infections.
Pets Can Get Sun Burnt Too
Pets can get sunburnt just like us, particularly those with areas of pink skin on their noses, ears or bellies. Repeated sun damage can lead to nasty skin cancers, so regular protection against sunburn is best. In summer, prevent at-risk pets from sunbathing between 9:30 am – 4:00 pm. If they’re going to be outside during these hours, regularly apply a pet-safe sunscreen.
Look Out For Grass Awns
From spring to summer, the grasslands in suburban and rural areas produce copious amounts of grass awns (seeds). Some of these awns are very sharp with backwards-facing barbs, which can get caught in your pet’s fur and embed painfully into their eyes, ears, paws or skin. From there, the awns can migrate surprisingly deeply and cause infection. Pets may require surgical removal of awns under anaesthetic, sometimes with specialist CT or MRI to ascertain the location of particularly deep awns.
Help prevent issues by keeping your pet well-groomed during spring and summer, with weekly brushing to remove excess undercoat, and trimmed fur around their face, ears and paws.
Top Tips For Looking After Your Furbaby During Summer
To prevent some common hot-weather and warm-weather hazards from raining on your pet’s parade, our vets suggest following these summer safety tips.
- Never leave your pet in the car even on a mild day as the internal temperature of a car can become like an oven in minutes.
It can take just 6 minutes for an animal to die in a hot car so don’t risk it!
Temperatures in a car can reach more than double the outside temp even on mild days, and even if you park in the shade or leave windows open
Dogs can also overheat when left on the back of a ute, including burning their feet or other body parts on the ute tray.
- Never exercise your pet in the heat of the day and skip exercise altogether on extremely hot days.
- Only exercise your pet in the cooler early morning and evening, and keep exercise light.
- Stick to shaded areas, avoid hot sand, concrete, asphalt areas or areas where heat is reflected.
- Check if the ground is too hot by placing the back of your hand on the surface for five seconds and if it’s too hot for you, then it’s too hot for your dog!
- Stop walks / exercising if you notice your pet are panting heavily.
- Ensure they always have access to shade and cool water.
- Or even better than shade, airflow from a fan (and/or air-conditioning – this is particularly important for Brachycephalic breeds).
- On hot (over 28°C) or very humid days, keep your pet indoors with a fan or air-conditioning (especially important for at-risk pets).
Provide access to shade in a well-ventilated area
Set up a clam shell pool (it only needs to be deep enough to wet their paws and belly)
Create a pupsicle or use a Kong (here’s some ideas)
- If your pet has a thick coat, consider a full summer clip to help them stay cool.
- Always provide plenty of drinking water in multiple bowls.
- Put out an extra bowl in case one gets knocked over
- Pop in some ice cubes to keep the water chilled
Is your Cat or Dog experiencing heat stroke or stress?
If you think your pet might have heat stroke, bring them to us immediately (or seek emergency veterinary care). Heatstroke can be life threatening! If your pets show signs of heat stress, such as open-mouth panting, collapse, or excessive salivating (dogs), contact us immediately.
It’s best to place your pet in front of the air conditioner or a fan while you are in the car. You can lightly spray them with water and also place wet towels on hairless parts of the body (footpads and groins). You should not immerse them in cold water or use ice as this can cause the body to cool down too quickly and lead to further complications.
We are here to help keep your pet healthy and comfortable over the summer months and all year round. If you are worried about your pet you should always ask us for advice.